Monday, February 27, 2006

Other children's mothers.... Pushing my buttons!

When is it ok to reprimand other people's children?
Not your charges, not your kids, but other people's children?
Is it ever ok?

I found myself doing it today!

I picked up my charge from pre-school this afternoon.....She was a bundle of joy as usual. Monday afternoons are always exciting for the two of us, because we haven't seen each other all weekend. I look through the crowd of mothers and nannies all waiting to gather up their children and charges and I see her little head seeking me out in the crowd. The moment our eyes meet we always end up emitting squeals and chuckles.
It is amazing, the heart's capacity to love. The actuality that you are capable of loving children who are not your own.... To love another little human being is one of the greatest loves I have ever known.

So, we gathered up her belongings and headed to the stairs that lead down to the exit.
While carefully navigating down the stairs I see my charge bounce forward.
This was unusual, because she is always so careful on the stairs, she holds the rail, takes one step at a time and makes sure to watch where she is going. I hold her hand for extra security or I walk one step ahead of her, so that I will be there to catch her in the event of a fall. The crowd of grown-ups and children was growing and people were getting very close to us and again I saw her almost fall down a step.

I step in front of her for the added safety and I look back and see this little
3-year-old-boy hopping down the stairs behind her and pushing her forward. His mother was out of my eye range, probably chatting away with her friends, while her
3-year-old tried desperatly to find his way down two flights of stairs.

I can always tell the mothers from the nannies, some of the mothers are always huddled together or walking in groups of 3 while their kids roam around trying to make their way. The good nannies, not all, but most, are holding onto the children, asking them about their day, talking to them about lunch options and the possibility of their mom being home when they get there. Okay okay, I know that mothers are attentive too, but not the one I am about to expose!

This 3-year-old boy was wandering down the stairs alone. Maybe 3 people in front of his mother.
I look up and see who seems to be, and later proves to be, his mother talking to another person. I tried to make eye-contact with her and to get her attention by raising my voice and saying "excuse me!" But she doesn't hear me and keeps talking.

I hold firmly to my charge's little hand and when she is pushed forward and loses her balance on a stair, I catch her and while steadying her I felt forced to look him in the eyes, trying to be firm but at the same moment kind and I say, "Don't push her! It is not ok to push her on the stairs!"

The mother finally stops dawdling and chatting and all of a sudden takes notice. She swoops her son up, asking him in a sweet voice, while caressing his hair and looking at me sideways..."Did you push her?"

"I didn't see..." she mumbles as if the fact that she didn't see makes it ok.

Was that for him to hear, for me to hear or was that her conscience talking?

Who are you talking to? Me or him.

Of course you didn't see him, you were chatting to your friends. At this point I am looking at her.
She looks at me, did he push her she asks?

"No" says the sarcastic voice in my head. "I just reprimanded him because I felt like it." But instead I say "Yes, he pushed her twice and you were not dealing with it, so I had to."

"I am sorry, I didn't see" she mumbles.

"That's ok," I find myself saying, "I had to deal with it, I don't want her falling down the stairs because your child didn't know he wasn't supposed to push other children in front of him."
At this point the other nannies are giving me the eye. One nanny winks at me and mouths, "You tell her!"

She scoops him up and asks him, "Did you push her?" The child says nothing. "Mommy didn't see, did you push her?" she repeats.

Mothers and and caregivers who take no notice of their children and then when something negative happens, they pretend nothing has happened, really get to me!

The children have been at school all morning. The parents usually show up in gym wear or an outfit so fancy the fur practically growls at you when you walk by. A fur that almost shouts out, "No dirty hands!" They spend their mornings doing their own thing and then when it is time to see their kids, they use that time to chat to all the other mothers. Heaven forbid a nanny takes her eyes of her charge for a minute - It sure gets all the mothers talking!!

All adults taking care of children need to pay attention. Especially on the stairs where they can get hurt and if not told, they could cause an accident for someone else.

My charge and I move on...One step at a time until we exit.

My charge looks up at me and tells me she was just walking, looking where she was going, he was pushing her. She almost fell, she states with worry in her eyes.
I know I say, but its ok, I am here, I am your grown up and I wont let anything happen to you.
"I almost fell Louise," she repeats, "and you told him not to push me."

She smiled at me and I could see she felt safe and taken care of.
At that moment all the doubt I was feeling about reprimanding someone else's child while taking care of her vanished.

It is after all my job to make sure she is safe.
It is my job to let her know that I have her back! I have her. She is safe and nobody can push her for any reason.

