A Party for the Toys

Does your little chickadee have their own chickadee? A doll or a stuffed animal that they just can’t leave behind?

When I lived in Atlanta, the littlest one I watched certainly did. In fact, we were extra blessed because she happened to have twins: Charlie and Shelly. And they were quite the busy pair! Always wanting to eat ice cream and go places, always getting toys out and not taking care of them, always needing us to take extra care of them so they would stay out of trouble. Yes, Charlie and Shelly were quite the handful!

Avery and Shelly at the park

One day, my little chickadee came downstairs and announced that it was Charlie and Shelly’s birthday! And didn’t I feel foolish for not knowing! After all that time together, surely I should have marked it on my calendar.

“Well when is their birthday party?” I asked.

“TODAY!” she told me, “so we had better get to work!”

And so we did!

First, we made a picture list of everything we had to do. (Do you make picture lists with your little ones? They’re pretty simple. It’s just like a regular to-do list, only with pictures of your goals instead of words. This way, anyone can follow it- even the littlest chicks who can’t read. yet)

Next, we made decorations. We called our friends down the street. We made birthday hats. We gave the twins an extra nap so they would be on their best behavior. And then, we got to work making cupcakes, because what is a birthday party without cupcakes!

Avery at Party

It didn’t imagine the whole neighborhood would show up. But everyone did. And everyone had fun! And to this day, it is still one of the best parties I’ve ever been to!

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While the Parents are Away, the Nanny Will Stay

After a day spent with little ones, there comes your first moment of silence. It’s blissful. Jubilant,  even. And then you realize that still echoing in your head are the voices of those little chicks. And then you realize, huh- this is kind of boring now that they’re asleep. Because, for as much work as it can sometimes seem, those little chicks totally make your day worthwhile. This past week, I have been doing overnights with the family I work for. It has been crazy & fun, stressful & hilarious, but above anything else: satisfying.

I love the last moments of the night (before you turn off the light and hear screaming). I love the snuggling in the rocker and re-capping our days. I love the extra time to make a connection and feel the love. Really, I do. There aren’t many jobs people enjoy having overtime at, but working as a nanny definitely has that perk.

And while the cats have been away, we mice have sure played. And as my week winds down, I thought I would reflect on things that I have learned and done. 

1. Choices. I’m typically pretty good with giving kids choices, but when parents are away there is a larger tendency for kids to want control. And it makes sense: their lives have been a bit rocked, they may feel like you are attempting to boss them around or “be their parent”, and suddenly this person they are used to seeing leave at 5pm is watching them in their pj’s, watching them wake up, eat breakfast, all of those things they would normally do with their parents and not you.  And honestly it is strange.

I’m the type of person who likes boundaries myself, so when I feel like my boundaries are being encroached on, my defense mechanism is to recoil and take control of everything I can. This is the same feeling a lot of kids have when their parents leave. As a caregiver I have learned the best thing I can do is boost up my Love & Logic in these situations. I am all about choices. I am so about choices that by the end of the week the kids just tell me to decide myself and stop asking. But this is a much better option to be than having them storm to their rooms, fight you and be bitter the entire week, wouldn’t you agree? And hey, I like choices, so why wouldn’t they? 

2. Routine. Thankfully I work in a home that runs like clockwork. It’s sometimes chaotic clockwork, but it’s clockwork nonetheless. This is mostly because the parents  I work for have taught their children how to respect themselves, their caregivers, their house and their time. Yeah, I’m pretty lucky. And a very important note: the children have a pretty normal routine they are comfortable with. They know their expectations. They know the rules. They know the schedule.

It was really important for me to carry on with those expectations, rules and & schedule, even while their parents were away. Yes, it’s fun to be the “cool nanny”, to break the rules and let them veg in front of a TV and not have to communicate with one another (wait, no it’s not!). But more than being fun, kids need to feel normal. I needed to give them the closest thing to normal that they knew so that their separation anxiety wouldn’t intensify.Completely throwing off their routine simply to have fun would have been selfish on my part. Plus, there are always ways to have fun within the rules, you just have be creative. 

3. Recognition. This is definitely the easiest one to to add to the mix. In an odd way to connect this philosophy I think of how I felt the summer Sean was in India. It was terrible. The person I trusted and loved the most was gone. In general it was just very lonely. But, when I would go out and people would pay me the extra mind, I could feel my spirit lift. When friends would send a quick text or note of encouragement my happiness would rise. Positive energy smothers bad feels any day of the week! We have all felt it, so we know it’s true.

So one thing I am sure to do when parents are gone to thicken my compliments. “Wow, thanks for helping with your dishes this morning.”And, “hey, I was watching you in basketball and I noticed you were the only kid who…” Not to mention that I “sent your mom a text about how well you have been getting up in the mornings and how kind you have been”. That last one always knocks it out of the park! Kids LOVE knowing you have been praising them to their parents. It shows them that you went the extra mile to not only notice it, but report back. Often nannies get a rap for only reporting the bad stuff, so reporting the good stuff is a great thing to do! I don’t think it’s always necessary to reward kids for their behavior with gifts. It can definitely help, but in general I think taking the time to pay the compliment sticks with them longer than anything else. 

And the best news of all is that I survived the week! And everyone was happy and smiling, still liking each other and me. So, here’s to the start of fun and relaxing weekend- sans children.