Nanny Knows Best

Although Mary Poppins may have saved the day with "a spoon full of sugar", Nanny V employs a more pragmatic approach. No magic, just simple love, attention and consistency. And a healthy dose of humour.

WHAT’S IN A NAME

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on Sunday, 16 March 2014
…that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet

Even Romeo and Juliet had identity problems. Granted, theirs were love-related. However, it doesn’t help introducing yourself to a potential date when your name is “Tula does the hula from Hawaii”, or “Number 16 Bus Shelter”. (I do wonder about this last one and where mum & dad were when…)

New Zealand, like a number of other countries, released a list of 77 names parents can no longer give to their children after the above two slipped through.

Playgrounds can be a tough experience particularly if there is something as easy as an odd name to single you out. It’s not too long ago is it, to remember just wanting to be one of the group and not be taunted for being conspicuous for the wrong reasons.

Zowie Bowie is now Duncan. Obviously too many years of ridicule had an impact.

A lifetime of corrections, nickname traps or a name not to live up to like oh let’s say, Adolf, are some of the stressful considerations you can be up against in preparation for signing the birth certificate.

There may be no choice at all, if you are southern European with staunchly traditional heritage, so that’s another dilemma if you feel the need to rebel.

If you are considering something non-traditional, check out the meaning as a start. For example, Samos might be a nice sound and not too different from Samuel, Samson or Sam. A little fact finding will reveal it’s Biblical for “full of gravel”. Hmmm, not so appealing.

Fikrit may not be an unusual name in Turkey but in an Anglo world it could lead to a lifetime of torment. When I met a Fikrit all I could picture was his parents looking at their adorable, sweet newborn and thinking “… yes of course he looks like a Fikrit”.

How about Hippo, Popeye and Turbo, chosen by parents with what I’d suggest is plain silliness. Also beware of spelling. Tiffany will not be happy spelling out Tiffphanney when signing up for Girl Scouts.

And sometimes the best of intentions can go array. Unfortunately for my friend Blazenko, his parents thought they were doing the right thing, but Croatians spell phonetically. At role call on his first day his teacher called out “BRAIN”, aka Bri-an, and 12 years of school yard taunting and psychological damage ensued.

All I’m saying is consider all the consequences. And be kind.


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FAITH, TRUST AND PIXIE DUST

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on Tuesday, 11 March 2014
We are fortunate to live in a time with experts and doctors, psychologists and sages offering incessant information about life and how it should be lived, including our children and the mystifying task of raising them.

It’s wonderful to have so many choices and access to the latest studies but who should you trust with your child’s wellbeing. Apart from keeping them alive, healthy, meeting all the growing milestones, there is education and social skills, sports, emotional and psychological development, and the list goes on and on until at times you are overcome with exhaustion and fear in simple contemplation.

Well it’s not me and it’s not the latest guru peddling a new book or a morning TV show mouthpiece with a quick fix solution.

It’s YOU. You are the expert.

A parent (and often the nanny) knows their child better than any outsider. You know their rhythms, likes and dislikes and all their subtle idiosyncrasies. You know the difference between a genuine cry and the I-want-a-sweetie-right-now-wail. Is the homework not getting done because of laziness or there’s an underlying issue to address.

Trust your instincts. Listen to your child’s life without fear or panic. If you have been paying attention, you’ll know. If you need help, seek the guidance, advice, opinions until you feel satisfied.

Creating a solid foundation to know your child means going for a walk, playing cards, eating a meal together, exchanging stories, without the distraction of your phone… being in the moment. Some call it mindful parenting. I am more of the school of thought that it’s Parenting 101.

The world can be a daunting concept when you are responsible for a young being. I suggest occasionally taking guidance from Peter Pan…a little pixie dust and imagination can be a wonderful thing.


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IT’S NOT JUST TABLE TENNIS

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on Monday, 24 February 2014
If you are having a little trouble uncovering the inner-workings of one of your charges, I suggest playing a game. It can provide you with clues about a particular behaviour and other personality concerns.

My choice was a world championship table tennis marathon. Ideal for young Andrew, who is active, competitive, and has excellent dexterity. Actually, it was his decision over a game of chess or basketball.

For a boy of nine, I discovered he is quite cautious. No wild bashing or swings, preferring accuracy to taking a chance.

He has a sharp mind for keeping score but I already knew that. Just wanted to test him. I can trust him absolutely as he has no interest in winning dishonestly and there are no hysterics when he does lose.

