Saturday, October 6, 2012

3 and 1.

...Are the ages of the little munchkins I'm nannying.

I'm approaching ninety days in that role, and it gets a little easier, and a little harder each day. I used to think I understood what being a parent was like. Then, I also used to think parmesan cheese was called "Farmer John" cheese. In both cases, I have been corrected. Trust me on that.

I've taught preschool, and nannied for a 7-year-old and 3-year-old, and worked with special needs children of various ages. Of course, in those experiences, the maximum time I've spent working with any given child is 8 hours. I spend 11 hours a day with these girls, and it is a whole new experience.

Something about the ages of 3 and 1 is just...challenging. There's the little one, who is literally dependent on you for everything, yet mobile and active enough to cause you to break a sweat just keeping her from toppling down the stairs, or eating a spider. Then there's the elder child. She's adorable, very intelligent, and makes you laugh almost constantly with her, um, "unique" take on the world. She can ask for demand what she wants, and throw unbelievable tantrums, looking at you like you planned to starve her when you serve her lunch on the blue plate,as opposed to the pink plate. To her, "But I don't want to" is a perfectly valid reason to avoid picking up toys, go without underwear, or outright refuse to leave the house on her own two feet. When one child is older, it' s easy to believe that she will be more independent. Maybe even helpful. In some ways she might be, but I'm learning quickly that she is no more or less than what she is: THREE. YEARS. OLD.

She can't grasp yet that when her sister is thisclose to falling asleep, it might not be the best time to fling open her bedroom door, bellowing out, "It's not WORKING!" Because in her mind, the malfunctioning iPod is all that matters. She doesn't know that it's not sanitary to bring every toy you own into the bathroom. Or that if you accidentally get poop on your hands, your shirt is not necessarily the preferred method of cleanup.

(when told to wash her hands after that particular incident, she replied: "But they're clean. I wiped them.")

I've definitely had a few minutes of panic, settling into this job. The girls are two years apart, which is exactly the age difference I hope to achieve between my own children. That makes approximately 5 years in a row of diapers, tantrums, toddling, potty drama, etc. Simply put, it's going to be hard.

But here's what I'm learning about kids, especially the little ones.

1. They're not doing it TO YOU, they're just DOING IT. When the 1-year-old systematically drops everything on her high chair tray onto the floor, it's not because she hates you. I think.

2. They will only be this age, this little, this cute, this innocent, for a little while. Let them be.

3. It's worth it. These children aren't even mine, and after a day of cleaning up their dishes, their poop, their puke, and their bedrooms, mostly-toothless smiles and sweet hugs remind me that what I'm doing is important. I get to LOVE them, and get PAID for it. That's a blessing, make no mistake.

So is hearing things like this: "I love you. But also, I love the's SO beautiful"

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