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MOTHER OF INVENTION

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on Wednesday, 23 April 2014
I like to think that when Plato coined the phrase that “Necessity is the Mother of Invention”, he was inspired by a remarkable woman rather than poetic expression.

Every mother is remarkable every day she cooks, cleans, teaches, works, washes and cares for her family. Multi-tasking is what we call it today, but mothers have been supreme jugglers since, well, FOREVER.

I recently read a good news story about an Israeli mum who invented a harness to help her son with cerebral palsy, learn to walk. Now that’s necessity. And as admirable as Debby Elnatan and her creation are, more than anything she symbolizes what mothers and nannies do on a daily basis.

Maybe they aren’t patent-worthy nor money making discoveries, but if they entertain a child, keep a child occupied, safe, amused, distracted, and interested, I regard the effort commendable. Give them a medal or a homemade crown…with lots of glitter and feathers.

An empty egg carton, brown paper bag (invented by a mother in 1868), with string, glue, scissors, paint and a balloon, on a rainy afternoon and voila, Miss Sara will have her own piggybank.

Games, recipes, all sorts of objects we take for granted were the brainchild of a woman who was not limited by “how”, and inspired by “what”.

Where would we be without chocolate chip cookies, bullet proof vests, windshield wipers, retractable dog leash, monopoly, disposable nappies and computers?

Grace Hopper may have not been the first person to invent a computer but she is responsible for creating a writing code for one of the first computers at Harvard University. And like every talented hausfrau she also dusted the five-ton machine to remove the moths it attracted, literally the “bugs” we now refer to when our systems crash.

I praise all the women with children in their lives who get through the day and make things happen. And I applaud them for their creativity and stamina and passion, but mostly for the unconditional love in everything they do for the future inventors and mums and nannies.



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EASTER BUNNY EARS

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on Monday, 14 April 2014
When most people eat chocolate Easter bunnies they eat the ears first.

I can’t recall where or when I read this. But I can tell you I like to observe how children devour an odd shaped item of food, and what parts are leftover because rarely do they seem to consume an entire bunny…my turn to “help out”.

Does starting with the ears imply a cautious individual? Is biting off the tail indicative of a leader? Or poking a hole in the belly suggest an artistic future? The psychology would be an interesting read. However, I say enjoy and savour.

Easter offers a Christian occasion to reflect on life and meaning. Whether it is of importance for this reason or simply time for family, sharing and making memories, enjoy and savour.

You can bake hot cross buns, decorate eggs, organise an egg hunt, play at being bunnies in the park, read together. Indulge in all that is playful and fun about holidays with your children… and they don’t need to know if mum has nibbled on a discarded bunny foot.


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SHOULD YOU?

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on Monday, 24 March 2014
How do you get fussy children to eat their daily portion of fruits and vegetables? Would you pay them?

It’s one of those quandaries where the grey area has merit and in this case has shown results in major studies.

Next question. Is blatant bribery acceptable when benevolent, a means to an end, and if it works for a greater good?

A scheme in the US paid children as a positive incentive to eat their fruits and vegetables provided at school lunch. (Tokens were rewarded that later could be exchanged for school stationary or toys) And it worked.

However, when the project finished most students returned to their former habits as the study only lasted a week.

The purpose for the experiment was an attempt to combat childhood obesity. Simply making good food available was not enough encouragement.

David Just of Cornell University says parents are often misguided about incentives. “We feel a sense of dirtiness about a bribe. But rewards can be really powerful if the activity creates a new skill or changes a preference.”

It’s not a quick, nor a magic fix. Children sometimes need many tastings of new flavours or even in a variety of ways. And still there are no guarantees. Everyone has likes and dislikes and no one could ever convince me that brussel sprouts is a palatable delight. But show me a plate of broccoli, beans, beetroot, and any fruit and I am in foodie heaven.

Certainly there will be the issue of attachment of performing a task simply for the reward thereby eliminating the intrinsic motivation. But does it mean if you have tried everything else, (including a favourite dessert as a reward) it isn’t worth a new strategy if you regard incentive as a part of your parenting tools?

Although the concept is straightforward, the philosophy requires perspective. Also consistency. It won’t work if YOU don’t eat healthy. You know how children learn by example? Well, this is an opportunity to lead so the troops will follow.

Worth a discussion don’t you think?



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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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PLAYTIME

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on Monday, 27 January 2014
Working as a governess over the past 20 years has allowed me to observe parents and how they choose to bring up their children.

Their approaches range from “I am too busy/tired” whereby the children somehow muddle through. Like the time my brain turned to mush watching endless hours of TV with three year-old Miss Luisa. But that’s what mum wanted.

