Monday, July 30, 2007

Back from BlogHer

Who would have imagined that, after a grand total of 16 or so hours together in a car together, after getting lost many many times, and spending pretty much three meals a day together for four days, I would like Sage even better now than I did before? Blogging: the kind of passtime where you meet people you can talk to for 16 hours with no CD player. I'm just saying.

BlogHer. Hm. The highlights for me were the road trip with Sage, and both of us staying with a friend that MadHatter and I both knew long ago and who lives in Chicago now. Highlights further included meeting bloggers I read a lot and who read me. And then I met bloggers who I read occasionally but got on so well with I'm adding them to my little-scrap-of-paper version of bloglines right now.

As much as I enjoyed myself, I do have to say it was a little weird. Initially, I started blogging because it allowed me to reach out to people when I was isolated and alienated--however, I've grown to love the form for itself, for its own particular strengths. It's a text-based medium, and the rules of engagement are pretty clear, and the friendships and relationships pretty equal and manageable and defined. So it's hard to walk into a room of 800 conferrees and feel as comfortable as I do conferring with you (all 30 of you) online. Thursday night, Sage and I attended a cocktail party:

The drinks were free, the hotel was chic, the bloggers were enthusiastic and well dressed, and, increasingly, drunk. It was really loud and though I immediately got to meet a couple of bloggers I knew--there was Oh, The Joys right at the door, and, whoop, it's hard to miss Her Bad Mother's platinum bob, and Bobita's smile lights up the room--it was crowded and awkward and not really my thing. I did get to meet Kyla, and I have to say, she's the bomb. I have not been a terribly regular reader of her blog, but I am so girl-crushing on her right now, I hope she'll be my friend.

There was an incredible amount of swag at this conference, a real shock as I'm used to more academic affairs where even the styrofoam cups of coffee are charged at a premium. At BlogHer, the lattes are free, served up in a quiet rooftop lounge to the caffeine-deprived. As we registered on Friday, there was not one, but two bags of stuff. Stuff stuff stuff. A butterball turkey pot holder. A glow in the dark cocktail glass. Weight loss breakfast cereal. Branded messenger bag. An AOL-branded Flash key. And more, more, more. It really struck me what a marketing bonanza the female blogosphere represents: in an exercise called 'speed dating for bloggers', I met nearly as many marketing people as I did bloggers, which gave me pause. Apparently, we have money to spend as consumers, readers to deliver as bloggers, and credibility with and access to, women with money. While this may be true, it's not the way I would characterize myself.

The cocktail party on Friday night revealed to me a fact I did not suspect: the female blogosphere is good looking and well dressed! A sea of wrap dresses, beautiful leather purses, and daring shoes. Nice hair and stylish sunglasses. I can say I've never been to a conference where the attendees were so consistently well- and stylishly-dressed (present company excepted of course--I wore sensible shoes because my friend's condo was a bit of a walk-train-walk away, and the days were longer than twelve hours). I managed to snag babies from people in the guise of giving them a break--but mostly I just wanted to sniff their little baby heads. I was missing Munchkin, but she did just fine without me. And Friday night I met more people I 'knew'--Kittenpie, Motherbumper, GingaJoy, Sandra--and more I knew of--The Redneck Mommy, Something Blue, Metro Mama, I Am Bossy, and and and too many more to list--and I started to feel more comfortable. Comfortable enough to put MBT stickers on my shirt as pasties. (You're going to have to dig around the intertubes if you want to see a photo of that. I'm not putting one up ...) What fun, funny, people: if you are reading, I'm so glad to have met you, and hope to see you again. You're all good dancers, too.

But blogosphere, I'm glad to be home with you. I'm thinking back to April, when Mad, Cinnamon Gurl, Bubandpie, and Sage came for a bloggy sleepover party, and how much easier that was--more lowkey, less noisy, fewer people. I'm not, as it turns out, much of a party animal. BlogHer was great for the opportunity it offered to meet so many possible friends, to get drunk, to chatter and laugh, and in such surroundings as the wildly overcrowded and touristy Navy Pier, the too-cool-for-school and outrageously noisy W Hotel, and generally the beautiful and bustling city of Chicago. My inner quiet nerd is all a little overwhelmed, I think. Um, and possibly hungover. I'll be mulling over all my experiences in the next week, I'm sure, so you can expect more BlogHer related posts.

