Notes on the babysitting experiment

| parenting

We've had 6 babysitting sessions so far: a month and a half of experimenting with one afternoon a week. A- has so far gotten along pretty well with everyone, switching over to playing with them almost immediately after they arrive. It's reassuring to see how she enjoys playing with the babysitters and how she adapted to the variety of people we've had so far. I've picked up a few new ideas, and I've also come to a deeper understanding of the approach that we want to experiment with.

A- was quick to learn people's names, and solicitously offered them snacks and water whenever she ate. She liked showing them things. She was very clear about what she wanted to do. She was usually easy to settle by changing things up or by reading a book. She accepted comfort when she tripped.

I've been able to do about 20 hours of consulting, or a little over three hours each session. It's a great way of self-funding it while tickling my brain and keeping my network warm. It's much nicer to work in the afternoon than late at night. I can talk to my clients, and code doesn't buzz around in my head and make it hard to sleep. I could generally get 2 hours of focused work if I went downstairs and started soon after the babysitter arrived, since the novelty of having a babysitter carried A- through for a while. Phone calls extended the time she can be away from me.

Eventually A- insists on reconnecting, and that's cool. It's part of the cycle of seeking comfort and then exploring. It felt like A-‘s usually okay if we snuggle for five minutes or so every thirty minutes to an hour, although I didn't time it.

I asked A- how she felt about the experiment. She delights in her growing independence, and sometimes says “No, Mama, stay downstairs” and “I practise being away from Mama” from the book I made her about babysitting. Still, I think she feels happier about independence when she's playfully rejecting me instead of when my attention is elsewhere. She said, “Stop babysitting experiment. Mama play with A-.” Perfectly understandable. I wonder what it would be like to go at her pace when it comes to developing independence. Based on my research, I think I don't need to push her, and that she'll probably be more confident if she can experiment with exploring with me as her safe haven.

I like spending time with A-. I don't need the time for consulting, although it was nice to help my clients while learning a new skill. I think that at this point, she benefits more from time interacting with me or having me nearby than from practising independence with a babysitter. We'll revisit it when it's time to start preparing for preschool. Meanwhile, I'll focus more on A- so that I can support her.

She gets decent social interaction with kids at the playground, but other adults rarely get involved. The drop-in centres are probably her best bet for interaction with non-family adults, if they're not too busy. She likes the music teacher, and classes might be another way of expanding her range. I can see if any of my friends want to hang out in parks with bubbles and snacks. When she gets more curious about the world, I can take her to the museum and science centre so that she can ask volunteers questions. Librarians don't mind talking to little kids, too.

How can I tell if she's ready for more? We can practise with independent play, which she sometimes does while I'm taking care of chores. We'll see if she goes back to preferring other people when they're around. She's starting to be more independent at the playground. Eventually, she'll be interested in social play, and then that will naturally draw her away from me and towards other kids. That's probably the perfect time for half-day preschool.

She'll get the hang of it. Totally not worried. I'm curious about what we can do by trusting her and following her lead. Not many people get to do things like this!

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