Drawing a Line in the Snow

opinion 1
Here's the background. I work for a family with a toddler. I'll call her Sam. She is about 15 months old, and has a health condition that causes her to be about the size of an 8 month old-a skinny one. She is a normal active happy child, just very small. There are no day-to-day issues with her health. Yes, I am being vague about her condition, and no, I won't clarify. I bring it up because her size makes me worry more about cold weather. Cold does not affect her condition, my worry is that but she feels cold more because she is so small and has very little body fat.

Her mom wants her to spend lots of time outside every day. When I started in September, this was great! We would often spend two or three hours on a walk. There are lots of parks, trails, etc so there is lots to do outside and Sam was always happy when we were outdoors. I would sometimes take her high chair outside for lunch, and we would walk around the yard looking at rocks and trees and things. When winter came, there were days I would skip our walk and play inside the house (MB doesn't allow anyone to drive Sam, which I am ok with, I don't mind being 'stuck' in the house) because I felt it was too cold. MB was upset when she came home to find we hadn't gone out. Even one day when it was 25 degrees and snowing! MB insists that if I just bundle her up enough, there is no problem.

MB is a skiier and snowboarder and wants Sam to love snow. MB has no problem going out in 15 degree weather, even with wind. She doesn't seem to understand that not only do some people hate the cold, but a baby is much more sensitive to cold than an adult. She has giant snowsuits for Sam. When I put one on her she cries because she can't move or keep her balance. If I take her out in the snow, she will scream if I try to set her down. If she even touches the snow she shakes it off her hand immediately. If I strap her into the stroller with layers and layers of clothing on, she is uncomfortable and will start crying after a few minutes. It seems ridiculous to spend all that time bundling Sam up while she is getting more and more angry, then go out for 5 unhappy minutes, then come inside and unwrap her. One day MB insisted we go to the park, we stayed a total of 3 min because the wind was so cold, every time a gust blew, Sam jumped into my arms and hid her face. I took her home when she started crying. The wind hurt my face, I can't imagine how it felt for a little one.

I am always 100% in favor of kids playing outdoors, I fully understand the importance of it. In this case, it is making the child miserable, and I am not sure if this is healthy for her. I don't want to criticize MB, nor do I want to lie and say I took Sam out when I didn't. March is usually our snowiest month, and I am wondering how to manage this. There are a lot of cold, snowy, windy days ahead. Am I overreacting, or should I be concerned about Sam's well being? Moms, if you had a child who fits comfortably into 6-9 month clothes, would you want her out in the cold? Where would you draw the line? How cold is too cold?


Anonymous said...

OnceANanny says:
It is hard to accommodate moms sometimes but it is usually worth the effort. Can you plan your walk so that several sites are linked that will allow you to get in out of the cold and warm up before continuing on your way? Also, if you can link up with other nannies for your romp, you can find places where there is friendly shelter from wind (a big factor in feeling cold) and still outdoors (or quasi-outdoors). Yes, it's frustrating, but you can work this in if you are in any urban area that is friendly to pedestrians where there is also an existing population of nannies. Are you using a cover on her stroller that shields from wind? I hate those things but they would come in handy for this type of weather. Finally, can you bundle her into baby thermals instead of using so much bulk? It might lower the need for wrapping. Hope this helps and hang in there!

Claire said...

I would never take my baby out in a 25 degree snowstorm except from house to car to wherever we are going. I would not want her to spend hours playing out in the cold, especially if it was clear she hates it, as it seems your charge does.

If I had a child that small with health risks, I would be grateful to have a nanny who can entertain her indoors all day when it is too cold.

Too cold! said...

OnceANanny, I think OP was saying that she is already accomodating the mom, but she is worried about the child. I do NOT think accomodating the mom is 'worth it' in this case.

I'm not sure where the line should be drawn, but 25 and snowing? Stay inside!

StrawberryShortKakes said...

Have you told the mom that Sam does not like the snow? Perhaps suggesting that both you and MB take Sam out once would show her that she doesn't like it. I can't understand why she would think 25 degrees and snow is good for her health, but then she is caution enough to not allow anyone to drive her! That's weird.

MissMannah said...

I agree with Strawberry's idea of both you and MB taking Sam out. Hopefully that way you can show her the cold isn't good for the baby. Also, if you go along to her doc appointments you can casually ask the doc how he feels about babies going out in super-cold weather. MB might be more inclined to listen to him.

Been there said...