So the point of this post is: all of you who didn't go, I'm sorry I didn't get to meet you, and while I'm glad I went, it was a lot of people, noise, bustle and I'm going to hide in this digital cave for a couple of days. All of you who did go, thank you for bringing me out of my nerd shell and making me comfortable enough to drunk and sticker-covered and to do my Molly Ringwald dance for you. I would stay up late for you people if the opportunity presented itself again.

A little bit of calm ...

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Breakthrough: a Situational Irony

Well. I think we've resolved the daycare dilemma, and not a moment too soon: last night, I got Munchkin home at 5:20, and after a series of meltdowns, tears, tantrums, and flailing, she was asleep at 6:25. She cried, I cried, Pynchon worried, it was awful.

I've been worrying and worrying and worrying, and I've been thinking through all that you've shared with me in the comments to my last post--I very much appreciate the support that you've offered, both of my choices and of my mothering.

This morning I went into daycare to chat with Munchkin's team--H, K, and M. H is Munchkin's favorite. She calls her by name and willingly leaps from my arms to hers in the morning, treating H to a snuggle and a pat while vaguely waving bye-bye in my general direction. We all got to talking this morning, about how bad the evening was, about how poorly Munchkin is sleeping at daycare, how pitifully snuggly she is.

And this is where the breakthrough came: the problem, you see, is that they care too much for her. I am calling this a situational irony because so many bloggers and commenters have noted daycare workers for their lackadaisical and callous attitude toward their charges. But the problem with Munchkin's daytime naps is that she was soaking up all the love she could get, and not wanting the snuggles to end. You see, at our daycare, staff sit in the nap room with the babies, next to the crib, and lean in to rub their backs and pat them until they fall asleep. Munchkin has a voracious appetite for pats and hugs, and would seem to fall asleep, only miraculously to awaken as soon as the patter stood up. Sometimes they were patting her for 30 minutes at a go. Similarly, if she woke too soon from a nap, someone would come in and pat her, and never get her back to sleep.

Aha! I said. At home, we walk around the house with her, singing her songs and patting her back, but then we walk into her room, put her in her crib with her doudou and her bear, pull up the blanket, and walk away. And that's the end of it.

So. Today at naptime, H did what we do at home--snuggle, sing, tuck, leave. She stayed to pat another baby, while Munchkin tried valiantly to get her fix, sticking her hands out through the crib bars to pat H on the back as if to remind her. H noted that she had to try really hard not to make eye contact, but she managed. After she walked out?

Munchkin slept. For one hour and forty minutes.

Thank God. She was a changed toddler when I picked her up at 4:30: cheerful and alert and fun. We went for a walk and played in the park until we saw Daddy get off his bus. He played with her while I made supper. She giggled through bathtime and happily went to bed at 7, stretching out in her crib as I covered her up. What a wonderful, wonderful evening.

To summarize, the daycare staff was just snuggling her too much. These are the kinds of problems, really, I'm kinda glad to have.

But now I can go to BlogHer with a happy heart! Woo! Are you going?

Munchkin says: I want you to meet me at BlogHer. Sage is picking me up tomorrow morning at 8 for the great road trip to Chicago--don't tell her, but I made muffins especially for the occasion (well, okay, and to feed Pynchon and Munchkin while I'm gone away).

How much fun are we going to have? I can hardly wait to tell you. I can say, though, that today I bought 100 US dollars and it only cost me 106 CDN. It's like some kind of currency miracle--last time I went to the US, for a conference when I was on the job market, 100 US cost me 148 bucks.

Anyhow, if you're going, I'm the one who looks like me, but carrying a giant mustard yellow purse. Say hi!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Mimi and Pynchon's Bed and Breakfast

Sometimes, I just don't know: don't know what the right answer is, what the right course of action is, what the right idea is. Don't know how to choose, or how to react. These moments are highly disconcerting to me. It is a quirk of my personality that I am generally quick to decision, and that I have the verbal dexterity to rationalize my decision at great length and persuasively. Generally, I'm loathe to say, I don't know or I'm not sure or I can't decide.

Tonight, I'm going to weigh in again on the great daycare question, and I'm going to start by saying those words that scare me most: I don't know. I'm not sure. I've made a decision, but sometimes I question it. But I'm mostly going to tell you about the stuff that's made me sad about my decision this week. It doesn't mean, I think, that my decision--our decision, because Pynchon is obviously a stakeholder here, too--was the wrong one, or that I want to change. I just think there might be value in saying that I don't think any choice about how to care for young children is an unalloyed good. Even the ray of sunshine is only visible in its refraction off airborne dirt, right? I guess this is a post about the airborne dirt.

