Wednesday, April 6, 2011

On 'What IS a Nanny'

We are the Kleenex that doesn't come in a box.

We are the jungle gym when it's cold and rainy outside.

We are the wet nap when your fingers are sticky and dirty.

We are the teacher before you're allowed to go to school and later after you arrive home.

We are the chauffeur when you have appointments and extracurricular activities.

We are the ones who hold you when you cry, cause mom can't be home to do it.

We are the ones who catch all
your colds since you are too young or can't quite comprehend the idea of covering your mouth when you cough.

We are the vomit bucket holders, the baby potty cleaners, and the bum wipers.

We are the friend to play with when everyone else is busy.

We are your role models and the ones you hope to be like when you grow up.

We're the ones you want to marry before you understand what that really means.

We are magicians who invent games when your bored and cranky.

We are the bed when you fall asleep in the car and have to be carried in.

We are your biggest champion and the one who knows you best, next to mom and dad.

We are your world, until you turn 3 and want to do it all on your own.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

On Identical Twins

So in case you're new here or just didn't catch on...there are 3 C babies, two boys and a girl. The boys just happen to be identical twins. However, since the first month I worked here they have not looked anything alike. They certainly have similar features, there is no doubt about that, but the way they use their faces--their smiles, their grimaces--each boy is subtly different. These minute differences make it very difficult to explain when people ask,

'How do you tell them apart?'

I just do. When I look at their faces, they are my RBC and DLC. They do not look alike anymore. Their faces are distinctive, yet is hard to put my finger on how. R's face is fuller, more square, with eyes that tilt slightly downwards at the corners. D's face is more narrow and oval shaped. Their noses differ too. D's almost turns up while R's is more flat in a way. But this is what it looks like to me, you might not agree.

In general I think if you look at them you can tell they are different. It is just about taking the time to find out which name goes with what face. I imagine it like meeting a bunch of kids at a playgroup for the first time. It takes a while to identify with certainty which boy was Max and which Jakey after you have barely seen their faces before they run off to play.

I have discovered that no identical twins look the same to me any more. Mary-Kate and Ashley each have delicate differences that make them less than perfectly identical. Zach and Cody? No problem. Teach me what name goes with what face and I'm golden.

This is not to say that I don't mix them up. In the heat of the moment I do accidentally say the wrong name. Especially if they have their backs to me and I've forgotten who is where. (A common occurrence since they NEVER sit still.) No worries though, they have no problem telling you if you make a mistake.

We used to mark their big toes with green and blue nail polish to be sure we knew their identities. It was a crutch that lasted well past their first birthdays. Their grandparents and teachers STILL ask 'SO....Who's who?' Its a bit disappointing. I think it's VERY important for the important people in their lives to know these boys for the distinct little people that they are. I try to avoid clarifying identities anymore. Maybe if people are forced to look they'll notice all the differences that are so obvious to me.

Monday, April 4, 2011

On Getting Ready (...With Triplets)

People often ask me how long it takes me to get the Triplets ready to go anywhere outside of the house. Obviously there are many variables that factor in my answer. Have they had a bath? Are they dressed? Does anyone have to pee? Depending on the status of these and other issues it can take up to an hour or more to get them all ready and out the door, but let's look at a more simple experience. (Ha! As if ANYTHING is simple with those three!)

I told them today that we would go for a walk after lunch. As I begin to clear the table, I send APC who has finished her lunch, to go potty and find a pair of socks to wear. Like a good girl she heads to the bathroom and I soon hear the loud grating noise as she drags the step stool to the toilet. By this time, RBC has finished. I send him to put on shoes and wait for his turn in the bathroom. Within 10 seconds I hear APC screaming bloody murder as he has skipped shoes and gone right to waiting for the potty. He is standing too close to the little lady who needs privacy to do her business. I leave the handful of dishes to go break up the scuffle, admonishing APC for screaming instead of talking to her brother, and reminding RBC that other people enjoy privacy on the potty like he does.

Having wiped APC and sent her in search of socks, RBC takes his place in the bathroom and promptly requests HIS privacy. I head back to DLC who is finishing go-gurt at the table. I help him get the last drops out and send him on the same mission as his siblings --potty and shoes.

I pick up the dishes and turn to walk to the sink when APC begs for my attention. She has to show me the pretty socks she picked out.

'Those ARE pretty socks A,' I say. 'Now please sit down and put them on.'

I get one dish rinsed and put in the dishwasher before she asks,

'Is this the right foot, Norie?'

'Yes, A, socks don't matter which foot you put them on, just shoes.'

