“Nannying, you say? When did you start nannying?”
I’ve begun to learn the fine difference between the nanny culture, and the babysitting culture.
Now, I do like kids. I really do. But, five hours with these two little fellers and I think I burned off the past three meals’ worth of energy.
I’ve been applying for a GRAND variety of jobs the past two months. Sometime in the last few weeks, I somehow landed on Care.com, which is a childcare, seniorcare, tutoring, special needs assistance site to connect caregivers with those who need it. I’ve had a number of leads, but so far, nothing too solid has materialized. After setting myself up there and accumulating references and the like (although most of my prior experience with kids has been unpaid) I applied to a few positions and surprise of surprises, a mother called me up two nights ago.
I was in the car on my way to go visit a friend, and once I looked at my phone, I did not recognize the phone number. Wary as to whether I should pick up, I did anyways and it took me a few moments to realize that it was a mom searching for a nanny on the other end of the line. Unable to really concentrate or grasp the fact that I might have to “conduct business” on the go, to her request of “is this a good time to talk?” I had to respond, “No,” because, being the honest creature I am, it was not a great time to talk. So, we rescheduled for the following night during a particular time window and I began fretting and worrying promptly after. Should I have continued that conversation instead of being overtly concerned on preparing to make a great first impression? Well, I was almost to my destination and tried to shrug off that shadow of doubt.
The following day, Friday, I mustered up the courage to get myself to a small-group Christian gathering in a home of a friend, and the whole day I was anxious about this impending conversation with a mom who wanted a nanny.
Now, maybe I just have a stereotype in my head, but I think I can’t be wrong in saying that many families that can afford to hire a full-time nanny have a particular way of raising their kids and oftentimes aren’t very involved in the day-to-day development of their kids because of the busy work demands of this day and age (blackberry in one hand, baby on the other, etc.).
[side note, on my trip to NY, I pretty much paged through the SkyMall for the first time, trying to get myself to fall asleep, and saw a funny looking device: it is a harness that mom’s who travel can wear. The harness is for dragging up to two, 50 lb suitcases so that mom can carry a Blackberry in one hand, and a child in the other!!!]
So, I was perhaps expecting to kind of field a lot on my own. There are probably two main types of parents out there who acquire nannies.
1) tough screeners who look through every detail, want detailed references, etc., think their child is the exception in health, mind, body, emotions, rules, standards.
2) rather laid back parents who just need someone to take care of their kids, with any experience, so they can just get on with their already-difficult life to live, to support a life increasingly beyond most Americans’ means, and will pay accordingly.
I wonder which profile I might be closer to, should I ever become a working parent…
So, my roommate finally suggested that I set a loud alarm on my phone so that I would be reminded to use my phone and call this mother back, after I said aloud so many times that, “I’m terrified I’m going to forget to call her!”
I set the alarm, it went off, and stunned a few people, and I was infinitely thankful for that alarm, because, yes, when enjoying a good dinner and fellowship, it is WAY too easy to forget to do things. I took a deep breath, said a little prayer, and dialed. And got an answering machine. Immediately I felt a little funny. I left a message and kept thinking about it, wondering if she’d already, somehow, hired somebody and feelings of guilt and stupidity were like pins and needles jabbing at me. my most promising nanny prospect so far, and I couldn’t just keep talking on the phone last night for 3 minutes???
As soon as I stopped berating myself internally, the phone rang (ring tone courtesy of the Russian Philharmonic Orchestra ) again, stunning others, (in a more … charming way than my jazzy-beat alarm clock ) and I dashed away into the other room, literally with phone and notebook in hand.
It was, the Mom, calling.
Pushing out my voice while catching my breath, we proceeded to converse and it soon became apparent that I was not about to receive the happy news of full-time employment. I did my best to mask the slight deflation inside as she regretfully told me that they no longer needed a nanny.. their situation had recently become more clear, they’d been talking to someone already and (sometime between the previous night and then, she’d accepted??) etc etc. And then, she said, “Hey, I know this is kind of strange, but would there be any possibility that you would be available on a weekend basis…from time to time…like…maybe even (nervous laugh) tomorrow morning?”
