Mothering Code

Somewhere in my Mac, while converting HEIC to JPG, this happened. Homage to the last 🧁 of the stash.

For Mother’s Day last week, I thought to celebrate my imperfect-mothering* by baking cupcakes. That day, it turns out our stove/oven ran out of gas so I couldn’t use it. The cupcake plan was postponed. The next day, able to turn on the oven once again, I added “confectioners sugar” to the shopping list. (Since this Coronavirus crisis started, my partner has been doing all of the shopping because I’m in one of the higher risk population groups due to a relatively-recent asthma diagnosis.) He couldn’t find this item at the supermarket. But I had an antojo, and that — combined with the realization that we have to start carefully cohabitating with the virus from now until a vaccine is developed— made me choose to step out of the house for the first time in two months.

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I decided to try Walmart since I had a few other things to buy and thought I could pick up this special sugar there as well. My trip to Walmart was altogether terrifying. I spent about thirty minutes in a queue outside the store where people were masked and keeping good distance from one another. It also meant they were limiting the amount of people shopping inside so that was a good sign. Once indoors, people were supposed to follow a path of arrows on the floor meant to control the flow of shoppers: overall, I noticed there wasn’t strict adherence to that. So I tried to get the things on my list and return home as quickly as possible. Having accomplished the mission, I came home, baked the carrot cupcakes, and made an offhand remark to a friend that the frosting was “to die for”. Indeed it was, in more ways than one.

Here’s the frosting recipe I used (I halved the recipe for cream cheese frosting from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Parties! cookbook, page 204):

6 oz cream cheese
4 oz unsalted butter
8 oz confectioners sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
a drop or two almond extract, optional

In general, I struggle with many parenting decisions even in the best of times. One that’s given me pause is how much time should my kids spend on electronic devices. I know that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours per day of screen-time for school-aged children (and no screen-time for kids under 2). https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/138/5/e20162592

Now that the lockdown has children recurring to electronic devices for their schooling, I’m even more conflicted. On the one hand, computers and smart phones are here to stay therefore a familiarity with them early-on might be a good thing. On the other hand, kids need other things even more than screen-time; like 8+ hours of sleep, a good diet, a minimum of 1 hour of physical activities, and even that downtime — when they claim they’re bored — to develop creative thought and hone gross and fine motor skills.

We are trying to stick to our rules as much as possible; no TV or iPad if daily homework assignments are not done, no TV before 3pm on weekdays and 1pm on weekends, iPads only on Tuesdays and Thursday evenings and no more than 2 hours-worth. Of course, that’s the desired result when they’re on their best behavior. We have noticed, however, a need to be flexible even with our rules just in order to survive this lockdown. This is actual footage of the kids’ reaction when I collect the iPads from them in order to start bedtime routines on Tuesday and Thursdays:

Because I became passionate about coding later in life, I’d like my kids to feel comfortable programming from the get go. A few months ago, we participated in the celebration of Hour of Code 2019 which took place during Computer Science Education Week, December 9–15 of 2019. I downloaded this app on their iPads and my kids (8 and 5 years old) “played” along.

Lightbot Hour; a free (and awesome!) iPad app

I was surprised at how easily it all came to them. “The Hour of Code is driven by the Hour of Code and Computer Science Education Week Advisory and Review Committees as well as an unprecedented coalition of partners that have come together to support the Hour of Code — including Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Boys and Girls Clubs of America and the College Board.” From https://hourofcode.com/us

Sans-iPad, we practice coding skills with these other games:

For her birthday last year, I gave my daughter a Kano Pixel Kit. After you assemble it, download the Kano App and create an account for the kid, they do mini projects on the platform using coding blocks. I ran across a very similar thing on the CS50X course I’m currently taking. It turns out, the Kano app uses a programming concept very similar to MIT’s Scratch. From https://scratch.mit.edu/about: “Scratch helps young people learn to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively — essential skills for life in the 21st century.” The other two boardgames, Code Master and Code&Go Mouse Mania, require dispensing a set of instructions so that an object moves across the board to accomplish a goal.

  • Lastly, I mention “imperfect-mothering” because I had an epiphany while corresponding with a friend from bootcamp. He emailed something along the lines of you’re an amazing mom; I can’t imagine how tiring it must be to take care of your kids while applying to jobs to which I replied: “Thanks so much! But you know, the mothering role, I don’t think I know a single person who thinks ‘I’m killing it!’ (except maybe a man). I should definitely mother more like a man.” My point was that mothering is a job where no matter what you do, you’ll still feel you’re getting it wrong, or at least, not 100% right. And that is something we have to be ok with.

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