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Visual book notes: Influence is Your Superpower - Zoe Chance (2022)

| visual-book-notes, parenting

It was interesting to read Zoe Chance's book Influence is Your Superpower (2022) with a focus on influencing A-, who is 6 years old and definitely more reachable via her Gator brain than her Judge brain. Shining is easier because I have to connect with just one person who really wants to connect with me. Creating space with the "No" challenge is a little tougher, since she's pretty wise to the way I try to soften nos. ("You always say later!") But I'm definitely going to try to practise doing aikido with her mind, accepting her resistance and exploring it with questions. I can work on using my relaxed voice most of the time, especially since she's sensitive to my tone. I also like the tip about using the Zeigarnik effect to invite her curiosity and get her to ask, maybe by using things like "I might know something that could help. Would you like to hear about it?" instead of jumping in with advice. Paying attention to how we frame things (monumental, manageable, mysterious?) and challenging ourselves to do bigger and better might be fun, too. She's old enough that I might even be able to ask her, "What would it take?" I'm sure she'll pick up that behaviour quickly and ask me that when she wants something, so I'd better be prepared for that!

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Visual Book Notes: Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals - Oliver Burkeman (2021)

| visual-book-notes, parenting, experiment

I liked Oliver Burkeman's 2021 book Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals. It covered many of the things I've been working learning on for the past 10 years on this experiment with semi-retirement and parenting. Learning to sit with anxieties and uncertainties, accepting my limits and working with them, being here now… These are the lessons I find myself practising every day.

Some things have gotten easier. I've become comfortable with an ever-growing task list that I know I'll never clear. My default task status is SOMEDAY, and I treat the list like a buffet of ideas that I can choose from when I want to. Which is hardly ever, since I'm still living on kid time and have very little focused time for myself. Most days I'm okay with this, as childhood is fleeting and my main challenge is to really be here for it. This is tough. I've been learning that I'm very human. I turn into a hangry ogre if we're out too late. I grump at A- if I get too tired. I work on separating the shark music of my anxiety from what's really going on. We joke about my squirrel brain and find ways to deal with its limits. I've given up many of my illusions about control. Knowing that I still have lots to learn even though I'm almost 39 makes it much easier for me to appreciate A-'s being 6. My journal helps me see how the days build up into months and years. I'm still on the anxious side, but W- helps balance that, and developing resourcefulness and resilience will help too.

While the book is mostly about confronting and working with the limits of being mortal, it also had some interesting thoughts about the value of being in sync with other people. Tangling my life up with W- and A- has helped me learn about things I would never have stretched myself to do on my own. I can see how A- enjoys playing with her friends. We've decided to go with virtual school for Grade 1 to minimize COVID risks (and I've been keeping an eye on monkeypox news too, ugh). I wonder if we can get a full synchronous exemption again this year. It's been nice following A-'s interests. But we did kinda miss out on group experiences of music and dance, and I'm not sure I'll find outdoor classes for those within walking distance. Online classes exist, but then we'll need to sync up with someone else's schedule. Maybe someday, if A- wants it strongly enough. Here I remind myself not to worry too much about her future, not to try to orchestrate things too much. It is enough to observe, support, and join her in learning. Besides, we can still have fun with clapping games and tea parties.

Anyway. Mortality. Cosmic insignificance. I can attest that thinking about these things can be surprisingly reassuring. All we can do is what we can do, and that's enough. Tomorrow I will dress and eat and brush teeth and play and tidy and do other things that I do every day. Against this backdrop of mostly-sameness, A- grows. If I pay attention, I may even notice it–for just as unexpected lasts sneak up on you, unexpected firsts do as well. If I pay attention, I might notice I'm growing too.

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Making a menu of activities

| sketchnotes, drawing, parenting, play

A- wants to be with me almost all the time. This can be challenging.

A multiple-choice question is easier than a fill-in-the-blank one, especially when it comes to "What do we do now?" A- seems less grumpy throughout the day when she can go from one activity to another of her choosing. I like letting her take the lead. I also like not having to come up with stuff. During bedtime, I sketched this menu:

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Book: Helping Children Succeed: What Works and Why (Paul Tough)

| parenting, visual-book-notes

Here are my notes on Paul Tough's 2016 book Helping Children Succeed: What Works and Why. It turns out that he's made the book freely available online, so you can read the book with embedded videos and links.

The main thing I got from it is the importance of thinking about the environment kids learn in. A- has a pretty low-stress environment at the moment, although she might run into a few challenges later on. As I help A- learn, I also want to help her internalize these messages, which I've paraphrased from the book:

I belong. I can do that through our relationship by being warm, responsive, and encouraging.
I grow. I can reinforce this by telling stories about how she's learning.
I can do it. I can scaffold her learning and encourage her when she's frustrated.
It's worthwhile. I can show how her learning pays off and I can help her set inspiring challenges.

I can influence the development of non-cognitive traits through our relationship and through the kind of work she does.

