January 24, 2014

What I Learned From My 9 Years as a Nanny.

I’ve been both a babysitter and a nanny for 15 plus years, as well as camp counselor, summer camp director, children’s horseback riding teacher, and kid’s yoga instructor.

Babysitter: someone who watches your kids.

Nanny: a caretaker who is fully invested in the development, understanding, and upbringing of your children.

What can I say? I’ve always had an affinity for the younger generations and for the simple playfulness that comes with the innocence of being a child. I get along with them and they get along with me. No pretense, lots of play, and plenty of laughter.

Before I get started, let me add that I don’t mean to offend anyone here. I don’t have any kids of my own, so some may wonder what the hell I have to share about raising children. Fair.

But there’s also the fact that I’ve been working with children for more than half the amount of time that I’ve been on this earth. It been my profession. And I’m a keen observer.

People ask how I do it. Passion, patience, and perseverance. And this is what I’ve picked up on:

Quality time and focused attentions make all the difference.

How to be a good parent? Listen to your kid when they need to be heard. Look your child in the eyes at least once a day and give them your totally undivided attention.

Engage in reading a full story with them, go for a walk and talk about what’s on their mind, or try to notice what your baby is looking at and look at it too. Immerse yourself in their world so that they know you are a real, dependable part of it.

It might be for just five minutes, but that quality attention and energy towards them is what makes all the difference in the world. This is how your child feels loved & connected. Make the effort.

Children deserve to believe in magic!

Let kids believe. Agree that there are fairies in the garden; believe in their imaginary friends (and don’t consider them to be imaginary at all); encourage the belief that everything is possible. The second that doubt or disbelief is instilled, they’re creativity is diminished.

Don’t worry, your kid won’t turn into a weirdo. They’ll have their whole adult life to face harsh realities and learn how to handle them.

But while they’re young, instill the sparkle; join in on the magic carpet ride. Let their every day be filled with delight. They’ll remember the good and that dreams really can and do come true.

Kids need to get outside and play!

My Grandpa Jack used to say that nearly all children’s problems could be solved by getting outside and letting them get dirty.

A guidance school counselor and summer camp director for over 40 years, Grandpa Jack changed countless lives for the better. He’s where kids were sent for a wonderful dose of reality.

Sailing boats, shooting arrows, skinning knees, kicking the can, building cabins, playing games, getting hands on. I remember many a story and a summer where I saw kids come to my grandpa jaded and disappointed in life and left laughing and feeling genuinely happy.

Let kids be kids. Let them be who they are. Nature heals all. Get outside with your kids. It’s natural.

Children need discipline and crave guidance.

Don’t let your kids run the show. Tell ‘em like it is (more Grandpa Jack guidance).

On numerous occasions parents have told me, ‘How come my kids are so much better with you than they are with me?’ It’s because I respect myself. And I tell ‘em like it is. No kid is going to walk all over me and I’m not going to beat around the bush. If they don’t listen, they don’t get my attention or they get reprimanded for it. And it might be harder at the moment, but it will pay off in the end. Carry out what you set forth and by all means follow through with discipline and punishment. Do your child, yourself, and society at large that favor.

By setting guidelines and letting kids earn their privileges, we give them a chance to see direct results of their efforts. Seriously, I cannot stress this enough. Some of the happiest kids I’ve seen are ones who were reprimanded, learned, did it right, and then got to reap the rewards. Earned freedom and praise is a beautiful feeling.

It is single handedly the best way to instill self worth and belief in a child, belief and structure which will last a lifetime.

No one’s a perfect parent.

Parenting is far from cut and dry. So much is blurred between the lines and depends on the day, the moment, the attitude, the balance, the occasion, and your personal beliefs in parenting.

Don’t get upset because you do it differently or your own way and feel like a failure. Trust in yourself. You were given the gift of a child for a reason. Because you were meant to be a parent. Trust in your instincts, trust in your style of parenting. No one else will do it quite like you. But then, no one else’s kid is quite like yours.

I’ve seen so many parents be so hard on themselves and all I want to say is ‘you’re doing a really good job!’ So focus on the positive. Aim to listen to and spend quality time with your child. And show up. That’s all that it really takes to be the best parent you can be. Doing your best and showing up.

Congratulations, you’ve made it this far. You’re a good parent.

Dedicated to: Ava Sue, Nora Lynn, and Georgia Mae. I will always love you girls dearly. Thank you to all the families and children who have welcomed me into your lives. I will always believe in the fairies and will also here for the hard times. Thank you for teaching me and for being a blessed part of my world.

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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Wikipedia Commons

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