I would like to preface this blog post by saying I know that I am not a parent.
I am totally, 100% not a parent. But I play one on TV!
I’m just a nanny. But I have been at this whole nanny thing for a while now and I’ve observed all sorts of parenting.
I tend to think, save for physical or emotional abuse, there is no “wrong” way to parent. Except for people who don’t vaccinate their kids. Those people should have to go live on an island because I’ll be damned if they’re gonna compromise my possible future offspring by relying on herd immunity.
For the most part, what I’ve seen of parenting, its about what works the best for you and your kid. You can be the most consistent and strict but still have a nut job kid running circles around you throwing darts. You can be totally laid back and free range and just shrug it off and get the kid a purple cast when they break their arm. Especially parenting young kids, that shit is a circus of epic proportions and so I try very hard not to judge.
THIS BEING SAID….
The one thing I’ve realized about parenting is that if you’re an asshole, and act like an asshole in front of your kid, you kid is generally gonna be….you guessed it! Asshole.
Today I was nannying in unfamiliar territory, a really affluent town outside of Boston. One of the families I work for is in the process of moving and is staying with family until the new house is ready. Not feeling confident with the lay of the land but desperate for some sort of structured air-conditioned activity, we set off for the library which was a few blocks away. I figured the library would be cool in both senses of the word, and I couldn’t stand to watch the 3 year old be hypnotized by the IPad for a moment longer. We got all excited, packed the baby into the carseat which he HATES (the way his eyes look once he realizes he’s been placed in there, its truly priceless.) and we set off on our library adventure.
When we arrived the librarian in the children’s room informed us that today was Movies for Munchkins day! (more screen time! great! nanny of the year!) It would be a roughly 50 minute presentation of classic children’s books animated on a DVD. The second she said it would kill an hour I was sold and we headed off to the play area to do some puzzles while we waited for the non-story story time to start.
Eventually we filed into the story time room with a gaggle of parents and small children. There was a rug and two rows of small child sized chairs. My 3 year old buddy, which long time readers might know better as LPP (Le Petit Prince) sat down on the rug and eagerly awaited the show. He’s a kid and he loves tv, I can’t blame him that much. I just watched two episodes of So You Think You Can Dance in my underwear, whatever.
The second the movie started the chaos began. Out of the 20 or so kids in that room only a handful could sit still and say quiet. Not a single parent reprimanded a child banging on a chair, attempting to drop kick a book held up by his sibling. I wasn’t necessarily shocked by the behavior because kids are nuts, but the fact that the parents never once thought to try and teach their kids consideration for others. This is something I have come to loathe about all the children’s programming I’ve attended in my tenure as a nanny. As a culture we tend to say these days “oh, well they’re little! They don’t get it!” This is true, developmentally they have NO concept of consideration because toddlers are completely self-centered by design. Just like kids aren’t programmed out of the womb to say please and thank you we must teach them these things. Sometimes it takes forever. Sometimes you have to say “Hmm, how do you ask for something that you want?” 95 BILLION TIMES before the kid up and says “can I have a juicebox please” one day unprompted.
I just feel like the appropriate response is to try and redirect your kid into being quiet and attentive so as to not ruin the enjoyment of the other kids in the room. If they’re not capable you take them out of the room and try again another day. Or you explain “we can’t sit in the room with the movie because its a quiet activity and the other kids in the room might not want to hear you scrape a child sized chair around the room like a janitor on meth, do you want to go back in and try again?” (well maybe not exactly like that but you get it.)
For some of the parents in the room this was what they did. After about 15 minutes the room had mostly cleared out, parents realizing their kids weren’t going to be able to participate and cutting their losses. I did feel sad for them because every caretaker needs 20 minutes of iphone scrolling time but that’s how the cookie crumbles sometimes.
By the 16 minute mark only 6 children were left in the room including LPP and his little brother Baby LPP. The four children that I was not in charge of sang, kicked each other, wrestled, almost ripped a book in half etc. Their mothers made very little effort to discipline them. They instead had an animated conversation amongst themselves about everything from health insurance to birthday party planning, occasionally stopping to say something to the effect of: “Billy! Stop that right now! There are people in here that are actually trying to watch the movie!” Then immediately turned back to her adult conversation and continued it, at a normal speaking volume, right over the stupid fucking movie.
And it just made me wanna stand up on the little lime green child sized chair, sleeping baby slung over my shoulder and whisper yell LOOK AT YOUR LIFE LOOK AT YOUR CHOICES! MAYBE YOUR KIDS AREN’T RESPECTING THIS SPACE BECAUSE YOU ARE SHOWING THEM ITS OKAY BY NOT PAYING ANY ATTENTION EITHER!?
TREE, MEET APPLE.
I’m not at all saying that children and parents are or should be equals, because we all know they really aren’t. The parents are the parents for a reason, after all they totally get to say “because I’m the parent and I say so!”
And sure, nobody is perfect, but you gotta try. You gotta try to model the behavior you wanna see. The be the change you wish to see in your child.
At one point one of the moms said to her son “See look how nicely that little boy over there is sitting!” (in reference to LPP)
I wanted to turn to her like an informercial and say “You too could experience this! For free just some repetitive installments of effort and patience!”
Because lady, I don’t wanna hear about two different birthday party plans for your child. I wanna watch this fucking animation of Harold and the Purple Crayon with the sweet boy who keeps turning to me with smiling eyes and saying “HE DREW THE MOON!!”