For every SAT vocab word absorbed by Mr. Man and Big Cat that makes me swell with pride, there are ten other Miss Cheryl-isms they and the other kiddos adopt that I don’t count among my most intellectual. Among them are:

“This isn’t ’Nam—there are rules!”(from The Big Lebowski) | Invoked when the kiddos “go nuts” on me (a.k.a. try to jump out of the car without their backpacks, kick off their shoes and leave them in middle of walkway, pull out a snack post-lizard-petting without washing their hands, enter an occupied bathroom without knocking, etc.) Read the rest of this entry »

Defining Moments

Being around children as a full-time job is a juggling act, with a lot of different balls in the air. One orb in particular is language. I am very careful never to curse in front of the kiddos, and have been successful thus far (unless you count an unfortunate incident while reading Fox in Socks which I still chalk up to a very leading rhyme scheme. Shame on you Dr. Seuss!). Along with not swearing like a sailor, I am very careful to project in my manner of speaking the positivity and integrity I hope to impart on the children through my actions as well. I don’t speak ill of others (even that jerk who cut me off on our way to the park), and I encourage the children to be sympathetic to others, even when it is hard for them to think outside of the bubble of their immediate needs.

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Act Like an Adult, Think Like a Child

I was hanging out with my pal Aspen and her 3 y/o nephew, Doc. He loves my fat cat Dixie “soooooo much”, and always wants to see her when he visits our apartment. On this particular day, Dixie was fast asleep (as she is wont to do sixteen hours out of every day) in her kitty bed, on my queen bed. Doc ran into my room, saw Dixie, and immediately started the slow and (as he is tiny) arduous process of climbing up the side of my bed. I immediately started smiling, stifling a giggle. Aspen looked at her nephew then back at me, laughing. “What’s so funny?” she asked, smiling and inquisitive. I replied, “He must really want to see her and pet her! That’s a lot of work for him to get up there!” See, when I saw him climbing up the side of my bed, I pictured myself with a mountain to climb, of that relative scale. What would I put out that effort and physical exertion for? A glass of red wine after a long day, that’s what!

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Losin’ It

Where IS IT?! We’ve all been there- losing something and feeling powerless to find it. Children, I’ve found, are not only more prone to lose things than adults, but give up the search a LOT quicker. A cursory glance and a shoulder shrug is the most scouring you’ll muster from the majority of children. I myself was rather famous (or infamous depending on which family member you ask) for invoking the phrase, “I’ve looked everywhere, it’s gone!” to which my mama replied from another room—without looking up from what she was reading, or stopping what she was doing—“If I go into that room and find that toy, you’ll be in BIG  trouble, missy!” Well I didn’t want BIG trouble, medium trouble maybe but not big, so I would begrudgingly go back into my room and actually look for whatever it was, almost always finding it. Read the rest of this entry »

Less Is Maw

Regarding discipline, I am not of the corporal inclination. If you have good discipline, physical force is a last resort, and for my purposes as a nanny I would never feel comfortable using it. No, when it comes to deterring delinquency in my young charges, I rely on their respect and affection to serve me well. In my long-term charges, some of whom I have been with for over six years, I find that seeking my approval is a very powerful incentive for them to behave. Mr. Man and Big Cat are constantly asking my opinion on all matters, not only the behavioral. Throughout most of our years together, my last line of disciplinary defense has been to say, “I’m not going to say it again.” I think they are terrified of what will happen if I have to say it again. And frankly, their active imaginations can come up with far worse potential punishments than I would ever implement, so I just let them wonder. My mama, an elementary school teacher, used a similar line with her students, my siblings, and me: “If you do that again, I just don’t know what I’m going to do.” Now as harmless a statement as it was for her to make, I know I always imagined her pulling out her hair, burning my toys, etc. so I would hop to when that phrase was uttered!

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Practice Makes Permanent

The summer before third grade, I attended a soccer camp run by professional soccer players—some active, some retired. One was a gargantuan South African man named Freeman. Freeman told us during our drills that practice did not make perfect, practice made permanent. The way you practice something is the way you will perform it. The way you write, the way you run, the way you throw, kick, catch—everything you do was once done one way, over and over, and that’s why you do what you do, how you do. That statement stayed with me through the years, as again and again I have reminded myself that how you do things is how you will always do things.

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Equally important to teaching children time management is presenting chores and homework as a means to an end—an end of fun! (No, Mr.Man, not the end of fun,an end of fun! Fun at the end!) Once Kiddos are done with their lists of chores, they are “free men” and can head outside, read, play with me—whatever they want. Having that motivation for completing tasks is invaluable.

Sometimes, especially midweek, I’ve found that I have to up the ante. For example, on the way home from school I told Big Cat and Mr. Man that they had to get all of their chores and homework done “super fast and super right” because I was dying to show them a little game I like to call Bear/Hunter/Ninja…because that’s what the game is called. (It is worth noting that when I told them they better “burn through their lists because Bear/Hunter/Ninja is awesome,” Big Cat requested some matches.) Immediately intrigued, both boys raced to finish their chores and met me outside.

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Excuses, Excuses!

As a self-described Supernanny, part of my job is to get stuff done. And by stuff, I mean tasks that the kids don’t want to do and the parents don’t want to do with them (chores, homework, etc). I take the initiative on this because I want the children’s time with their folks to be quality and fun. And besides, I can make chores and homework fly by with my mad Mary Poppins skillz.

I surmount the hill of have-to-dos by breaking up the routine as much as possible and making the kids’ required tasks as clear-cut and easy to complete as possible. I draw up a master list for each, grouping the tasks by proximity to one another—empty backpack, wash hands, get out containers for tomorrow’s lunch can all be done downstairs; set out clothes, set alarm can all be done upstairs; then homework time.  If you send kids all over the house and are constantly giving them directions they stop listening and/or get distracted. Believe me, I get it. As an easily-distracted child (welp, let’s be honest, person) I know how hard it is to complete chore after chore, assignment after assignment when all you see are toys you want to play with, books you’d rather be reading, your pals outside wanting to play, or (as would later become the biggest detriment to my being a productive college student) cocktails and swimming pools. I’m sensitive to the whole, “There’s not enough time!” feeling. I am actually well acquainted with that very excuse, as it was my constant companion all the way through college graduation, but never more so than in middle school.

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It’s All In The Details


Most of being a good nanny is making sure everything is done: the children are safe, rested, fed, all needs met. But to be a true Supernanny, the skill is in the details: making that extra effort and noticing areas of special needs in each child/family. When parents have very young children who can’t report to them, I am sure to write down the details of the day (think The {Insert Name} Report, a {So-and-So} Gazette) detailing when they were fed, what they ate and how well, any medicine they took, what games we played, when they napped/slept, their happiness level throughout the day, new developments (i.e. new words), and/or advances in motor skills. The same goes for when I do an overnight or weekend job; I write up a {Lucky Child/ren} & Miss Cheryl’s Weekend of Fun} record. Doing so a) helps me to keep track of everything at the time of, and b) serves as a great way to keep the parents in the loop on their children’s activities, meals, etc.

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Good Nanny vs. Supernanny

Once people find out I’m a nanny for hire, they are always very interested in my schedule, my accountability, the children’s ages…tons of questions. And I’m happy to answer any and all. It’s important to me to get the word out that nannying is not exclusively performed by Au Pairs to the rich and estranged, the uneducated who have no other job options, or sleepy geriatrics. There are a growing number of college-educated, bright, funny, sweet young women who are choosing to be a nanny above pursuing another profession. I most certainly am one of them. I have never ended up making a resumé because, once I started nannying, a year and half before graduating college, I never looked back.

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