Then there are the “helicopter mothers” micro-managing almost every second of their little darling’s lives. Six year-old Stefan was expected to spend all morning at school, picked up for violin, karate and swimming lessons while his peers lunched, back to school for the afternoon session, chauffeured again and ate dinner on the run to his evening classes. Each night he was either too hyper or a zombie at bed time and expected to repeat this schedule 5 days a week.

These scenarios are examples more about the what-NOT-to-do for sanity and your child’s development. Sadly my attempts to explain as much went unheeded.

Logistics, family dynamics, and whether you have the time and interest, all contribute to how your day pans out and who cares for your children. Having bucket loads of money to hire professional live-in help is not a guarantee for success.

And before I write myself out of a career, I’d like to add that playtime in this balance is fundamental too. It may sound like wasted time and too much freedom but take a moment to consider what children can learn when interacting with their peers in play.

The opportunity to interpret and understand how to not miss-read situations, helps a child begin to consider how to behave. To deal with bullies, to empathise, to have fun, to know when to be calm are all lessons learned in the playground.

If nothing else, the fresh air in young lungs cannot be overrated. Celebrate the bumps and scrapes. Use them to discuss how “next time” maybe a little thought and caution would be a good idea.

And join in. Well sometimes, if you are welcome. You might just discover your inner-child too.



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NOT QUITE SORRY

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on Monday, 20 January 2014
Last week I espoused the virtues of teaching a child to apologise.

Well, this letter appeared on my Facebook page and it is a poignant example of not-quite sincerity, but bucket loads of honesty. Apparently, all three are now in their 20s, good friends and had a hearty laugh about the letter. Kudos to mum who insisted and was consistent.

Not quite sorry


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OOPS, SORRY

Posted by Nanny Knows Best
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on Monday, 13 January 2014
UK folk say it a lot and often.

“Sorry” seems to be a word to absolve us of life’s errors from accidental blunders to the colossal intentional mistakes. Sometimes we mean it. Sometimes it’s simply politeness.

Whatever the reason behind the apology, it’s fundamental to how we relate to others and an important aspect of ethics.

However, according to child psychologist, Michael Carr-Gregg, “I think the word “sorry” has lost its meaning”.

What? When did this happen?

Every now and then I have to wonder about experts and their latest revelations. And there is nothing about this one to make me change my mind about old fashioned manners and doing the right thing.

Of course young children have no idea about the significance of words. So the “please” and “thank you” we teach them start off as simple parroting. It’s a beginning to understand compassion and being grateful.

Similarly, sorry is more than a word. The concept of remorse is a starting point for a conversation to learn. It takes time. Some of these times there will be opportunity for a longer discussion to explain emotions and empathy. When this is not possible, defer “the talk” but ensure you follow through. As with most lessons, it’s the consistency you instil that sets the stage for future behaviour.

It bamboozles me when I see parents and carers neglecting to parent. Actually, more than anything it saddens me. Yes, parenting is a tough gig. No, there aren’t excuses for shirking responsibility.

Children are not to blame for repeated unacceptable behaviour. Challenging the boundaries and rules is how they learn. So do them, and yourselves a favour, to take the time and interest to show them.

And now I will calm down, take a breath, stop my bossy Nanny V finger waving, and admit to making many mistakes. Like the time I thought it’d be a great idea to organise a mud fight. But that’s another story.

I subscribe to the basics … "Play fair. Don’t hit people. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody." It’s a good start for everyone.




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Happy 2014

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on Monday, 06 January 2014
Johnny: "Tomorrow when I grow up I’m going to fly a plane."

Nanny V: "Can I come too?"

Explaining time to a child is as mindboggling as, well, explaining time.

Seconds, day and night, weeks and years seem eternal when you are seven and race by terrifyingly fast by the time 40 hits. And then there’s the concept that life becomes a collection of decades rather than years. Aaaaarrrgh.

So revel and savour and share in the joy of timelessness that children show us. We have to be adults with responsibilities but remember the one gift you can give your children that cannot be wrapped in shiny paper and is never too indulgent, is your time.

Don’t just plan or intend. Do. And make 2014 your “Pooh” year.

"What day is it?"
"It’s today," squeaked Piglet.
"My favourite day," said Pooh.



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READING IS FUN

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on Monday, 09 December 2013
“Once upon a time…”

Four magic words a child will often respond to with glee. And what comes next begins a world of possibilities and adventures for learning and fun.