I was in basically the exact same position with an 11 pound 14 month old. The mom thought he needed the fresh air but because she wasn't comfortable taking all 3 children out by herself, she never brought the baby outside but insisted I did. Would put tights, a onesie, legging, turtleneck, fleece pants, fleece pullover & then snowsuit on him & with 15 sec outside he would be shaking (we live in northern NH) & within 60 sec he would be shaking. I used to bundle him up & put him in the old bassinet stroller packed in with blankets & an afghan over the bassinet just to appease the mother. I kept this up through December & January but in February he was hospitalized for Failure to Thrive. One afternoon when I was staying with the baby at hospital to give the mom a break, I talked to the doctor about this & she explained to the mom that fresh air is good, cold air is ok but only as long as the baby can maintain his internal temperature & that the screaming & shaking (that would continue for 30 min after coming inside) indicated that he wasn't able to maintain his temp.

OP said...

OP here,

Been There, that must have been terrifying! Your post is exactly the kind of thing I am afraid of.

Once a nanny,
I wish there were other indoor places we could go, but we are in a residential neighborhood, surrounded by more neighborhoods. The closest place is a 7-11 about a 45 min walk away. I don't know if there are other nannies in the area, in fact, on the cold days we are talking about, we don't see ANYONE outside.

Claire - Good for you! and thanks!

Too Cold - Yep, that's what I meant :)

Strawberry - I have mentioned to MB on several occasions that Sam freaks out in the snow, and generally seems miserable in the cold, especially the wind.. MB said, "Oh geez Sam, you don't like snow OR wind?" She seems disappointed in Sam and keeps trying to push it. Yeah, that seemed weird to me too that MB is fine with freezing but not driving! She also insane about Sam only eating organic, but lets her throw her food off the highchair and then eat it off the floor...Sigh.

Miss Mannah - I can't think of any way to ask to go to the pediatrician with her. I think MB would find that weird and creepy, since generally most people don't take their nannies to the doctor with them. But you did give me another idea. I was considering calling her pediatrician and asking if he could casually bring it up and not tell her I called. That seems totally underhanded and sneaky, but I am worried about Sam. Should I do it or is that totally unprofessional? I would love to get some opinions an this.

Thanks again to you all!

Village said...

I don't have any advice. Personally, I would call CPS on my way out the door. This sounds like P/W to me, and what the Mom is doing is abusive.

Bethany said...

Are you certain Sam has a condition that causes her size? Is she being given enough food? Are you certain her condition isn't one invented by mom?

Something seems very wrong here beyond forcing a baby to play out in 25 degree weather.

I don't know exactly what I'd do, but I don't think I'd take the baby out.

There are plenty bizarre requests you get as a nanny and typically you comply with what a parent wants, but this is one of the times I wouldn't go with the flow.

Chicago nanny said...

Hi! I'm a nanny in Chicago, the city famous for its unpredictable weather. I feel so bad for you. I remember once, my DB was home for the day and came home from running errands. He suggested I go outside with Monkey, and I thought it was a little cold, even though it was 35 degrees.

Monkey now goes to the park district and library near his home for various classes and programs. Which is great! He gets to socialize and play with other children, and most important of all, he is COMFORTABLE. Where does your little one live? Perhaps there are similar programs?

MissMannah said...

In the past, I have had MBs request I go along to pediatrician appts. I just assumed this was commonplace with the nanny world. I don't think it would be a good idea for you to go behind MB's back and call the doc. 1) it is sneaky, like you said and 2) he might not take you seriously anyway. However, since you said she mentioned before that Sam doesn't seem to respond well to the cold weather, you can ask her to bring it up at the next doctor's appt. Just casually ask if her aversion to cold is "normal" or if it has something to do with her condition. Also, if you happen to know anybody in the neighborhood, maybe ask MB if you can plan playdates instead of daily outings.

Been there said...

I think you and I work for the same family just in different states!!

My MB was all about organic too but also let the kids eat off of the floor. Even after the doctor stressed that everything that the baby was given to eat must be high in protein and calories I would get to the house on Monday mornings and the baby would be strapped in his high chair at 6:30 AM eating a lollipop or a popsicle or grapes. The mom would say that it was all the baby would agree to eat all weekend but it was okay since they were organic.

N is for Nanny said...

I would advise you that most pediatricians will not discuss a patient with a non-parent, without consent from a parent. Additionally, any conversation would be recorded in Sam's chart, including who called. Depending on office's policies and Sam's insurance, MB could also be billed for your phone call - some practices have very liberal interpretations of what constitutes a consultation. I respect your discretion for the family, but not knowing her condition makes it impossible to know if this is a situation where you're being asked to do something that is dangerous to your charge or just presently unpleasant.

I grew up in a very cold climate, which totally skews my perspective on situations like this...25F and snowing doesn't sound unreasonable to me, so long as Sam is appropriately attired. I understand that she is small, but I'm from an area where smaller/younger kids are taken outside in colder conditions. Check your hourly forecast to see when the most pleasant time of day (wind, temp, sun) will be.

