Bionic Mamas

you're not losing a vagina, you're gaining a son

High Quality Neglect Pays Off


For the first year and more — oh, who am I kidding? — for all of the Bean’s life so far and probably for the foreseeable future, Starrhillgirl has had to periodically pull me off the ledge of parental panic. She has often reassured me that my tendency to let the Bean do his own thing while I do mine — whether my thing is the laundry or reading blogs — was a good idea, that I shouldn’t feel guilty for not spending every available minute on the floor playing with his toys, even when he was tiny. (Here’s an article she tweeted recently about why.)

Today the parenting style I think of as High Quality Neglect is paying off, not for the first time, but in spades. I have a migraine, and it seems that the nifedipine, which I recently stopped taking, was indeed making them milder. Nice while it lasted. The Bean’s babysitter came in the morning, when I would usually be teaching, and took him for a walk, but she left before noon. I’ve spent the afternoon on the couch with the curtains drawn.

And the Bean? After lunch, he spent more than an hour doing this:


Reading. To himself. Peacefully and quietly and happily.

+1 Starrhillgirl

Edited to add: mea culpa, gentle readers, I have committed one of the parent-brag sins that irritates me most in others: taking credit for something I can only really claim I have tried not to impede. Lord knows there are plenty of things the Bean hasn’t or won’t do, despite my making the same attempts to encourage them that other parents may claim created the desired behavior in their children (see: un-picky eating, sleeping). The Bean’s apparently enviable level of independence is, I am sure, largely his own nature (perhaps related to what my mother refers to as “ferocious concentration” in me and my father, a trait that makes us great at taking tests and very irritating to live with). All I meant to credit myself with was not destroying or standing in the way of his developing concentration.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go capitulate to his demands to watch Thomas the Impulsive Engine.

18 thoughts on “High Quality Neglect Pays Off

  1. Jealous. I’ve spent many a long day cultivating my neglect, yet my child refuses to ignore me in due course in return.

    (but seriously, glad you’re getting some peace while feeling like shit)

  2. I can only blow raspberries for about ten minutes before being bored out of my mind, so Tatoe is quite independent. Of course, his favorite game is chucking things down the stairs (he beaned me with a stuffed penguin last week) but I feel that this approach fosters independence nicely.

  3. Oh I so wish C has the ability to entertain herself when I am not feeling up to par! She will for about 5 minutes and then will atart trying to climb all over me or ahove books in my face and screech repeatedly “book” until I given in. This inevitably leads to reading 20 odd books…..

  4. That Bean is a wonderful one, however he comes by it. Perhaps it’s being surrounded by beautiful artwork…

  5. I hope you feel better! I agree that letting the babies play alone for as long as they will is a great strategy (and good for them!). With G the key is to use a Jedi mind trick when she starts to play by herself. If she sees us looking at her or senses us paying attention, she will need us to join in (or, more likely, pick her up and carry her around). But if we just wash the dishes and not make eye contact, she can chill for a bit.

    Thanks for the article link – it looks good based on my initial skim.

  6. Yes – hope you feel better soon. I don’t suppose the migraine relief from the Nifedipine is enough to make it worth going without grapefruits, at least until after you’ve weaned possible baby #2?

    You can count us among he parents who ignore our child but can’t get her to, very often anyway, ignore us back. She’s always been like that – who knows how much we have accidentally cultivated it. She does play by herself with her nanny though. I think maybe she just really wants to hang out with us when we are around, since we both work. Is the Bean the same way with Sugar?

  7. We got lucky in this regard, too–EJ will just sit on her mat, happily banging blocks together and mumbling to herself for long chunks of time. I have no idea how the parents with more hands-on kids manage, since I feel like our household chores require her to play by herself sometimes, and even then we’re only just barely getting dishes washed, etc.,etc. I’m sorry about the migraines. Does anything else work to ease them?

  8. Jealous. Monkey will play by himself but not INA stationary manner, and so he still requires constant supervision to not throw himself off the side of the patio or whatnot.

    And you can’t leave him alone with a book… Not if you want it to keep all its pages and be free of teeth marks!

  9. So jealous. Monkey will play by himself but not INA stationary manner, and so he still requires constant supervision to not throw himself off the side of the patio or whatnot.

    And you can’t leave him alone with a book… Not if you want it to keep all its pages and be free of teeth marks!

  10. That bean! I am sorry that your migraines are back, but love that bean’s independence. We seems to have “lucked” out on the ‘great all around eater’ and lost big time on the ‘independent player’ despite cultivated neglect. I will say in the last month Iz has started to play with her dolls without us for at least 10-15 minutes. Since she does the talking for all parties, Im not 100% convinced that she hasnt realized that they arent playing ‘back’..

  11. Sorry you were feeling so terrible, but glad the Bean was able to give his mom what she needed yesterday! Good job, Bean. Next up, he’ll learn to fix you grapefruit cocktails!

  12. Hurrah for independence and a bit of peace! Ours shuts herself in her room and does something mysterious for an hour or so and then sidles out, returning to life as normal. She’s two – what on earth could she be doing? That said, like you I’m so happy she’s doing it. Take success where you can!

  13. The only thing non-destructive Bunny will do by himself is watch TV. And not for long. It’s how I get him to eat. I put food in a bowl and set it on his table, then leave the TV on Sprout and go wash dishes or something. He’ll eat a bit before he starts (a) throwing food on the floor, (b) putting food in his Mega Bloks, (c) climbing onto the table and stepping on the food, (d) trying to figure out which toy parts are small enough to slip into the air filter, (e) dismantling the vacuum and blowing into it to make sounds, (f) finding electrical cords and either putting them in his mouth or wrapping them around his neck, (g) other dangerous/destructive play, or (h) yelling loudly for my attention while body-slamming me to let me know independent play time is not working well for him.

    In other words, the cultivation of high quality neglect has not worked well in our household. If he is doing something alone, it is generally dangerous or destructive or both. He does not, for example, like to read by himself. He does, however, enjoy very much throwing all the books from his shelves onto the floor and then finding the ones he can rip.

  14. i have always been a fan of allowing children to learn to play by themselves. when we only had one we didn’t spend every spare moment doting on him and making sure he was entertained. he learned to color, look at books, do puzzles, etc. We have a friend who was always “entertaining” her son who is the same age as hook. i would call and she was building him a fort, playing trains with him, showing him how to play a computer game, etc. Not that I am knocking spending time with your kid in any way, but in life there is not someone around to entertain you all the time. I fully believe self sufficiency, creativity, and the like are all fostered by “high quality neglect”. You don’t let him play in traffic – yet – so it sounds about right to me!

  15. I know you’re right, and I do try to do this, but my time with Juju is so short and precious to me. I get maybe 2-3 hours of awake time with her daily, and a good chunk of it is getting dressed and eating and bathing time. She gets a lot of adult attention, from us and from Grandpa. And she enjoys it. As far as independent play goes I do have good luck with pushing something in front of the couch so that she can climb up and down on her own. That will buy me 10 minutes or so. And just in the past few weeks she’s been able to read books on her own for up to about 10 minutes at a time. I do love that Grandpa dotes on her all day long but I also wish he would a) buy fewer things that are plastic and make noise b) read to her more c) let her make messes and d) turn off the TV. Hello, tangent! Hello, guilt feelings that someone else is raising my child! Anyway, I think you’re doing spectacularly in raising a smart and independent Bean. And I hope he learns to sleep better soon too.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s