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.


Anonymous said...

I dont know how i would have reacted. i think i would have been too scared to tell that boy he was wrong just because his mother might yell at me.
i get nervous with other peoples parents LOL
were you scared at all when thinking that she could start screaming at you?

gnarly nanny said...

i'm very glad you said something to that boy- like you said, it isn't the kids fault, it's the fault of their parents/guardians who fail to teach them how to act in society because, to be honest, a lot of adults have the same problem.

Sarah said...

why do some parents set a double standard like that? I think you are right. They expect a nanny to be "on" at all times, and most times we try our best to be, but then they go around - after not seeing their kids all day- and they break all the rules they have told you to uphold!

Delicia said...

Awww yes I remember something like that happening to me way back when. I never quite got over it...I have since worked out what it was that affected me so.It was the embarressment of being made to cry in front of all the other kids...I hope that little boy learns to shrug the fact he was made to cry, when as you said a simple loving talking to from his mom would have helped him to understand why it was dangerous...parents scare their own children because they are too busy showing will be a wonderful parent someday Louise.