Let me start by saying that it is never too early to introduce reading and telling a story to a baby. Even if too young to understand the words the relationship you create, the routine you establish, is one of the most wonderful experiences for both adult and child.

And don’t be too disheartened by a toddler whose attention span challenges your patience. Focus on the pictures; ask them about colours, shapes, and anything you think will help concentration. Maybe assign a specific reading chair or comfortable corner. When they start to fidget, a gentle reminder that “now its quiet story time” may also help.

If nothing works and they are just not interested ensure you confirm that story time is over and we will read again in bed or tomorrow morning. By being firm and consistent, and if possible, enthusiastic, hopefully this special time will become easier and more enjoyable.

As their language skills improve, prompt memory to encourage them to complete the sentence or fill in the blank. You can also use the opportunity to discuss feelings.

However, the most exciting aspect is not stopping at “The End”. You can ask “what do you think happens next?”, “where is the rabbit/monster/car/girl now?” The aim is to use stories to tap into their imagination and you might just learn something new or even better, you are inspiring a young mind to develop and enjoy the first steps of creativity.

Move beyond the words to incorporate stories into art and activities. A Gruffalo hunt in your local park, high tea with princess fairies, finger painting an enchanted forest or even a paper mache sculpture of a hungry caterpillar, are a few great ways to play and learn.

But why limit yourself and your charges to someone else’s story. One of my favourite memories is helping 8 year old Zahra write and illustrate her book, we then had professionally bound and covered. A memento she will treasure like “Sammy the Silly Seal”, my own childhood contribution to literature. Well, my mum said she liked it.



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WHAT TO SAY ABOUT…

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on Tuesday, 26 November 2013
Working with children can test anyone’s ability to be articulate and correct in the moment. Saying the right thing when you are exhausted and exasperated can be a greater challenge than finding a clean wayward sock in the laundry basket on a school morning.

Although it was never beneficial to overwhelm a child with either excessive praise or criticism I am a little sceptical about the political correctness of language. Any extreme is damaging, especially to an impressionable soul without the life skills to process what to listen to and what to discard. So as always, try for balance.

I am not encouraging behaviour like a Hollywood “yes man” as the occasional and assertive “NO” is necessary for a dose of reality. Also never hearing a little praise is not ideal healthy reverse psychology to build strong character.

“Good job” or “good girl/boy” is fine, as long as you take the time to add more detail. For instance, “It’s great that you tried your best” emphasising the effort and a start to further dialogue.

I recently read that “seemingly positive phrases are actually quite destructive. Despite good intentions, these statements teach children to stop trusting their internal guidance system and to give up when things get hard”.

Hmmm, princess pumping maybe so, but clever girl acknowledgement, just like a commendation you might receive in the office, I believe is smile-worthy, possibly inspirational.

“Don’t cry” is another tricky one. A parent and carer quickly learn to distinguish the difference between genuine weeping and the attention-seeking howling when junior is not getting his way. Depending on the ferocity (eg tantrum or a little teary) it could be time to allow space for the unruly frenzy to take its course as generally, reasoning is not possible. For the real thing, soothing cuddles with reassuring words help emotional wellbeing.

Finally, we all struggle with broken promises. So best to avoid anything you cannot commit to. And as for Santa and the Tooth Fairy, I have no answers as my bucket list includes a visit to the North Pole where Prince Charming might be hiding too.




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VIPs and VVIPs

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on Monday, 11 November 2013
There are many reasons why caring for other people’s children is not an ordinary profession. I am not the mother, the teacher, nor the fairy godmother. What I am is a little of each and sometimes more one than the other.

I have worked for royals, outrageously wealthy folk, VIPs and even some that are SO important, they are considered Very VIPs. A few were a combination and one was all of the above. At least I think so because I don’t really know what the classifications are.

Is it the countless body guards, the fancy cars in the garages, private jet travel, entourages, the priceless knick knacks in the house/s, or is it just because the agency tells me they are?

There are certainly more rules working for such families. When to speak, who to speak to, what to speak about. I once made the almost fatal mistake of using the wrong toilet. Ooops.

And I never imagined scheduling a toddler’s routine would require strategic planning the social secretary at Downing Street would find challenging. Particularly, if mum keeps changing hers so junior in turn must keep up.

In some jobs I also cook and buy groceries, and others I just teach because I am only one of the many, MANY employees responsible for one family. It astounds me just how many personnel a mum, dad, and a couple of kids need to get through the day.

It might appear exciting to have one degree of separation between me and fame or fortune. But I am the behind-the-scenes guardian who helps mum and dad look good when they need to and the children appear the embodiment of perfect little angels. No snotty noses, no tantrums, no dishevelled princess dresses or pirate costumes for the paparazzi or heaven forbid, other “people-like-us”, to imagine the little darlings in my care could be a handful.