I was already feeling kind of upset and disrespected about the fact that I felt like I was missing a chunk of story as to why I was wasting my time to make this phone call, but, I was available Saturday morning, and had the heart to be able to help and get some practice, at least, if nothing else, and hopefully develop a positive relationship with this family. I asked a number of questions about the kids, about ground rules, about expectations -really, a crash course of how to be in their family in 15 minutes – and agreed to come in – at 7 am.
Friday night weather: snowing. icy. rain. windy (almost enough to pick me up off the street, it seemed)
I sure hoped that a few hours after 11 pm, the weather would NOT be like that!!!!
Getting to a new place on foot THAT early in the morning was definitely a leap of faith…
I got to bed around 1 am and set my alarm, afraid I wouldn’t wake up or would oversleep. The alarm was set for 5:20 am, which, was a good 4 hours earlier than I had been able to wake up the entire week (my body is STILL on west coast schedule).
I shook my tired body out of bed, got ready, ate breakfast, and headed out.
I put one foot out the door and boot hit ice. And, the slowly rising sun betrayed glimpses of sheets of ice for as far as I could see. There was no avoiding it. Slightly amused at the ridiculousness of my Morning Adventure on Ice, I headed over and managed to make it over to the Esplanade, a luxury residence on the Charles River in Cambridge, exactly at 7 am.It was pretty amazing timing. Their apartment had floor to ceiling windows and you could see almost all of Boston and Cambridge. I used to dream of living in any apartment of floor-ceiling windows. I love, love, love light and bright spaces. oooooooOOOOOh!
(My walking GPS saves the day again… although, “Raquel” (GPS) doesn’t always want to be helpful and I then revert to calling it by its very first christened name, “Rascal.”)
When I checked in with the front desk, I headed up to their floor and could hear kids running around and screaming when I stepped out of the elevator. As I neared the correct door, I heard doors opening and closing and sounds of knocking. No other person in sight in the hallway at that hour but me: it was, sure enough, hyper boys knocking on the inside of the door. I could hear hushed voice of a mommy telling the boys what they should say when I arrived and how they should behave.
…It was like I was suddenly privy to a rehearsal of an act standing outside their door for a brief moment before knocking.
I then proceeded to have a 30 second conversation of knocks with two boys, ages 2 and 3, T and J, before the door opened and I was thrown into a different world. The older boy was dancing around in blue Calvin Klein pajamas, and the younger one was in diapers running around and both were dancing to a children’s music CD and, once I entered and removed my snow boots, they began dance/running around the dining room table, making up words to the music.
Reviewing discipline techniques, allergies, ways to abate anger of toy-hogging [The Sharing Jar, complete with a timer and with “dollars”, green construction paper rectangles, used every time one brother shares a desired toy for a minute], books they like to read, which bathrooms they use, where toys are, clothes set out for them to wear, and, last but not least, particular breakfast routines
[Each must get their Flintstones chewable vitamin at exactly the same moment – mom stretches across the table (one child on each side of dining room table – fingertips outstretched so both boys can get the vitamin at the same time]
[if both want bananas, T wants his started but will peel all on his own and will get mad if you help. J doesn’t mind if you peel it.]
[both want choices on their sippy cups each morning, even though they only have two assignable colors each]
[both want dry cereal (multigrain cheerios or corn flakes, please) with milk on the side in a sippy cup.]
aaaaaaaaaaand, folks, an explanation for that odd, confusing “We’re kind of all set now…” that I heard Friday night, while I poured milk into respective sippy cups…
which is which? T? J? J? T? Orange? Blue?
7:05 a.m. and I was almost dizzy.
“So, my boys are generally good,”
[- thought bubble – that’s odd – they seem to really love to scream and act up and cry around mommy though…they made a fuss over wanting the cup color they didn’t have this morning, because they didn’t get to choose]
“..and I feel like I ought to tell you the long version of what happened yesterday. I know that might have sounded bad to you yesterday.”
[- thought bubble – pretty much.] I nod in agreement.