We make it to the outside and walk past a crying girl.
I see the same mother reprimanding her son. Yelling at him, scolding him.
It appears that once he got outside, he pushed another girl.
She fell and hurt herself and was in tears.

His mother waited till that moment. A moment when he hurt someone to take action. And it was action that left him crying too.
I find this unnecessary. Why did she not explain to him about pushing when he did it the first time? Instead of asking in a soft voice about his actions and not dealing with them earlier on the stairs?

I used to have a hard time with this. I didn't want to interfere with other children and their behavior issues. Often it is not the child's fault, but the grown-ups. How are children supposed to know how to behave if we do not teach them? It is up to us, their adult, to make sure they understand the consequences of their actions.
Before it becomes an accident or a disaster, we should be there to help them navigate their world.

And we could all save ourselves a lot of trouble if we deal with things as they happen in a clear manner instead of waiting for a larger-scale incident to take action.

I felt bad for that little boy.

He is confused. I am sure he was wondering why all of a sudden he was getting into trouble?
Does it take causing someone pain and tears to get his mother to take note?

The situation went from being about safety on the stairs and the common decency of not pushing someone else, to being about making someone cry.

My charge spoke of the way I handled the little boy for most of the day and I kept reassuring her that I would do it again. That I would always keep her safe.
I also took the time to explain to her why we don't push people and that if she had been the one pushing, that I would have had to have a stern talking to her as well as have insisted on her apologizing to her victim.

I wonder too if I should have just picked her up and carried her down the stairs instead of firmly talking to that little boy, but at the same time I am glad that she knows I will stand up for her.

Now, time to stand up for myself and make sure I get a good night sleep.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

My friend Jen got me thinking...

...and moving.

I just got off the phone with my friend Jen.
Jen is a lovely American girl, who nannies part-time and is in the final process of becoming a certified social worker. Jen is not only nice, she is also hilariously funny. She is such a riot!

Let me give you an example.
I answer my phone with the usual "hello?" and without even saying hi or identifying herself, she starts the conversation like this............
"Girlfriend, its called sugar free, fat free hot fudge! I mixed it with some diet ice pops and I have been pooping all night. I am lying here in bed and my stomach is talking back to me."

That's the thing you love instantly about Jen, not only does she get right to the point, but she does it in such a way that you are laughing uncontrollably before her third sentence.
Jen has been on a successful diet for ages now and she is looking HOT.
We spent half an hour laughing and gasping at the chaos that is Manhattan. My conversation with Jen, got me thinking ...about exercise, dieting and the gym dilemma in Manhattan.

I have found Manhattan to be a place where you can't walk two blocks without seeing someone in gym sweats either heading to one of the many gyms or heading home after a strenuous workout.

Take Valentines Day for example.

I was due to meet my husband at 7 p.m. for a romantic dinner where we were going to exchange gifts, except, I hadn't got him one yet.
I know, I know, I feel terrible about it.

You know how Valentines Day goes. It comes so soon after the holidays that after the exhausting season that is December and January, you are all out of gift ideas. Well I was anyway.

So I left work at 6 p.m. and raced down the block to Broadway. I ran into Circuit City and found a few DVD's and stuff my husband would love and headed out to the curb to hail a cab. After 15 minutes of standing out in the cold, my hand outstretched and a look of plea on my face, I gave up trying to wave down a taxi and just stood there. I found myself looking into oblivion, trying not to stress out about the fact that because of my lack of Valentines Day preparation, my poor husband was going to be waiting for me in a crowded restaurant. His arms probably loaded with gifts and flowers, all alone on Valentines Day and I was still stuck on Broadway trying to get a ride to the restaurant.

Anyway, so I am in complete denial about the time, trying to block out the fact that I just pushed over some poor man to get to the other side of the street when I look up and see about 20 people running on treadmills.
It's a sight I see all the time, I walk past this exact gym everyday and there is always a line of sexy-looking people working up a sweat.... All facing the street, panting like they can't see you and so involved in burning calories that they dont seem to care that you can see them.
This is one of the many gyms found on the corners of busy Manhattan streets, with glass walls so chubby passersby can see in.
Voyeurism at its best. Or worst!

I think it's a blatant advertising gimmick that says ..."look, these people are working out, you could look like this if you joined this gym NOW!"
This was visual propaganda if ever I have seen it.