Sometimes security is a great issue. However, I have always felt more protective because the offspring of VIP parents have no choice about their status with all associated the hoopla and unreality. The challenge is to ensure an environment of love and fun, just like any other child, and not allow privilege to be a licence for unacceptable behaviour.

Each job, like each family is different. Good and bad depends on relationships and family dynamics, not the 15 seconds of fame or brand name wardrobe you might expect.

Discussing work details with nearest and dearest is at best cautionary, and posting life’s joys on social media is a definite NO.

And just for the record, no confidentiality agreements were breeched in this instalment.




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NOT SEEN, AND DEFINITELY NOT TO BE HEARD

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on Monday, 04 November 2013
I had a flashback recently whilst discussing the nocturnal habits of a four-year-old with her sleep deprived mother.

I am not old enough to have experienced the era of silent and invisible children. The “Upstairs Downstairs” custom of the prim nanny hidden away in the nursery with the children whose exposure to their parents was a scheduled visit according to mother and father’s diaries.

There is good reason this belief is now no longer deemed healthy, nor beneficial for a child’s wellbeing. However, it seems that certain elements linger in some homes even today.

Little Miss K had trouble settling to sleep, exhausting the entire household and often could only doze off when someone lay by her side. This regularly resulted in that someone also falling asleep, and then stumbling out, eyes squinting in the light.

Later came the wandering into the parental bed during the wee hours. Or the hysterics when taken back to her own room. More stress and less slumber for all. Grumpy children, irritable adults and weeks of fatigue.

In desperation mum called in The Expert. Thousands of pounds forked out for suggestions, one of which was to fix a lock on Miss K’s bedroom door.

Call me old fashioned, actually, NO, call me compassionate. I would have issues if a bolt was on my door too. Sign me up immediately for therapy.

So I cannot imagine the trauma for a child. And I cannot comprehend a rational explanation for subjecting a child, let alone any human, to being locked up. Incarceration is for criminals in prisons and not for impressionable souls with little understanding of the impact of their behaviour.

A child’s disruptive behaviour is generally the outcome of either something troubling in their lives or a stage of development. Change. So take the opportunity, AND TIME to work through the situation.

Listen. Be consistent, firm, patient. There are no quick fixes. A child deserves your attention and love. Show her with your words and actions that she is loved and secure. This is one of her first life lessons in change, so it is as much of a learning experience as it is a good night’s sleep for all.



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WHAT A NANNY NEEDS

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on Monday, 28 October 2013
“If a nanny is upset, hug her & tell her how wonderful she is.
If she starts to growl, retreat to a safe distance and throw chocolate at her”

Not so silly. Like your first aid kit, it might come in handy one day. I am not suggesting it is necessary to be your nanny’s bestie, or counsellor. Simply know that she (maybe it’s a he, your manny) sometimes may need breathing space, time out, and a sound-proofed room to roar.

We all get frustrated. Sad and lonely. Distressed. And if your nanny is a true professional she can communicate her feelings without high drama and tell you what she needs. I have spent too many Christmases and Easters, etc, far from my own nearest and dearest, ensuring other families enjoy their merriness and gatherings. It’s my job so I don’t fuss when holidays and celebrations generally require longer hours and a muck-in attitude as that is what I sign up for.

It doesn’t mean I don’t need to feel a little connected to the occasion and those I wish I was with. And gosh, it is such a bonus to be appreciated for my efforts. I do not expect lavishness; however acknowledgement or a simple gesture of gratitude does help.

My dad was diagnosed with a serious illness and although I knew he was in good hands and running to the airport to get on the next plane home would not change a thing, I felt quite fragile from the shock and concern. I told my employer not because I needed nor wanted sympathy, but so she would understand if I wasn’t my usual self.

Context provides an ideal beginning to work through situations that may need a tad more attention. Show a little kindness. Certainly a little understanding. It’s good for the soul, yours and hers.

And keep a well-stocked supply of chocolate. One of those “break glass in case of emergency” should do.


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GOO GOO GAGA

Posted by Nanny Knows Best
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on Monday, 14 October 2013
I’ve always wondered if the inspiration for the lyrics for the Police song, “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” came to Sting in the nursery.

The gurgling noise may sound like nonsense and gibberish but don’t be too quick to disregard the importance of the sounds babies and young children make.