In the immortal words: you take the good, you take the bad, you take them both, and there you have, the facts of life.

So here's the thing. I miss Ms. Munchkin. Her dad misses her too. We've hardly seen her all week, and much of time we do have together is of the supper-to-bedtime meltdown-management variety. From our calculations, we've been seeing her about three or so hours a day, sometimes less, and it just doesn't feel like enough.

What's going on? Well, Munchkin goes to daycare on campus where I work, and while she loves it and the workers and the other babies and the snacks and the toys and the crafts, this week, she's been pretty much on nap strike. I guess she's having too much fun. Or some of the other babies are on different schedules and wake her up prematurely. Whatever. While she has two naps a day at home on the weekend, each of about an hour and a half duration, at daycare she hit a new low on Monday of 20 minutes. All day. What this results in is a very tired and cranky baby who loads up on sleep at home.

Wednesday, for example, when I went to pick her up, she was happily playing with a puzzle, but she burst into tears when she saw me, because she was just so tired. She fell asleep in her carseat before we had even left the parking lot, and I sat in our driveway with her for forty minutes, just hoping that a little nap would mean that supper would pass with no meltdowns, and that she might be a little more cheerful for play time and bath time. She woke up at 5:40pm, and was in bed for the night an hour later, conked out. This is the pattern of the week: in bed really really early, and then not waking up until sometime between 7:20 and 7:40 the next morning. And we leave for the day at 8:40, she jumping excitedly into my arms when I ask, "Is it time to go to daycare?"

She needs the sleep: she's obviously exhausted, and I want her to be well-rested for the next day. I don't like to rush her in the morning, but I can only write academic prose in the early in the day before I get to feeling overwhelmed, and I like to be at it much earlier but can push it to 9:30. I try to compensate by going earlier in the afternoon to pick her up--but yesterday when I did this, she had just gone down for a nap, so I would up sitting around the daycare until closing time, at which point I woke her up, and she cried from exhaustion. So much for a little extra quality time. She went to bed at 6:45 last night, and slept right through until 7:20 this morning.

I can't believe I'm complaining about how long she's sleeping--I remember well enough my despair during her infancy that she wasn't sleeping enough, and that I was just so desperate for a little alone time. Well. Now Pynchon and I feel like we're running a bed and breakfast, because this week at least, that's pretty much all we do: we're a crib and cracker operation.

So I feel bad about daycare this week. It's a great place for her and she's safe and well cared for, yada yada yada. But they get to see her all day, and send her home an exhausted, cranky, overwhelmed wreck, and I don't get to do much but feed her, clean her, and put her to bed before bringing her back.

Not all weeks are like this. When she naps well at daycare, she stays up a little later at home, and more happily. She wakes a little earlier in the morning, and we can all take it a bit slower as a result. That's when I feel great about my decision. But during weeks like this, where I see so little of her it hurts me, I feel terrible, and I question myself as a mother, and I question my decisions about child care.

I just wanted to put that out there, to make myself vulnerable--I guess to add a bit more humanity to my own decision and its ramifications. I really believe in early childhood education by trained and well-paid workers with benefits and government pensions. I wanted a government-regulated setting for Munchkin's care, healthy food and no TV and lots of outdoor time on safe equipment. I investigated and I visited. I paid and I pay. It was my choice, and while it usually feels right to me, that's not to say that there's no downside. And I just wanted to acknowledge that.

I miss my Munchkin.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Tofu and Godlessness

After our return from Gramma's house, I listed for you her enumeration of my failings as a parent. One of the items concerned Munchkin's diet. Specifically, Mom thought it was wrong that I am raising Munchkin as a vegetarian. She didn't quite broach it this way. She sidled up to the topic, as I mentioned that as part of our evening routine, Pynchon cleared up the supper dishes and cooking mess, while I prepared Ms. Munchkin's lunch. Mom figures that with what I'm paying for daycare, I ought to let them feed her. That I was wasting my time and my money by preparing this extra meal. For my own peace, for 10 more minutes of chore-free evening, I ought to just go with the flow, let Munchkin eat the (homemade, low sugar, dietician-supervised, whole grain, five-week rotation) food at daycare.

This argument is seductive.

