How do I want to grow as a parent?

I want to be able to relax and give A- space. I want to quiet my mind and just be, trusting that we’ll both get enough out of being there. I want to let her have small falls and frustrations while boosting her sense of safety and resilience.

I still want to take notes and think about stuff, though, so I’ll figure out that balance. Maybe I can get used to having a pen and paper in my back pocket, and I can figure out a workflow for those notes. Phone notes are easier to build on, though.

I want to get better at enhancing A-‘s delight: playing games with her, surprising her, using playfulness to defuse resistance. A little energy often prompts energy from her in a virtuous cycle.

I’m getting better at having more energy, and we’re slowly collecting ideas that generally work with her. I’m peeling off self-consciousness and dialing down distractions. I think we can get the hang of this.

I want to eventually be more social. We’ll all benefit from that, especially A-.

I can probably trust that A- will turn out all right. What do I want to get out of this?

  • Equanimity practice: knowing that I can deal with the ups, downs, and surprises
  • Secret stores of delight: little memories that I can use to strengthen my empathy and appreciation not only for A-, but also other people
  • Playfulness and flexibility
  • Notes, observational skills, knowledge
  • Processes and workarounds to help me make the most of fragmented thoughts

2018-05-14 Emacs news

Links from, /r/orgmode, /r/spacemacs, Hacker News,, YouTube, the changes to the Emacs NEWS file, and emacs-devel.

Week ending 2018-05-11

  • Field trip
    • We fed the llamas and then went to the Jamie Bell adventure playground. A- experimented with going up the stairs and wandering around a little out of reach, although she wasn’t too keen on going down the slides.
    • We went to Riverdale Farm. A- spent a long time looking at and talking about the horses. They have a new pig and a new goat, too.
    • A- wanted to go to the Children’s Book Bank. We picked up several books and a set of jigsaw puzzles.
    • For fun, we met up with Jen and very E- and took the train out to Aldershot, then the bus to Hamilton. We walked around a bit while Jen told me about Hamilton’s recent history, then snacked at a cafe, then headed home via a bus to Pearson airport and the UP Express.
  • Fine motor
    • We made sandcastles in the backyard. Actually, we made sandcakes, complete with a pretend-candle that A- pretended to light and blow out.
  • Language
    • A- is learning how to ask questions instead of just declaring that she wants something. “Can I have this?”
  • Music
    • A- started singing the “Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Moe” song.
    • I caught a large spider in the basement. A- sang The Great Canadian Spider while we ceremoniously carried it out to the backyard and released it.
  • Social
    • W-, A-, and I checked out the cherry blossoms with Jen, Ewan, and E-. We also spent a lot of time at the playground and at the pond. We saw the cherry blossoms with Popo too.
    • A- had lots of fun dancing with J-.
    • The babysitting experiment was a success! A- had a grand time with F- M-, digging for worms in the backyard, playing in her play area, and dancing in the kitchen.
    • A- remembered the names of the facilitators at the JFRC, and wanted to draw them.
    • K- taught A- how to make onigiri.
  • Kaizen
    • I learned how to use Autoshare to simplify exporting drawings from my phone.
    • We went to the OEYC and I asked lots of questions about screening babysitters.
  • Us
    • J- and her friend P- made salmon bulgogi and couscous salad. Yum!
    • I started consulting again. We talked about the requirements for this app they’re planning, and I investigated a few ideas.

Beginning to trust myself as a parent

I remember worrying about not offering the same level of stimulation that a high-quality daycare might be able to do, with their structured schedules, their activity centres, their specialist lessons in French or yoga or music.

I’m beginning to trust ourselves more now. As I observe A-, I realize that she spends most of her time trying new things, not just things that she can comfortably do. I like how following along with her interests still gives me plenty of opportunity to expand on them. I sometimes pique her interest by playing with something new. I like that too.

I may not push as much as someone well-experienced in managing the zone of proximal development might, but she’ll learn all that she needs to learn and more. No rush. I still like reading textbooks and research papers, though. They’re great for picking up ideas.

I’m a little less worried now about missing important things. I can keep an eye on developmental checklists and talk to the facilitators at the EarlyON Child and Family Centres. The pediatrician also reviews the developmental checklist with me. Plenty of safety nets.

I’m quiet by nature, not as vivacious as the best of the caregivers and parents I sometimes overhear at the playground. Still, A- and I are well-suited for each other at the moment. She asks me questions, and I tell her about the world around us. Sometimes we make sandcastles (or sandcakes, her favourite right now). Sometimes we mock-wrestle. Sometimes we fall into a comfortable silence while she enjoys swinging high up to the sky.

I’m learning how to read the same book five times straight. I’m learning how to make up silly games and situations, like the time I pretended to brush almost everything in the bathroom instead of A-‘s teeth. I’m learning how to answer the same question in different ways. I’m learning how to take and organize notes on her progress. I’m learning to step back and marvel at this kid’s awesomeness even in the throes of strong emotions.