So I tucked my coat over my large breasts and sucked in my ever-expanding tummy and all of a sudden began to laugh hysterically.
I could not get the image of the hamsters I had as a child out of my mind.
These people were literally hamster-like.
They might as well have been running inside a hamster-wheel.

Forget about the health part.......
Why were they there? Why do they look so angry and why is my first reaction to take the necessary steps, spend a few thouand dollars I don't have and head on my way to doing my damndest to become one of them?

I sometimes feel like Manhattan's pressure is not just about being thin and healthy. We all want to be healthy in some way, whether we admit it or not. I for one could definitly stand to lose a few pounds, but the people I know and see here in NYC, all seem to want to look like they are on their way to a gym (even if they are not), just come from a gym or are all card carrying members with such busy lives that they never have time to go to their fabulous gyms.
People seem to carry their $3000 membership cards like we did hall passes in junior high.
I must admit that I have been sucked into this, time and time again.

There is a definite status attached to which gym you can afford to go to, what expensive apparel you can afford to wear to these exclusive gyms and how much you paid for the outfit you are going to sweat into at the gym.

Don't forget, you have to actually look good enough to go to the gym, because you might have to be running on a treadmill, front and center, in a window-walled gym on Broadway.
The pressure is so much, that after you pay for your membership you might actually never go for fear of having to be in the front-lines of a popular gym in a city that never sleeps.
There are actually gyms in Manhattan that are open 24 hours a day. Can you imagine that? Who exercises at 3 a.m.?

Why are we not spending the extra 40 minutes it might take to workout and spending it outside by walking to work? (yes, I am talking to me!)
Has the outside world become so bad, or are we just so lazy, that we don't make use of our surroundings anymore? Understandably, when it's cold our options are more limited, I like to think that the gym is an OK place then, but I have walked past these gyms in the summer and they are even more crowded.

Jen, the friend I mentioned earlier, doesn't do yoga or belong to a gym. She has started walking across Central Park to get to work....even when it's cold. It can sometimes take her an hour, but she walks to work and walks home. This cool chick has lost almost 18 pounds over the past few months and she is looking fabulous.

Now don't get me wrong, I have seen people walking in Central Park, jogging and such, but why are gyms now multi-million dollar franchises?
It seems to have become like some weird science experiment.
Well, I am going to start an experiment of my own.

I am going to let go of my new years resolution to join a gym.
I make the same 2 resolutions every year.
1. Join a gym (1 year membership)
2. go to the Gym(for one year)

I usually join a gym and never go, but I end up paying for it the entire year.
Not this year.
No way!
No more wanna-be hamster running for me. No more sweating it up with a hundred other people and praying I don't get athletes foot while showering in a communal bathroom and trying to avoid making eye-contact with the anorexic looking woman parading herself around the gym.

OK, so I have only gone to the gym like 4 times, but I am not going to go at all now.

On most occasions, I would feel excited and motivated by looking in the gym windows at all the beautiful skinny manhattanites running and sweating in unison. But I didn't this time.
I felt sorry for them. There they were, running on a treadmill at 7 p.m. on Valentines Day.

What has happened to us as a people?
Man invented the treadmill!
When did the gym become the most popular place people go to work out?
Is it just me, or are we all so used to having things done for us, so much so, that we can't go out into the world and take advantage of our natural surroundings?

To cut a long story short, I made a few new New Years resolution on Valentines Day.
1. To be prepared for V-Day next year ( maybe I should buy a gift now, wrap it and store it for this time next year. Not a bad idea)
2.To take public transport instead of cabbing my lazy ass all over Manhattan. This means I will walk to and from the subway, and walk the extra few blocks to get to my destination, because public transport routes aren't always the most convenient.
4. To excercise in my natural surroundings.
5. To take the stairs to and from my appartment....oh this will be hard, the 12 flights it takes to get to my apartment on the 6th floor are exhausting...but I will do it!

In light of all that, I went sledding a few days ago in Central Park (when the 30 inches of snow was still actually on the ground!).
Boy oh boy, what a workout. It is amazing what a good workout you can get traipsing up and down a hill covered in snow, carrying a sled and a 3 year old and simultaneously dragging yourself upward and onward. We spent 2 fabulous hours freezing and sweating and panting and laughing outdoors, in the snow.

We had a blast. It was the best workout ever. It was all outdoors and we didn't have to pay a cent to take advantage of it!

Today I walked down 12 flights of stairs (maybe in a few days I'll start walking up them too!)and walked a few blocks to work from the subway, but tomorrow, who knows, I might do something crazy, walk a few more!