But then she followed up by admonishing me for limiting Munchkin's choices, for not letting her eat what others eat, for denying her the experience of meat. Soon enough, she warned me, Munchkin would be self-aware enough to want what the other toddlers were having. It was, she intimated, actually wrong of me to limit her diet in this way, to make her abnormal in the way that I am abnormal (oh, we freakish lacto-ovo vegetarians!) without letting her having any say in the matter.

This argument is enraging.

I recently heard--twice in one week--Richard Dawkins interviewed on the CBC. You have probably heard of Dawkins: he is a noted evolutionary biologist, who wrote that Infamous Book, The God Delusion, that argues strongly in favor of a rigorous atheism that will not admit of the basis of any of the world's religions in the absence of scientific evidence of same. Dawkins is willful in his interpretations to the point that he has been asked to not participate as an expert witness in favor of evolution in the court cases in which the inclusion of 'creation science' in public school curricula is being debated. The evolution side--the side that Dawkins support--find his rhetoric inflammatory and unhelpful.

He's pretty ... strident in print, but comes across much more moderately on the radio, expressing himself with some humour, even, and tempering some of his book's more outrageous statements and acknowledging its writing to deliberately aim to provoke. One outrageous claim he does not back down from is this: to raise a child in a given religion--presumably one's own--makes parents guilty of child abuse. Child abuse. I have to admit, a little shamefacedly, that as an atheist myself I was intellectually struck by the admittedly provocative metaphor. This was clearly not a sin (if you will) of which I might be found guilty, so I was a little more willing to hear him out.

Dawkins' reasoning is this: to raise a child as, say, a Catholic in Northern Ireland, is to ensure that child is early and irrevocably imprinted with a sense of belonging and identity that must necessarily bring conflict and violence into his or her life. Because the child brought to Sunday school while still in diapers is in no cognitive, emotional, or authoritative position in which to assess the experience, let alone assent to it, parents are guilty of enforcing their own beliefs on a helpless innocent.

Which brings me back to my own dilemma, and the title of my post: in the face of my tofu, Mom and Dawkins propose ... what we might call dietary godlessness.

But I can't do it. Does this dilemma remind any of you of the hipster parenting brouhaha, that I weighed in on here? Yup. I have to think now that religious training and vegetarianism are parenting choices, choices made with love and in good faith. If you raise your child in your religion it is because the values the church promotes are important to you. If I raise my child as a vegetarian, it is because, for her health and mine, for ethical reasons, and for environmental ones, I feel very strongly it is the right thing to do.

I console myself, in the end, by suggesting that Dawkins and parents who obsess over these kinds of questions ultimately do not trust enough that young children do grow up, do assess the world as they mature into themselves, and do come to their own conclusions about things. Pynchon's parents were missionaries; he is an atheist. I was raised Catholic, and while I still have a sense-memory fondness for the rituals and the smells of Catholicism, I no longer believe, and no longer practice the faith in which I was raised. My mom is an excellent cook; somehow I came into vegetarianism, and have remained a vegetarian for, now, exactly half my life. Maybe Munchkin will develop a childish hunger for hot dogs. Maybe not. Right now, though, I manage her diet as surely as I manage her bedtimes, and I choose tofu. And godlessness.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Paying attention

Friday afternoon, the slump hit at work. You know, the slump provoked by the nearness of the weekend and the proportionally slowing clock? The slump abetted by unexpected noise from yet more construction in the hallway and adjacent office? The slump whose lack of productivity is echoed down the long hall of closed doorways, because none of your colleagues has been so foolish as to imagine that they would get anything done in the building on a Friday afternoon?

In short, I was staring at the screen. Not writing. Not reading. Not answering emails. Not ordering textbooks or researching secondary reading materials. Not even putting my folders back in the filing cabinet. That I was mustering the energy to weakly shake my fist at the men in green uniforms drilling the concrete just outside my door struck me as a real accomplishment.

And then, I decided just to pack it in. At 3pm. I would march up to the daycare and spring Ms. Munchkin from the sweaty noise and go on an adventure. While I don't want to become that Mom who pins all her sense of self on the happiness or charm of her child, I was still feeling a little neglectful, Gramma's scorn notwithstanding.

An adventure!