When I read the section on home visiting, it reminded me of how much I appreciated the Healthy Babies Healthy Children home-visiting program run by Toronto Public Health. The nurse and the home visitor taught me more about playing with A- by highlighting small things I was doing well. Because they called attention to those practices, that made it easier for me to do more of those things. I like doing something similar with A-, noticing and naming the things she's doing well so that she gets a sense of her growth.

The book is okay, kinda light, but it isn't a must-read. It was a good nudge to think about what A-‘s picking up in addition to the things that are easier to measure and observe.

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Capturing moments

| parenting, sketches

A- sat in her sled for a long time after she slid down the hill. I went over to check on her. She said, “I want to sled down with someone.” I said, “I'm here.” She said, “I want to sled down with someone who is a kiddo.” I checked with nearby friends, but no one was available. We talked a little about making friends.

It felt like a big moment. She's starting to turn towards her peers, and that's wonderful. I knew I wanted to make it my moment of the day. No picture of it, of course, but it was easy to jot a few keywords into my journal and then flesh it out after putting her to bed.

I tried something different with this sketch. I drew it on paper with a gel pen, took a picture of it, and imported into Medibang Paint as line art. I tried using layer masks to isolate areas for painting, and that made colouring it more fun. It took about 45 minutes.

This sketching thing is pretty fun. I prefer colouring on my phone, since it's easy to adjust the colours and I don't need lots of markers. I'm okay sketching on my phone, but scrolling around is a bit tough. Paper might be handy for keeping the big picture in mind, and bond paper is thin enough for me to trace a second version of the drawing if I want to refine my sketch. I haven't settled down on a favourite pen yet, so I'll check out the art store. I think getting the hang of paper might be better than going digital for now, at least for the base sketches. Paper makes it easier for A- to pick things up, lowers the risk tremendously, and makes it easier for me to do it pretty much anywhere.

Here are a few other sketches.

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I've been making time to draw

| sketches

After A- has gone to bed (or sometimes while I'm trying to bore her to sleep), I draw. This makes me happy. Coding is hard because I get tempted to stay up too late and my brain buzzes too much to let me sleep. I haven't yet figured out how to organize my thoughts well enough on a phone screen to write long posts. Drawing seems to be the right fit.

Eventually, I'll be able to build up thoughts. In the meantime, it's okay to draw for fun. I like drawing A-. It gives me an opportunity to reflect on the things I like about spending time with her.

I've been using Medibang Paint on a Samsung Note 8. Pretty good. The limiting factor is definitely me, not the hardware or the software. With enough practice and learning, I think drawing will become easier and more fun. I wonder what it will be like to have as much fun drawing as I have fun coding.

I like this. It's a way of squeezing in drawing when I don't have two hours to summarize a book or explore a complex thought. Let's see where it goes.

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Visual Book Notes: Between Parent and Child (2003)

| parenting, sketches, visual-book-notes

Between Parent and Child (2003) by Dr. Haim G. Ginott, Dr. Alice Ginott, and Dr. H. Wallace Goddard is an update of the 1965 parenting classic. The book covers situations starting from toddler tantrums to talking to teens about the facts of life, and it manages to do so without seeming scattered or too sparse.

A few quick reflections on life with our three-year-old:

A- definitely can’t hear me when she’s in the grip of strong feelings, so it makes sense to me to focus on reassurance. Sometimes when she’s really upset, she shows me that she wants some space by running away and crying, “Not Mama!” That’s cool. I say, “Okay, I’ll be right over there. Let me know if you want a hug.” Sometimes she wants to be close (“Up! I want to be in the carrier!”) and that’s cool too, although it’s a bit harder when I don’t have the carrier handy.

I like the point that the book made about helping kids learn how to appreciate music and use music as an outlet for feelings, since I tend to think of it in terms of cognitive benefits instead of appreciating it as a human art. A- and I have been going to music class since she was a year old, although I think that’s been mostly because I like singing nursery songs and enjoy learning more of them. As she grows, I want to model enjoying music around her, and maybe help her find something she likes to do too. We’ve got a piano, a toy glockenspiel, and a couple of ukuleles and recorders, so there’s plenty to explore. Also, A- loves dancing, so I should remember to put music on more often.

It might be interesting to experiment with the “Show me how angry you are” approach the next time A- gets angry. I wonder if she’ll take me up on drawing or dancing it out.

The parent-as-consultant approach for homework help and everyday living sounds really nice–almost too idealistic, but who knows? Anyway, it might be worth trying as A- gets older.

Overall, Between Parent and Child is probably the book I’d recommend as a practical overview of this parenting approach, using other books such as How to Talk so Little Kids Listen and No-Drama Discipline for deeper dives.

If you like this sketchnote, feel free to print, reuse, or share it under the Creative Commons Attribution Licence. Enjoy!

Tech note: I drew this sketchnote on my phone (Medibang Paint on a Samsung Note 8), so the handwriting’s a little shakier. It was great being able to read and sketch in little snippets of time.

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