The next thing I’m working on learning is how to wait and observe, so that I can let A- take more initiative. I can trust that she knows how to ask for help or for the name of something. I can let her learn how to focus. I’m curious about things like The Adult Role in Child-led Play – How to Become a Learning Ally.

We’ll shift, naturally, as A- becomes more interested in other people and other opportunities to learn. I trust that I’ll shift along with her, doing experiments out of curiosity instead of being constrained by fear.

I can do this. It’s actually pretty fun. I think it’s worth the time and the deltas from Alternate Universe Sachas who took different paths. I wonder how it will play out.

Experience report: getting a babysitter from an agency

I decided it was time to experiment with having a babysitter. A- has been getting more interested in other people and in practising independence from me. I wanted to give her opportunities to like more people and to have different kinds of fun. If babysitting could open up the possibility of doing some consulting during office hours, all the better.

One afternoon a week seemed like a good place to start. I like spending time with A- and school will start soon enough, so I wasn’t keen on putting her in daycare or getting a full-time nanny. One afternoon of 4 hours a week didn’t seem to be a good fit for any of the sitters I reached out to via personal referrals, so it was time to find my own.

I asked J-, since she’s got such great rapport with A-. We might explore that a little more once her schedule settles down. I also asked the neighbours, since their kids sometimes work as babysitters or mother’s helpers.

While those conversations are on the go, I wanted to experiment with babysitting without worrying about my interviewing skills. I decided to pay the premium for working with a babysitting agency that could take care of vetting and scheduling people. I contacted In a Pinch first, but they couldn’t issue receipts for the babysitting portion as well. I went with Nannies on Call instead. They sent me a bio of the sitter who accepted the booking. One day before our appointment, the sitter injured her foot, and the agency sent me the bio for a new sitter.

In the days leading up to our babysitting experiment, I prepared a quick guide, labeled all of A-‘s toy bins, and drew a 12-page book about babysitting. I borrowed “Penguin Misses Mom” from the library, and we read about Mrs. Duck the babysitter several times.

My expectations were low, since A- was often slow to warm up at drop-in centres and other activities. I figured we might spend an hour all playing together. Then I might gradually move to the background or the other room, and then I’d try working downstairs. I prepared for the possibility of letting A- cry for an hour or so. I figured it might be at least a month before we got the hang of it.

And then the babysitter came. We had a brief chat, and then we headed to the backyard. A- immediately started digging into the soil. She talked to the babysitter. She played with the babysitter. After about 15 minutes of feeling like a very happy third wheel, I excused myself. I got my work laptop, set myself up on the deck, and started being able to actually think about code. I could hear them laughing and talking at the end of the backyard. I didn’t even need to set a timer. It was brilliant.

They came over for snacks when A- got hungry. She was covered in dirt: success! The babysitter helped A- thoroughly wash her hands while I put together a snack plate. A- insisted on eating outside with the babysitter, so I got back to work. I was even able to have a super-helpful impromptu web conference with another developer, who gave me the scoop on the network infrastructure and plans for the upcoming project.

At some point, they wandered back into the house. I heard them play with the xylophone and the bells, and I heard A- ask for playdough, and I heard her play with paper, and I think they did stickers at some point too… A- went through so many of her favourite things. She used the potty twice. I was aware of them in the background (mostly because I’d occasionally get this urge to say “This is so awesome!” to myself), and I could still get stuff done.

All in all, I used 4 hours of childcare for:

  • 2.5 hours of consulting,
  • 0.5 hours of organizing my notes for babysitting interviews
  • 0.5 hours of helping with transitions
  • 0.5 hours of other stuff

and A- had 4 solid hours of fun with someone new.

I want to experiment a bit more. It might be good to try maybe two or three other providers from this agency so that I can get a sense of what’s different and what we prefer. I’m also going to try interviewing people, because that’s a useful life skill and it might result in a good arrangement for regular sitting.

Then, if things work out, I’d love to settle into a rhythm of using the time much like I did this afternoon: some consulting and continuous improvement for me, lots of outside time and interaction for A-. As we become more comfortable with babysitting, I might even venture out on errands like going downtown for a work laptop refresh. Coding and continuous improvement are more valuable to me than most errands are, though, so that’s probably how things will go.

I probably won’t always be this lucky, and that’s okay. At least we know what’s possible, and it’s awesome.

I liked how the sitter didn’t bat an eye when A- climbed into the garden box. Instead, she started piling soil up and she invited A- to help make a tall hill. I liked how the sitter talked a lot with A-, and A- clearly enjoyed talking with her too.

The sitter said that she liked our toy bin setup and the list I put together of the things A- could do with a little help (shortcuts to the zone of proximal development!). I wonder what I can do with the backyard to make it an even richer environment while waiting for the plants to come in. Maybe a small pile of river stones, a small pile of sticks, and a yogurt container for making sandcastles? Hmm…

2018-05-07 Emacs news

Links from, /r/orgmode, /r/spacemacs, Hacker News,, YouTube, the changes to the Emacs NEWS file, and emacs-devel.