” I’m not going to lie to you, but my boys aren’t… exactly… the easiest to deal with. They’re nice and sweet. Well, we normally have a nanny for 3 days a week, and the other two days, T goes to day care. Well, we’ve been getting bad reports from nursery school where T is, and for a while we thought it would just wear out, but it was more like T was starting to push, punch, hit other kids and displayed aggression to the other kids, which he never does at home, but for some reason, was starting to do it at school. Being parents, our first instinct is to pull him out, since he’s not …. thriving….there. So we were planning to, and to get another nanny for the other two days, but very recently, it just all worked out that T qualifies for intervention, and not at home (since he doesn’t need it here) but at school, in the setting where he displays aggressive behavior. So, that’s why. But, you’re clearly very good with kids and have a lot of experience with all age groups, and I’m sure you’ll find a good family to work with right away, and we’ll for sure keep your number and call you if we need someone on the weekends, if you’re free and want to still.”
My first response was of relief, then of worry – I may have a “problem child” on my hands who I know very little about?? But, I had spent the past night praying that I would have a calm and good day with the kids and that a positive relationship would be established with the family, regardless of outcome. And, overall, I have to say, other than being hyperactive, which is normal, the boys were fine. They seemed to rather enjoy the prospect of a playmate with “big hands and long arms, maybe longer than mommy’s and daddy’s” (a fact we discovered while I tried to put on one of the boy’s mittens to distract them while they ate their cereal. )
We did SO many things I was constantly running after them, stopping them from eating their innate tendencies to want to eat liquid school glue and blue play dough.
Just to give you an idea:
- getting the kids to eat their breakfast to almost completion, then completion before playing.
- dealing with “NO!”
- screaming and copy-cat screaming (Big Bro decides he wants something that is HIS (because he, was the firstborn, after all) and demanding it even though he didn’t really want it.)
- watching J play his “ukelele” (a cardboard with a hole in it, with a string and ball attached to it) and electronic piano and rock out.
- dancing and singing with the kids to the kiddie tunes.
- being sat on, bumped, poked
- feeding the kids “jello” – imaginary ( it was water in a stubby sippy cup). Go with their imagination!
- MORE dry cereal with “imaginary jello”
- reinforcing politeness, minding their P’s and Q’s.
- doing an “activity” – dripping glue on an outline of a caterpillar; gluing shapes onto outlines.
- doing a “math activity” – there are tracing lines for numbers 1 through 4. J wanted to do this activity, yes, he was so sure, but in reality, that consisted of him only wanting to draw lines through the numbers; tracing them according to arrows was too hard for him to understand. He can read words and numbers pretty well, though!
- watching a beginner words video, from start to finish – a special treat. It is surprising that they love, love, love this video, but it has words like “up” and “be” (“up” was playing tennis, “be” was a little puppy, “all” was eating sushi off of a conveyor belt, “from” were samurais, “) in scenes that are repeated and elaborated individually for reinforcing the words so that kids can learn them, one by one, enough to read short sentences and stories. “
- ripping out, with a kind of manic glee, if you ask me, all these photos from J’s school album (potty training, Miss. (insert name) teachers, the picture of mommy visiting school which he evidently LOVED even though her head didn’t quite make it into the picture…
- countless games involving a deck of cards with a picture of baby J and T on the back.
- eati….I mean, pretend eating Play Doh.
- being the Big Kid on the Block; able to relate to them and see things the way they see it, while maintaining order so that purple crayons stay OFF the walls and out of tummies.
Oh, and Little Bro wasn’t potty trained yet, so I took one whiff of his behind while he was trying to snuggle up with Dr. Seuss’s “Hop on Pop” and got him into diaper changing position and changed that Major Poopy Diaper, yessir.
I kept imagining how I, had I been hired full time,would be able to keep the kids entertained constantly, for 8 hour days… We’d get so much done, and I’d be ex-HAUSTED.
I’ve begun to have a fresh appreciation for parents of more than one toddler at a time. However, I think it may be less overwhelming to be the parent of two and be with your own little darlings than to be shocked with a crash course first thing in the morning of an icy day on these blonde, bright-eyed cuties and their particularities rolled up into pint-sized, elastic-waisted, jean-sporting, jumping packages.