We drove to the big park near to Pynchon's work. Luckily, the stroller was in the car already, but we had no diaper bag, and I accidentally left Munchkin's shoes in the bin at daycare. Never mind. She was really excited and her excitement lifted my mood. I felt good being with her, I felt good doing this for her, this little bit of extra mommy time. We wandered over the bridges of the lush grounds, stopping to look at, point at, and name ducks--"DUCK!! duck duck duck. EEEEE"--and to note all the dogs and babies. When we made it to the splash park I pulled her from the carriage and kicked off my sandals. I stood her up in the cool running water, and held her hands as we walked around. I ran her through the mister. She squealed and danced and I laughed as hard and deeply as I have in a long time. She got soaked. I got soaked. We moved onto the grass and she handed me sticks and laughed as I threw them over my shoulder and out of munching range. We packed up and headed over to Pynchon's office, where she banged on coffee tables and graciously accepted hugs.

What a simple, wonderful time. Cost not a dime; didn't require shoes, even. Our weekend was similarly easy, and fun. Saturday, we spent the day together as a family, including a two hour family nap in the morning, and a trip to the old folks park between our house and Starbucks. There was horizontal parenting, and snuggling. Pynchon made movies and took pictures.

Sunday my sister and her youngest son came, and Munchkin could not get enough of either of them. We went to yet another splash park, in the big park nearest to my house, and Munchkin leapt from Auntie S to me and back. Here we are, soaked again (please notice that I'm slouching like a maniac, as per my last post).

It feels nice to just take it as it comes, to have simple adventures, simple pleasures, to revel in the feel of cool water sprayed on arms, splashing between toes; it feels good to lay in the grass, to be loved. It feels nice to not be so self-conscious. To play.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Eight and Five? Make Eight

Welcome, welcome, to the great meme catchup post of July! Ages ago, Oh The Joys tagged me with the Five for Feminism meme, when I was out of town, and then last week sometime, Omaha Mama and Cinnamon Gurl tagged me with the very strict Eight Things meme. Alpha Dogma and Bon took their lives in their hands by messing with that latter meme's format, and I take my cue from them ... Here are the Eight Things, among which number my Five for Feminism. So while generally 8 + 5 = 13, here in the English PhD world, eight plus five equals eight, and several weeks behind deadline.

[Pause for laughter. Sound of crickets.]

Ahem. The meme, then, shall we?

  • Each player lists 8 facts or habits about themselves.

  • The rules of the game are posted at the beginning before the list of 8.

  • At the end of the post, the person tags 8 people, then going to comment on their blog, letting them know they've been tagged.

1. Fact: Because of feminism, my mom was able to divorce my handsome and clever, but good-for-nothing philandering alcoholic dad in the 1970s. She could divorce him without petitioning the crown or having an act of parliament passed on her behalf. She could take him to court and retain custody of my sister and I, assume the mortgage on the house and have her name stand alone on the title, and she could re-enter her career as a schoolteacher. She could not, mind you, ensure that my dad ever paid court-mandated support, not even when she took repeated days off work and paid repeated lawyers' fees to drag my dad back to court until his wages were finally garnisheed.

2. Fact: Because of feminism, I have always known that I could do anything I wanted. I could be a computer scientist like my dad, or a teacher like me mom, or, my childhood dream, a university professor. Because of feminism, I knew that--even if I was a girl--that didn't make me intrinsically any less clever than anyone else. I could not, however, assume that other people understood this point the same way, and I could not stop myself from being, ultimately, more comfortable socially and intellectually in the feminised field of 'language arts' than I was was in the geek world of computing, at least in high school and early university.

3. Fact: Because of feminism, I understood that my body was a wonderful thing, that it was mine to keep sacred or to share with others as I alone saw fit, understood more and more as I matured that my body had its own desires and these were not bad or wrong or shameful. Still, I didn't learn well enough that my body had its own beauty, and so, by careful counting and obsession, I dropped enough weight during high school that I didn't menstruate for eight months.

4. Fact: Because of feminism, I am strong enough to acknowledge that Pynchon has better insight into our relationship sometimes, safe enough to accede to him when he's clearly right--as he is with me. Feminism makes each of us strong enough to take half a year off from our careers to devote to full-time care of our Munchkin, and strong enough to return to work because that's where we're happiest.

5. Fact: Because of feminism, I am learning to see that not all women are the same, nor all feminisms 'Feminism.' Because of feminism I become humble in proportion as I become strong; I become empathetic as I become self-reliant.