Just quietly, I was the one who made a song and dance over a winning game whilst Andrew calmly accepted defeat with no need to gloat when he thrashed me 4-1.

Possibly a future champion but he would have to decide between karate and chess and swimming and football and all the others he excels in. My joy is that I can see a lovely soul and a wonderful man in years to come.

A personality shines through not just when there is homework to be done, chores to attend to or requests to be carried out. Sometimes it is easier and calmer to work out and work through an issue without the former pressure.

Games and play provide a fun and relaxed environment to discuss a niggling concern. Even constructing an intricate Lego masterpiece or simply rearranging furniture in a dollhouse is a great opportunity to get a child to open up. No need for an interrogation. A question or comment to start in between the play is enough. Patience is the key, so keep it short and expect more than one session.

Nanny lesson over. I need to attend to serious table tennis training before our next marathon. Not that I have any issues being outclassed by a nine-year-old.

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WHY IS IT CALLED AN AARDVARK?

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on Monday, 17 February 2014
Sam: “If I drink my milk what will the baby cow have to eat?”

Nanny V: “Good question young man”.

If only I had an answer to everything… “Why is the colour of the sky called blue?”, ”why is my hair blonde and yours is black?”, “why do I have to brush my teeth/put away my toys/step over the puddle/always listen to you?”, “why why why?”

Being a child can sometimes be confusing. There are so many things to learn. Almost everything is new and at times puzzling, or daunting, and maybe a little scary.

And yet I have always delighted in this wonder. The questions may be challenging when the subject is delicate (like the inevitable, “how did I get in/out of my mummy’s tummy?”), and even mindboggling when I had no idea how to explain “why is my tummy at the front of my body and not at the back?”

Being a nanny does not mean you have all the answers but hopefully you know how to find them. It is also important to ensure there is a right time to explain and describe the details for a young mind to comprehend.

For example, if you are walking or driving and don’t have access to an encyclopaedia or google to describe the theory of relativity, it can still be fun learning. Ask the question back, “why do you think?”, “what if …”, “how would we …”. Create a game and see who comes up with the silliest idea.

After dinner and bath and play when you have a reasonable explanation, take the time to talk and be prepared for even more questions. Accept you won’t and can’t know everything so “I don’t know” sometimes has to be all you can offer. Otherwise, “let’s ask mum/dad/grandpa”.

I still have no answer for the aardvark question, however, in German it is an Erdferkel which sounds far more fun. Any suggestions?


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NANNY OF A CERTAIN AGE

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on Monday, 10 February 2014
If I had to create the quintessential nanny I’d want someone with a degree in child psychology and teaching, someone with the energy of a professional football player, someone who cooks like Jamie Oliver and sings like Julie Andrews, curious, happy, loving and all things Mary Poppins.

Hollywood characters and reality are at spectrums which do not exist. However, it does not mean that a professional child carer cannot be a little of everything and also everything your child needs.

Maturity and experience are the two key elements when the nanny you seek may not have a medical degree or an interest in rocket science. I have neither and yet I kept calm and collected when young Luke suffered a febrile convulsion (actually comforting his mum was almost more stressful). And I have no desire to fly to the stars but I do know how to stimulate a young mind and hope one day to shake the hand of an astronaut I once read “The Magic School Bus: Lost In The Solar System” every day for weeks and weeks.

I am in no way disregarding the efforts of an educated mind and the value of a degree and other credentials. It is a great starting point and also demonstrates a determined individual.

And yet, parents recognise the maturity of a nanny who has raised a family of their own and appreciate the value of wisdom. A Recruitment Consultant at The Lady Magazine, confirms that “qualifications are not as important to families as are life experience and an ideal fit of personalities and philosophies”.

“Examining family dynamics and logistics is part of my job when I help to find the right nanny, because a new family member has to be more than just an employee. Age is not really the issue”, she added.

So just like Alice from The Brady Bunch, Carol and Mike Brady valued her love and attention to their children. When mum and dad weren’t around or didn’t understand, Greg, Marsha, Peter, Jan, Bobby and Cindy turned to Alice to talk to or help them with their problems. Like the time Alice helped Jan with being the middle sister just like her. She was also quite adept at backyard basketball games despite the confines of that blue uniform she wore.

Hmm, maybe Hollywood did get it right this time.

And just for the record, if there was a degree for Lego construction I could blitz it with my eyes closed.


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