I would shift your focus to working with the mom to figure out a way to make winter outings enjoyable for her daughter. PP mentioned using a rain cover for wind protection and layers instead of a bulky snowsuit; I totally agree. One of those bean things that goes in the microwave in a bundle-me is also really nice. Have you talked to the mom about letting Sam observe winter from the warmth and comfort of her stroller? You also might consider bringing in some fresh snow and putting it on a cookie sheet to explore - little castles with measuring cups, driving small toy cars, etc - to expose her to snow as something FUN in an environment that is more comfortable to her. You could also suggest to the mom that since Sam is currently so adverse to the snow, you might take a break from trying for a week or two, in an effort to "reset" her opinion. I think PP's idea of taking her out together (so the mom sees what you see) is a great one. There are things she might be doing that make the outside experience more enjoyable for her daughter. I am not saying that you aren't doing this, but adopting some of the WINTER IS FUN when getting Sam ready for outside and while outside might be infectious. Silly songs, big smiles, joking play, etc can go a long way with toddlers and their attitudes.

Bethany said...

N is for Nanny I like your suggestion of pointing out to mom that her pushing the snow on Sam when she hates it could cause her not to like it all. The exact opposite of what mom wants.

I feel for Sam, it's not easy to grow up with a parent who can't deal with you not being exactly like them and liking everything they like.

Phoenix said...

So lucky we don't have cold where i live. i hate it.

If she is going to stay small, and from what you described I think she is. She may never be able to handle the cold. Does the mom take her out and not realize what her child is going through? Maybe just take her outside and hold her and walk around. That way, you keep her warm, get a little exercise, and you won't be lying. You took her out, but mom never said you had to put her down.

OP said...

OP here,

Village and Bethany - NO. There is absolutely no abuse going on and her condition is very real. MB goes out of her way to provide super healthy and calorie rich food, there is more food for Sam in the house than food for MB. Sam, like almost every toddler I have ever met, is a very finicky eater, so MB and I both go out of our way to make sure she has healthy food that she likes. MB is a fantastic mom who devotes her whole life to Sam, this is not a case of abuse, I think she just doesn't realize how cold it is for a baby. BTW, that house is one of the cleanest I have ever worked in, MB mops the floor daily, and they have no pets, so Sam isn't eating dirt if she eats off the floor.

I realize that was defensive. I just feel like the situation got blown out of proportion and I want people to realize that MB is a great mom.

MissMannah - I liked your advice. I did feel like calling the doc was too sneaky. I don't like having stuff like that hanging over my head. I think I will ask how she would feel about a playdate, Sam loves other babies. Thanks!

N is for Nanny - I should have thought of that...thanks! I wasn't going to ask about Sam, I was just going to vaguely describe and mention the cold, but you are right, it would come back to me some way or other. Also, thanks for the perspective, I imagine that is MBs perspective too.I think I will suggest a rain cover, I usually don't like those, but she would be warm! Maybe I'll get her some snow toys, or a book about a snowman, she loves books. Thanks for the very thought-out answer:)

Phoenix - Good thinking, that is how I have been handling it, sometimes I just keep her in the stroller with her thermal layers and blanket. MB doesn't directly ask if I took her out in the snowsuit, if she did, I wouldn't lie. Sometimes we are only out for 5 min, but we are out!

Thanks again everyone. I feel a lot better about this.

Bethany said...

Well I'm glad to know the baby is not being abused.

Hopefully things work out one way or another.

N is for Nanny said...

OP - I think Sam and her mom are lucky to have you in their lives. You are clearly concerned about Sam, while respectful of her mother. That's fabulous. I hope it works out or you have an early spring. I think the young toddler is the least enjoyable to bundle up and take out in the cold...partially because they typically enjoy it the least.

You (and Sam) might like the book "Hello, Snow" by Vestergaard. My former charges LOVED me to repeat lines from it while getting them dressed, which previously had been a fight...and some of the lines are embarrassingly catchy. Here's a link: Your comment about books made me remember it!

Village said...

OP I believe taking an abnormally small child out in the snow when she so obviously objects, is abusive. A baby shouldn't be forced out in the cold.

Just stay inside! said...

You know what's interesting? Most of the comments here are telling OP how to get the kid in the snow, how to make it fun, etc. What about how to convince the mom to keep the kid inside? It is absolutely ridiculous these days the conditions people take their kids out in.

I have seen nannies and moms put 10layers of clothing on a baby, put him in a stroller, cover him in blankets, put a blanket over the stroller, head out to the park and stand shivering under a shelter. What is the point? You say you want the kids to get sunshine and fresh air, how are they getting either with a blanket over everything? They can't even see!Little kids HATE being bundled up in layers of clothing, they don't enjoy the walk at all. Is it just so you can SAY your kids spend time outside? What are you parents getting out of these freezing cold outings? I can guarantee you the only thing those babies are getting out of it is discomfort, hassle, and frustration.

I just don't see why parents think huddling in a park with a baby who is so wrapped up they can't see or move is better than staying inside where it is warm, laughing and playing happily with books or toys.