When I worked in an office, we used to have post-mortems – meetings and reports that described a past campaign gone by and helped us learn from the routes we chose and the mistakes we made. I’m a huge fan of post-mortems, which literally means “after death”, because I think it’s important to know where I’ve come from and where I’ve yet to go.
So, this is my post-mortem on nannying Glo-Worm. My last day with her is tomorrow, and I want to reserve that day to write her a letter that I hope her parents read her someday. Today, I want to talk about what she, and I, learned from our four months together.
1. Tantrums can start at any time during toddlerhood: I used to think that tantrums started after 18 months – after all, that was my experience with them. But Glo-Worm proved me wrong! At the age of 14 months, she was whooping, hollering, screaming and crying in a way that can only be described as a tantrum. And I’m afraid since we all didn’t believe it at first, we didn’t deal with it in the way we should have. We cajoled and cuddled and coaxed, which I think initially prolonged the behaviour. However, I soon came to realize that when Glo-Worm tantrumed, there was another problem in place – she was either extremely tired, or hungry. Since she fought both food and sleep for a long time, the only thing to do was to let natural consequences take its course. Soon, she was trying to grab food I had out of my hand, and then I realized she would sit and eat. When she nearly fell asleep on the floor one day, I knew she’d go for a nap without a peep. It was a long, long learning process, but I’m happy to say that Glo-Worm tantrums once a day, if that, now. She has learned that we don’t respond to screaming and crying and hitting.
2. You can lead a child to food, but you can’t make them eat: This is something that I have always inherently known, but when I started with Glo-Worm, she was very food-driven and would sit and eat anytime, her entire bowl of food. She did have a slight problem with throwing food over the side of her chair, but we figured she’d grow out of that. That lasted for a month. Then every mealtime became a fight. A frustrating, horrible fight. Finally I stopped worrying about whether or not she would JUST. EAT. SOMETHING. PLEASE. because it wasn’t helping. She wanted me to coax and show concern over her. And it was a fun game to throw food off the highchair tray and watch my face turn red (it really is my hugest pet peeve with looking after this age!). So, I decided, she could decide not to eat if that’s what she wanted, but she had to sit there until I was finished eating. Oh, the tantrums when I took her tray away and made her sit with me at the table! She would cry and kick and scream, and because her high chair is on wheels, often she would propel herself right across the dining room (and I admit, that was a fun game for me!). When I returned her tray to her high chair, sometimes she would continue her throwing game, complete with devilish little smile, and sometimes she would quietly settle down and eat. She now knows that when I take the tray away, she is going to sit and watch me eat. And that’s no fun. So she only throws food when she really doesn’t want to eat – and that’s fine. I’ll just let her get down. I refuse to fight about food with a toddler. I won’t win, and it just makes it frustrating for all involved. And since I stopped fighting, Glo-Worm eats a lot more regularly!
3. You can’t fight the nap, but you can try to solution it: When I first came on board with Glo-Worm, she napped twice a day for 2ish hours each time. She was only 12 months old, so it wasn’t that surprising, but it did severely impact our days. We couldn’t go out in the morning – her nap was from 9:30-11:30, sometimes closer to 12. We couldn’t go out in the afternoon – her nap was from 2-4:30. So many playdates I arranged fell by the wayside. Then things changed in her 14th month – Glo-Worm stopped napping as long in the afternoons. The problem was, she needed the nap. Badly. We fought and fought and fought for about two weeks – me going up whenever she screamed (we let her cry for about 5-8 minutes to see if she’ll settle herself back down, but once it escalates into screaming, we go up), Glo-Worm insisting she wanted to get up, only to tantrum and scream herself silly until I put her back down in her crib, whereupon she’d sleep another hour. It was awful, and because my afternoon break is my lunchtime, I really started to resent always having to cut my lunch short to go up and tend to her, only to put her back down 10 minutes later because she really wasn’t ready to be awake. I vented to friends online about my sleep problems with Glo-Worm – and probably completely alienated some of them – but then suddenly, the solution was in sight. She was napping too long in the morning – and sleep begets sleep, so the experts say, but too much sleep can cause broken sleep, I found. So I started waking Glo-Worm up after an hour in the morning. Now we could do things! Now we could go out – which helped to stimulate her, which in turn helped to tire her out for her afternoon nap. It works about 60% of the time. Sometimes she still pulls the fight and scream technique. But most of the time, I get about an hour to two hours in the afternoon out of her (and the morning nap is almost gone, now that she’s 16 months old and heading into daycare!).
4. Early Years Centres are my Mecca: I never thought I’d love a place so much, or that I would fit in so seamlessly with people who are so very different than me. As a childless caregiver, I’m used to a lot of upturned noses and cold shoulders from the mothers I meet. It’s as if nannies are some kind of awful animal that they need to avoid. But the people at the EYC are just wonderful. I’ve met a lot of amazing friends, one in particular with a beautiful 2-year-old daughter who is Glo-Worm’s best friend there, and I love what it has done for shy, shaky little Glo-Worm. She used to shake and be scared in social situations. Now she charges in, gives everyone a smile, and starts playing. It’s a wonderful program. I really cannot say enough about it and I will be utilizing it for any young kids I look after in the future.
5. Everything is trial and error: Over the past four months, I’ve learned that I will go back on my word at least twice for everything. I used to be highly against TV for Glo-Worm’s age. Now I don’t mind letting her watch a show or two on a rainy day or when I need to do dishes. I’ve learned that it’s sometimes okay to wake a baby from her nap, or feed her a flatbread on the way to somewhere instead of fighting over lunch. I’ve learned that even though she might tantrum the entire day, I still get my cuddles in at bottle-time, and that she will grin, snuggle, and place her hand on my cheek so tenderly. It makes it worth it. It makes me a better nanny. I think I’ve learned that I have more patience than I think I do – which is something I learn every time I finish a nannying job. And I’ve also learned that I really love doing this.
So, thank you, Glo-Worm. I wish you luck teaching your new caregivers things they can carry with them. I’ll never forget you.
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