A- and household life

We’re settling back into the rhythms of everyday life here in Toronto, although our sleep cycle still follows Manila time. Our routines at the moment: sleep, eat, clean up, play, tidy, take care of ourselves, and so on, with a little discretionary time for continuous improvement. As A- settles, we’ll get back to errands, appointments, and a few hours of consulting here and there.

The availability of full household support in the Philippines (cooking, cleaning, washing, errands, many tasks, and even babysitting) mostly meant that I spent more of my time with A-, especially helping A- interact with people. I did get a bit more paperwork done than I would have otherwise, as A- loved playing with water while people washed dishes. Still, there was enough slack in the day that we could often go on our own errands and wash our own dishes, both of which A- enjoyed greatly. The paperwork was not urgent, and it was much more valuable to share all those moments with A- and other people.

Now that we’re back in Toronto, W- and I keep our small household running by ourselves, with the help of machines. We’re working on simplifying and upgrading wherever it makes sense. I think it would be wonderful for A- to grow up deeply involved in the running of the household: to play with pots and pans, to learn to sort laundry, to develop fine motor skills making dinner. We still have toys and a play area for her, but she likes spending time in the kitchen with us, and we’re happy to include her.

So I probably don’t have to worry about setting up housekeeping or babysitting arrangements here, at least with our current needs. On one side, we can keep up enough with housework to stay happy. On the other side, I think I would mostly use freed up housework time to play with A-, and she probably benefits from the structure and variety of our chores. Besides, it gives her an opportunity to practice independent play, too. This is a privileged position, and it would be interesting to make the most of it.

With that in mind, how can I structure things so that it’s easier for her to get involved and grow in competence?

We’ve moved up to cutting with serrated knives with hand-over-hand guidance, and butter knives on her own if I think she’s attentive enough. It was great noticing her take the time to cut straight up and down instead of at an angle. I’ve been thinking about kids’ knives that require two-handed grips, but if we can help her safely learn using knives we already have, that would be handy.

She’s still working on the coordination needed for sweeping, but a hand-held vacuum might be a good fit for this in-between stage.

Montessori education suggests marking up a handkerchief to help kids learn how to neatly fold into quarters. I have plenty of flannel wipes and flat diapers that I can use for that.

She understands wiping surfaces, so it’s mostly a matter of practice and coordination. We found a spray bottle that she can activate if she uses both hands. If I let her play with it, we might even be able to help her learn how to use a home-made glass cleaner.

The bottom dishwasher is still broken, and we’re leaning towards eventually replacing the whole thing instead of fixing it yet again. She was a little interested in loading the dishwasher in the Philippines. If she picks up that interest again, I can help her load a few things from her tower.

Adding a trash can in her room can take advantage of her interest in labeling things as garbage and putting them away.

Of course, whenever she wants to move on to a different activity, that’s okay too. I expect she’ll generate more chaos than order for a long, long time. I think we’re figuring out a good mix taking care of ourselves, taking care of the house, and enjoying other activities. It’ll be interesting to see what this will be like with even more experience, and as our experiments in continuous improvement pay off!

  • And it’s not like we spend the whole day cleaning, anyway, or that the house even ends up neater. :) I play with A- when she wants, and I tidy up when I insist (usually as part of a transition) or when she’s focused on independent play.

  • I love checklists and handbooks. Great book for this stuff: “Home Comforts”. Everything about householding, things I wish I learned from my folks before I left home. Could completely see doing small things a bit at a time starting small (like folding laundry) and continuing to cover the whole thing (like getting out stains) by high school. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/79388.Home_Comforts?ac=1&from_search=true

    Still searching for something like that for cooking and the kitchen. Jacques Pepin’s Technique covers most of the bases in terms of what to do with your hands. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/14357461-jacques-p-pin-new-complete-techniques?ac=1&from_search=true For the how-cooking-works I still have to dig into Modernist Cuisine (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8885824-modernist-cuisine) but I may settle for Modernist Cuisine at Home (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15809443-modernist-cuisine-at-home).

    • It’s funny you should mention Home Comforts – that’s the exact book I bought to help me with my “I’ve moved to Canada and need to learn how to be a grown-up” challenge. Between that and W-‘s advice, I’m slowly getting the hang of things. :)

      I’ll check out your other recommendations too! My sister gave me The New Best Recipe, which I find interesting because it compares different versions of a recipe and talks a little about the science behind cooking. You might enjoy checking that one out.

  • Sacha, have you tried sketchnoting daily life? Or life with a kid? I know it’s not emacs but… would have more heart, be more fun, and something A- might enjoy when older.

    • I’d love to draw both thoughts and memories (Lunarbaboon is awesome). At the moment, though, I have more phone time than drawing time because A- still likes nursing in her sleep every so often. When she lets me slip away, writing and drawing are among my priorities, along with W-, paperwork, Emacs, learning, self-care, and a little bit of consulting. It’s a bit challenging because I often get interrupted, but I also enjoy the closeness of nursing her when she wants. She’ll grow out of it eventually, and then I’ll adapt to having more discretionary time again. For now, we’ve got a system that works. :) I even keep a backup phone handy so that I can switch to writing on it when my battery runs low, and I’m figuring out how to shift more of my tasks to my phone.

      I’ll try to capture as many thoughts as I can on my phone through weekly reviews and other blog posts. I’ve also got pictures, videos, journal entries, a vocabulary tracker… I enjoy reviewing the recent past to get an appreciation of how much progress we’re making, and she probably will too.

      As for helping A- learn how to make the most of external memory, I’m looking forward to teaching her how to take advantage of photographs, videos, and sketches even before she can read and write. She can already recognize my simple stick figure illustrations, so I’ll make checklists and choice boards soon. She has her own camera and even occasionally takes pictures with it. So much fun! :)

      Sketching has turned out pretty handy for quickly recreating a requested book that we’ve already returned to the library, too. She also often asks me to draw stuff, so I get drawing practice in that way as well. (Lots of cows lately!)

      Can’t want to see what happens when you apply visual thinking to parenting!