As I finish my sentence, there is more screaming from the bathroom. Of course DLC didn't think to go to one of the 2 other bathrooms in the house. He headed straight to bother R who is attempting to pull up his pants while standing precariously on the step stool and spouting off the tenets of privacy to his intrusive brother.

I break up the scuffle, have a brief fight with DLC about using another potty, remind APC and RBC to get their shoes on and rush back to the dining room to finish cleaning up. RBC meets me in the kitchen.

'Is this the right foot, Norie?' He asks.

'No, honey, you've got them on backwards.'

I turn to the sink.

'Is this the right foot?' The princess inquires.

'No, baby, try again.'

Both children switch feet and ask again. We go through the cycle all over with an affirmation that 'Yes,' they indeed have both shoes on the right feet.

I leave in search of DLC. To my surprise I find him coming down the stairs buck naked. He has used the restroom and readied himself for bath time. (Which is an event for later in the day.) There is a brief bout of tears as I ask him to get redressed because we are going for a walk.

He retrieves his clothes and there are more crocodile tears as I refuse to put his shoes on for him. (A skill he has mastered, but likes to avoid.) I eventually convince him to do it while *I* use the potty and get my shoes. As I mentioned in my 'On Privacy' post, I have none and we continue to have the 'is this the right foot?' conversation through the door as I try to relieve my overfull bladder. (Cause seriously, when else did I have time to pee today?)

By this point RBC and APC are staring out the front door waiting to go out. There is commotion as DLC tries to weasel his way between them to see as well. I referee that fight and assure them that we'll leave as soon as I put the food and dishes away where Bailey can't reach them. (If you read my 'On Pets' post you'd understand why...)

As I'm working, quickly as possible, I hear the tell tale sign that the kids are playing with the front door handle. I stop to remind them that they are not permitted to open the door without an adult present. I work. I stop to remind them again, and a third time. This results in a time out for RBC and DLC follows suit with the same pattern of warnings and consequences.

By this time I have at least gotten the food put away and the table cleared. The dishes will have to wait for nap. (That's assuming they ACTUALLY nap today)

I collect the boys to talk about why they had time outs,

'Because we tried to open the door'

And why it's dangerous.

'Because we could get lost or pinch us in the door.'

All the while tying my shoes and fielding questions from A about when we will finally go.

To be honest, I can't even tell you how long all this took. 30 min? Perhaps more? I've given up trying to count. In general, I try to let them get ready alone, but if we are on a schedule, I would help more and we could probably cut the time in half. (Though there would be tears and fights since THEN they'd want to do it themselves. What can I say? They're three and they like to do the opposite of whatever I suggest.)

So this is what it's like for me to do a simple thing like take a walk in the neighborhood. It's the repetition that kills me. As if it's not frustrating enough to tell one toddler the same thing over and over, imagine that times three! It was even worse when we were wrestling winter coats and boots. Sheesh! I'm exhausted just writing about it.

So yes, it takes a while for us to be ready to do anything. However, it's better for my sanity though if I don't try to time it.

Monday, March 28, 2011

On Interviews, Question 2

Most of my nanny positions began with friends. People I knew in real life BEFORE I became their nanny. In these situations the interview appointment is often moot, but for the occasions that I have actually interviewed for a position, there are questions that seem to be the norm. I thought you might be interested in reading my answers and possibly what I think about the questions.

What do you like most about being a Nanny?

There are many things I love about my job. Every day I get to play with toys, imagine, pretend, be silly, and in general avoid acting like an adult. And who can deny that I'm a love junky? The hugs, kisses, snuggles, and general affection often make my world a better place. However, when I look intently at the episodes that bring me the most joy, I am always brought back to points where I have helped my charges to learn something. It could be a life skill--dressing themselves, setting the table, brushing their hair--or something educational like counting, number/letter recognition, or how things work. Whatever the skill, I find the biggest sense of accomplishment when I see that light of knowledge in their eyes. I love the smiles, the sense of pride they acquire, and above all the realization that I am helping to prepare them for a happy and productive life.

I think this question can be very telling and informative for parents searching for a nanny. Obviously no one wants to hire someone who thinks the best part of watching children is when they are asleep. (Though I must admit that nap time IS a very important time of day for nannies who spend hours pretending they have as much energy as little people less than 1/3 their age.) ;-)

This has always been the first thing that came to mind when I was asked what is my favorite part of being a nanny. There is no doubt in my mind that the daily instruction I give is an incredibly important part of moulding these little minds. I take this job very seriously and I find it terribly rewarding.

Stay tuned for the next installment of "Questions to Ask A Prospective Nanny!" I will be addressing the opposite of this topic, what I like LEAST about being a nanny. That will surely prove interesting.

