Rebecca Nelson Lubin
Last week, Lila wrote in with a great comment, about how it is very hard for some Nannies to say “no” to their charges, and suggested that I might run with that topic for a future article. Lila, I would write about that in a heartbeat, except I know nothing about that breed of Nanny, for the truth is that “no” is one of those words that tends to fly out of my mouth with great speed and fortitude in continuous five minute cycles throughout any given day. I even have been given a nickname at work. It is “Bad Cop.”
I was raised in the 70’s, truthfully, a decade of decadence and debauchery, absent parenting and divorces, and tons of parents burnt out from the big old sixties party that had preceded my formative years, but my parents, even though they were beatnik artist types that hailed from the East Village, had a stable, strong marriage, and were big on discipline. There were no elbows on our tables. We children went to bed clean and well groomed and well before 8pm. We did not eat anywhere but at the dining room table. Talking back earned you solitary. I balked against these rules as a child – and even more as a teenager - and thought them both overbearing and unrealistic. I longed to live in a place where one could eat a cracker in the car, or a cookie on the couch with the TV blaring loud. I often imagined myself as a grownup, living in a rule-relaxed atmosphere, my shoes up on the sofa, dirty laundry piled on the floor, and a wet towel on my bed. Ah, heaven.
But then, of course, I grew up, and began paying for all my own stuff. A car, my mother likes to say, is the equivalent of a $25,000 sofa. Do you really want to let kids eat all over your $25,000 sofa? And the sugar thing. All kids want to exist on a diet of crap. As I once did. But once you learn about nutrition and read all those articles about childhood obesity and early onset diabetes, well, I make sure to pack healthy snacks and little water bottles for our outings. Every lunch I pack is loaded with fruits and vegetables. I’m even stingy on dessert. As a child I used to cry out in protest at the teensy tiny slices of homemade pie my mother served to us. My Father called those wafer thin slices “cheap pieces” and my brothers and I couldn’t have agreed with him more. I swear you could see through them. But now, I would skip serving dessert all together if my employers would let me. Dessert is the first thing on the chopping block of bad behavior related consequences that I will begin to list at the first blush of disobedience. It goes a little something like this:
The four-year-old boy will not remove himself from the car. I am standing by his door with three re-usable grocery bags slung over one shoulder, which are planet friendly, but are digging into my skin, and his seventeen month old sister on my other hip who is trying to remove items from my handbag and throw them on the lawn. I say firmly,
“Four year old boy, if you do not remove yourself from this car by the time I count to three, there will be major consequences.”
He begins to move before I can say “one” for he knows well what “major consequences” entails. Loss of dessert, television, audio entertainment (the ipod in the car. It’s a hit) Thomas trains, bedtime book reading, and for the really heinous crimes, solitary bedroom confinement.
The truth is, it’s easier to let bad behavior go. Making a toddler toe the line takes up a great deal of time. But just as I am not one of those nannies that always say yes, I am also one of those Nannies that feel amazingly invested in the lives of the children I care for. I love them and I care about the people they grow up to be. If that makes me act the Bad Cop, so be it!
Rebecca Nelson Lubin is a writer and Nanny who resides in the San Francisco Bay Area. You may read more of her articles at http://www.abandofwives.ning.com/