6. Habit: I am a major sloucher. If you met me you would imagine me to be a good 3 inches shorter than I am, and flat-chested. However, when I sit at the dinner table or at my desk, my spine straightens of its own accord and I look taller than Pynchon, as tall as my friend who's 6'1". Neither the slouching nor the straightening are conscious. Exhaustion cannot bend the latter, nor my mother's will and nagging the former. Huh.

7. Habit: Blueberries. They come in the house, and I eat them all. At once. Pints and pints of them. By the handful out of the fridge, or in a bowl with milk and brown sugar, and then another handful from the fridge until they're all gone. I once bought 10 pounds of blueberries for 10 dollars. I managed to EAT THEM ALL in a WEEK. Ten pounds. I didn't cook them or bake them or make jam. I ate them.

8. Habit: Munchkin's hair amazes me. There's so much of it and it's so soft and usually such a messy bedhead sweat-encrusted banana-gelled hat-crushed disaster, that I can't stop running my hands over it, through it--I'm smoothing it, maybe, trying to make it less unruly, but I also just revel in the touch of it. The fact of it--I have a daughter and she has hair I can run my fingers through. I'm a self-conscious sensualist like that.

Phew! That's that. I'm for sure not tagging anyone else for this, because a) I'm so late to the party and the Interweb has moved on, and b) everyone I know has done it already.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Living in the village ... of Grandmas

We've just come back from a trip to Way the Hell Up North to see Gramma and Grampa. I've been reading all the wonderful, thoughtful comments all of you have left on my last post and I'm thinking it all through.

Now I'm wondering about the village of Grammas ...



Err, what was that? Anyhow, the village of Grammas. In the village of Grammas, you never need fear that your toddler is unsupervised. Grammas are always ready with a spitty-finger to clean peanut butter off noses, and ever vigilant to signs of tiredness or hunger. Grammas always tie sunhats and zip jackets. This is all very good.

In fact, this is all very very good. As Munchkin gets older, Gramma is becoming more hands-on, more involved ... and, it strikes me, more smitten and more loving. Confident that Munchkin is no longer dependent solely on me, my own mom lets me: have naps, go out at night, take a shower in peace, and run errands while she plays with Darling Granddaughter. I have to say that our trip up north was wonderful for the relaxed pace of parenting it offered. It was also wonderful to watch my mother bond with my daughter. They form a perfect mutual admiration society, gazing deeply into each others' eyes, broad smile crinkling the gaps between nose and forehead. Each squeals with delight in the face of the love offered by the other. It was wonderful to watch.

But the flipside? Time with Gramma is now a course in Remedial Parenting for yours truly. Here is a catalogue of my most obvious maternal sins, compiled by my mother:

* did not bring the right kind of pyjamas for Munchkin: it's COLD up north
* do not cut Munchkin's bangs to proper length, and risk blinding her with hair
* remiss in the use of developmentally appropriate toys: the ones we have are not challenging enough
* risk scarring Munchkin for life with my enforcement of vegetarianism on her
* do not speak enough french around Munchkin (I am fluent, by contrast, despite my own mother's never having spoken french to me at all)
* wrap her in too many blankets at night
* foster an inappropriate attachment to doudou
* talk too much to Munchkin
* pay too much attention to Munchkin

I am more interested than annoyed by this assessment of my parenting. I was particularly startled to hear that I pay too much attention to Munchkin. Inteweb, if I'm going to be brutally honest with you, I often consider myself somewhat lax in the attention-to-child department. I don't really like to play blocks and have a limited patience for recitations of The Owl and The Pussycat. I cherish naptime and often try to set Munchkin up with a good bunch of toys so that I can hide in the kitchen and tidy ... or read the paper. I play with her, sure, frequently and gladly, even, but if she's concentrating on something and looking really engaged, I tend to sneak away.

Let's say, kindly, that I aim to foster independence and self-reliance in Munchkin. In this, I find I behave, actually, a lot like my mother. I am acutely conscious of, say, my preference for the Saturday Globe and Mail over another round of 'throw the tiny football and squeal like a maniac', and I have to say, I feel really bad about it.

I feel, in my heart of hearts, like I should spend more time with Munchkin. That I should pay her more attention, not less.

Evidently, my mom feels differently. And so, criticizing me as a hover-mommy, she has, paradoxically, freed me from my guilt. If I think I pay not enough attention, and she thinks I pay too much ... well, I must be within the acceptable boundary of care and neglect, don't you think?

Thanks, Mom!