Friday, March 25, 2011

On Sibling Love

APC and DLC had a weight check up at the doctor's office. That left me home with RBC. He was silly all morning. Enjoying the one-on-one attention. It was obvious he missed his brother and sister though. The moment they came home and sat down on the carpet to play with us he said,

"I was staying home all day and i missed you"

He proceeded to give them both kisses and hugs, to which they responded with whines and not-so-gentle nudges to leave them alone. Turns out they weren't missing HIM so much.

It's really interesting to experience each of the triplets by themselves and it's nice to see that even if they spend much of their time together fighting over toys and annoying one another, that they do notice when the other two aren't around.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

On Music

Recently, a friend of mine relayed this story to me. He and his daughter were driving in the car. He had some not exactly kid friendly music playing on the stereo. Soon enough Baby Girl requested, "can you put on some more music? Not this music." Confidently solidifying her point she added, "This is yucky music." Although this story amuses, it also illustrates the point of this post perfectly. It is incredibly difficult to find music that will entertain both parent/nanny and child.

Throughout my experience as a nanny, this story has repeated itself in many incarnations. Most frequently I have seen where the parents give no notice to the music they play in the car and I later hear the children repeating lyrics that are generally inappropriate. For example, J's favorite song as a toddler was M I A's "Galang" At first it was amusing to hear him sing along to this catchy tune. However, as the lyrics became more familiar, the drug references were obvious and soon we had to fib a bit and say the "Galang" disc was broken. EVENTUALLY he stopped asking for it.

This was not to bed outdone by the two girls of the yellow brick house. One day as we were out on an adventure, I was surprised to hear them both behind me singing, "Like this, like this, like this..." from Mim's song of the same title.

Much like my "On Parroting" post, it is obvious they are listening and taking the words in, though they may not be aware of the meanings. (At least we hope not!)
So how do we avoid this pitfall? No man (ie. parent/nanny) can musically live off of "The Wiggles" oeuvre and discs of other childrens' songs like "This Old Man" alone. Thankfully for me, there are discs like "No!" and "Here Come The ABCs" by one of my favorite bands, They Might Be Giants

I find this music, produced by musicians I know and respect, much more tolerable than the random arrangement of "Old MacDonald" found on any number of CDs geared at youngsters.

Being a classically trained musician, I also enjoy any of the four "Beethoven's Wig" discs that take classical works and add historically related lyrics to make them interesting and funny. I sure could have used these during my music history "drop-the-needle" tests!

Music with the C family is a bit tough when older brother H is around. He often enjoys pop hits that may prove inappropriate for his younger siblings. (The current favorite is the relatively inocuous "Dynomite." It is not uncommon for me to hear little APC singing Taio Cruz's lyrics in her sweet little voice. Obviously it is risky to set the dial to many regular radio stations while in the car. We often resort to Radio Disney, though it's not my favorite.

I suppose what I want to accomplish with this post is a reminder to parents and caregivers: they are listening. Even though the music seems like background noise to you, they are ingesting it and learning from it, good or bad. We can't always prevent them from acquiring a colorful vocabulary, so my advice is to be aware and attempt to find things that the whole family can enjoy. It may be a pain, but you can rest easy knowing that your child won't be the one reciting Eminem lyrics at school.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

On The Teratoid Threes

It isn't uncommon to hear the misplaced fear in new parents voices as they mention the dreaded 'terrible twos.' It makes sense that children would experience a greater need for independence and freedom to make more of their own choices at this age. This of course can lead to defiance and many frustrating arguments, for both parents and children alike. Sadly, the most natural outlet for a child's frustration is characterized by the two most dreaded words in the parental/caregiver vocabulary--temper tantrum. However, this 'terrible twos' distinction is misleading. We often avoid mentioning that it only gets worse by age three.

The teratoid threes as I like to call them, literally meaning "resembling a monster," can be even more frightful than the previous year. Children are more mobile, willful, and constantly struggling to determine/hold onto  their place in the world--both in their home life as well as the world outside. Every conversation seems to be met with a question, "why, Norie," or a defiant "No, I don't want to...(insert anything under the sun here.)" Even if I am offering their favorite snack or activity, the triplets choose the exact opposite just for the sake of making their own choice. Heaven forbid I put my foot down. It's then that they deteriorate into tears, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. Characterized by faces such as this:

Though this picture is amusing now, at the time I admit, I was a bit frustrated. Yes, even nanny.nora gets frustrated. 

Thankfully, our 365 monstrous days of the teratoid threes pass and we negotiate these struggles day to day picking our battles and using methods of distraction to keep the peace.

I find it interesting how little talk there is of the "frightening fours." Thankfully, I have another 327 days to prepare for those. ;-)