Baby music is a great introduction for words and melodies. However, you should also make the effort to turn off the stereo whilst driving and listen to the youngster strapped in the back seat. Or when young Daniel is happily babbling during play time, you can always start a conversation of sorts.

Engaging a child through sound supports their communication. It also gives you a window into their world. Young humans are social beings and keen to connect with others around them. They enjoy hearing you talk to them and also love to be heard. No matter how young, the practise of a two-way dialogue gives a child the chance to respond to what you say and then stop so that it is your turn again.

This exercise helps build their understanding and eventually, language skills. It will show them that you are interested and that they are worth listening to.

Although babies also communicate through crying, body language, facial expressions, behaviour, actions and play, it is never too early to start a conversation.

Miss G was a slow talker and at three was still struggling to verbalise her thoughts. In a way her brain had to work with lateral concepts to convey her expressions. One day she tried to tell me she wanted something specific to eat. We opened the cupboards and fridge and I named all the items I thought she might be interested in.

Completely frustrated, she went to her toy box and returned with her camera, put it to her face and sounded out “ch”. CHEESE. Of course! She knew the word but could not complete the sound. (When she did eventually find her voice in the months to come, she prattled on and became an incessant talker. She is now studying Journalism at university.)

Children need time to process thoughts and responses to you. They have all sorts of opinions and insights. Take the time to listen and you will let them know that you respect their ideas. And you might just learn something new yourself.




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NANNY REPORT CARD

Posted by Nanny Knows Best
Nanny Knows Best
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on Monday, 07 October 2013
You can’t escape a performance appraisal, whether you're in Grade 4 or are the CEO of the Bank of England.

As much as I like to think I am Super-ior Nanny (with an emphasis on all-knowing, dare I say, omniscient…well, in my blog at least), I thought it would be a productive exercise for 8 year old Miss Polly to evaluate me. Here’s my report card.

Fun B++++++
It’s nearly an A but not when the fun has to stop and I have to go to bed or do my homework or tidy up. I like it when we turn the music up loud and sing and dance. When Nanny V reads me stories with her crazy funny voices. She makes me giggle because she thinks she is SO good at it.

Drawing Z
Nanny V can’t even draw a house. But I like her flowers. She is helping me write my book. It’s called “Susie the silly seal”. My other project is a piggy bank money box. I started with a balloon and then lots of glue and newspaper. I can paint it when it’s finished and dry and maybe I will let her help me with the colours but not the drawing on it.

Cooking A, B, C, D
She gets 4 marks because I don’t want to be mean. I like it when she shows me the menu for every week and when I get to choose on my “whatever I want” day. She makes really good meatballs and chicken. Her cakes are horrible. She eats healthy salads which sometimes I like too but my favourite is pasta. Once she let me eat pasta with honey and I want to try pasta with ice-cream too.

Miss Polly is truly delightful, creative, and her generous soul endears her to all creatures great and small. I am not sure whether her words are a true insight to how she feels. I like to think it’s more the smile that beams when she sees me. Her giggly little girl laugh. And the delicious hugs.

Infinitely better than the handshake a CEO gets.



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THE GOOD-ENOUGH NANNY

Posted by Nanny Knows Best
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on Monday, 30 September 2013
It’s one of those days.

All the reasons you started out in child care are not working for you. The passion is a distant memory. The knowledge and skills have abandoned you. And your brain, it’s as grubby as a toddler’s smile post self-feeding of chocolate cake.

It’s not the end of the world. And hopefully, all is not lost. I recently heard a comedian describe herself as a “good-enough” parent. No mother of the year awards adorned the family room mantle, and yet home life functioned perfectly fine. Even if her mother-in-law wore a certain expression of braced disdain at every visit.

When her son asked mum to peel an orange, she told him to grab a biscuit because she was too tired, consumed by domestic chores, or something like that.

Some readers may squeal “child neglect”. Others consider it regular behaviour. But so much more is expected of the nanny.

After all, you are employed to perform a job. And like every other role in society, duty of care and excellence are expected.

In my experience, if your approach and perspective aims for the ideal, then more often than not, you’ll reach the goal you set.

It’s not life threateningly detrimental to give a child a sweet (allergies withstanding), as we all need treats and special moments in life to find balance. It’s what you do most of the time that matters. Though the message you convey is what is important.

And it’s not just about the food either. It might be a favourite play time or toy. Anything to occupy a young mind while you find your groove.

So once you’ve cleaned up the chocolate mess, get some fresh air, hydrate, get your own chocolate fix, employ whatever you need to get back on track and on to your best game. Just know it will happen again, although next time you will recognise the signs earlier and kick into high gear without too much disruption. Well, that’s the theory.




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