Don’t Speak!Posted: December 11, 2012
Besides being the definitive breakup song of my middle school years, Don’t Speak is also a great dollop of nannying advice. Like Gwyn Stefani, I use my voice a lot at work. I spend my days reading to the kiddos, baby-talking to the infants, singing little ones to sleep, conversing, answering questions, giving directions; nannying is a vivacious variety of verbalization. And though the kiddos crave my words, my songs, my vocal attentions, I’ve learned that sometimes they just need me to shut up.
Big Cat was my first Austin charge to make me realize that in the words department, sometimes less is more. For him, that time was naptime. As y’all may recall, he was having trouble napping, and though he and I worked through it, it was not without major effort on my part, trying to understand what he needed. I had read to him, spoken to him softly, soothed him with songs…nothing seemed to work. It wasn’t until I actively decided to take a step back and observe his nonverbal cues that I realized what was setting him into fits of crying instead of rolls of slumber. Carrying him into his room he was fussing, but by no means weeping. I readied his lighting and white noise, all the while holding him, all the while him becoming calmer. It wasn’t until I started talking sweetly to him, assuring him that it was alright, time for nap, all the lovely sweet nothings you say to a (fingers crossed) hope to soon-be-snoozing kiddo. As soon as I opened my mouth and sound came out, Big Cat lost it. I realized then that perhaps my course of action should be a vow of silence. I was quiet for the rest of the time; I just held him, swaying from side to side until we made the move to his little bed, where I stayed until he drifted to sleep and I hugged and rolled out of there, tiptoeing to the door!
What worked for Big Cat during naptime goes double for Rebel when he’s angry. If a certain storm cloud makes its way across Rebel’s features I know that the best thing to do is leave him be, not engage him by asking him what’s wrong, but rather, letting him come to me once the flash has passed when I comfort him with a hug. Asking him what is wrong only upsets him further because many times if he’s mad about something, having to articulate and explain his feelings is just a further annoyance. When he approaches me, I immediately take a knee/s and ask him if he is ok, assuring him that I’m sorry that he’s upset. Sometimes people, myself most definitely included, just need someone to feel sorry for them; no explanation, just a shoulder to cry on.
Newbie Sassafras takes the Don’t Speak direction to the next level. As she’s a new charge, she is still playing hard to get. She’ll fuss when I arrive, (although lately she’s been greeting me with a smile! Goal!) but once mommy and daddy are out the door, she’s my best friend. Part of the peril of separation anxiety is when it’s in the midst of happening, aka when the folks are still home, but the kiddo knows they’re leaving soon. I’ve realized it’s best to tread lightly and keep my conversation solely directed to the parents until they depart. Trying to talk to Sass while her parental units are still in her peripherals is a great way to get that girl fired up. And trust me, you do not wanna be on the business end of Sassafras; that girl is a pistol! (And y’all know I love a strong woman!) So until her folks skedaddle, I know to keep my lips zipped!
El Fuego would never shush me (he loves me too much!), but he prefers to be shushed rather than to be spoken/sung to before slumber. I’ve found that rocking in conjunction with a simple, but very soothing, SHHHHH is just the less is more method El Fuego needs.
Many times–and with many different kiddos for many different reasons–a nanny, like a lady, knows that it’s best to say nothing, deriving power from the ability to enjoy a comfortable silence with her charges. So to put a new twist on an old adage: nannies should be sweet, but not heard.