Tag Archives: Nanny

Discipline without Words


Yesterday was more of a challenge for me as I was tested by sweet Romy.  I’m not completely sure how much she can hear when wearing her hearing aids but I always talk anyway while using my limited signing abilities.  The morning was going great.  It only took me 4 guesses to pull down the game she wanted to play.  If you’re ever wondering what the sign for cherry is, here you go:

Cherry: Make a flat-O hand shape with one hand and extend the index finger of the other hand. Now gently twist your flat-O hand on the tip of the opposite index finger as if you were twisting the stem off the cherry.

She didn’t want to actually play High-Ho Cherry-O.  But the cherries were fun to play with, push around, pick up, put in and pull out of the buckets, etc….  After about 15 minutes of playing around with the little plastic cherries, she went over to the bin labled “Mr. Potato Head/Elmo.”   Check out this super organized play room!  Each bin is labeled and actually contains what it is supposed to!  the kids are under strict orders to only have one bin out at a time.

OK, so in order to maintain this level of organization, we needed to put the cherries away.  I began to pick up and signed for her to help me.

Help: Close your right hand and place it on the palm of your left hand in front of you. Then, lift both hands up together.

In true 4-year-old fashion, she crossed her arms, tucked in her chin and scowled at me, breaking the stare only to look at the bin she wanted and back at me.  Not knowing all of the signs, I nodded my head no and told her she needed to help me first and then we could play with the bin.  Nothing.  I sign what I can and repeat the sentence.  …  Nothing.  OK.  Has she heard me?

Am I communicating clearly enough to move on to consequences?  Its a little tricky.  But I gather from her attitude and knowing that she knows what it means when I pick up toys and sign for her to help.

So I tell her she can *help or *time out (signified by pointing to my arm where a watch should be and raising the pointing hand to an O shape.  I repeat a couple of times, looking at her…still nothing…and then count.  On my fingers of course.

1…2…3…ok.  *time out I sign.  She sits down.

Hmm…Surely she knows what is going on and understands exactly what she is doing.  I walk from the play room toward the time out spot and point.  Then I sign *time out again.  Nothing.

Time to pick her up and put her in time out.  I get her to the spot and walk away and then the fit begins.  Now, with a hearing child, at four years old I have a very clear picture of how to handle this situation.  Not so much when the majority of my signs at this point are food items!

We did eventually resolve it, she calmed down, we picked up the cherries, we played with Mr. Potato Head.  I spoke of it briefly with Romy’s Mom and she assured me I did great.

These moments are a struggle for me.  Not just because I am not proficient in ASL.  Even if I knew it all, how do I really know how much she understands?  She is a very sweet kid but definitely seems to be used to getting her way and not sharing and I wonder how much of her behavior has been allowed because of the communication challenge.

This is a much longer post that I intended it to be, but imagine it.  How would you discipline a child without talking?  With such limited communication?  I don’t want to just know enough sign to get by, and I don’t want Romy to know enough just to get by.  I want her and I to be able to thrive!  At four years old, most little girls I know are chatter boxes!  It saddens me that she is missing out on this both relationally and otherwise.  Just as she would have learned to speak hundreds of words by now, shouldn’t she be able to speak hundreds of signs?  Maybe she can?  This is such a new world for me and I am loving the challenge 🙂


A Day of Signs


Today was my first 5 hours alone with a 4 year old deaf girl named Romy 🙂  She’s really sweet and adorable and all in all we had a good day together!  Mostly for my sake (but just in case your curious 🙂 here are the signs I learned today- through lots of guessing to figure out what she was trying to communicate.  Hopefully I won’t forget these while I’m in Ohio!

A lot of signs make so much sense- but some of these…not so much.

Cracker: Cross one arm over your chest, make a fist with your opposite hand, and use the fist to tap the elbow of the crossed arm.

The sign for water: Make a W with your 3 middle fingers, touch your chin twice.

Frog: hold closed fist under chin, flick fingers out quickly as the legs of a frog when leaping

To sign potty, make your hand into a fist with thumb peeking out between the index finger and the middle finger. Hold the fist out and shake it around a little.

Cheese: Place your palms together, fingers touching opposite wrists, and then rub the heels of your palms together.

These were the basics of today 🙂  I also leaned ‘fast’ because who wants to be pushed on a swing any other way!  And her own personal sign for Caillou, her favorite cartoon.  Lots more to come, I’m sure!  I have to say, the most difficult part of my day was having her tap her elbow over and over again off and on for 15 minutes while I tried to guess that all this frustrated little girl wanted was a cracker!  A few other signs that she used frequently today were Mommy, please, thank you, more, candy and sticker.

Book Review: Searching for Mary Poppins


Searching for Mary Poppins: Women Write About the Intense Relationship Between Mothers and Nannies  Edited by Susan Davis and Gina Hyams

The forward and introduction to this book drew me in.  “Sometimes a whole week goes by in which I never see my nanny.”  A sentiment I can echo as there have been weeks go by where I only see one of the parental figures of a household where one just works seemingly endless hours- both moms and dads.  “..themes familiar to those of us who outsource some of our parenting:  gratitude, guilt, resentment, relief.”  Also a sentiment I can identify with as I have felt each of these emanate from nearly all mothers.

The book is comprised of 24 essays written by mothers about their experiences with women in the nanny profession.  In some ways the experiences vary quite a lot.  Nannies come from all ethnic, financial and familial backgrounds, although the majority in this book are lower class immigrants.  Some young but mostly middle aged and above; one male but mostly female.

In the forward, Pamela Kruger is quoted “In talking to other mothers, I quickly found out that many of us had been dumped unexpectedly by our nannies…”  I was almost offended.  And as I read on, I was quite upset to find this statement to be true!  Many nannies leaving their families, the precious children in their care, with no warning, explanation or forwarding information.  Difficult to read.

This is a very thoughtful book and has challenged me on many fronts.  I find myself wondering what my previous employers would say…cringing at the thought of some and encouraged by what I hope others would say.  I have not been a perfect nanny by any stretch of the word, but I hope and pray that I am learning and growing and becoming a better nanny every day.  I find myself questioning the mere existence of nannies in our culture.  Nearly every mother in this collection of essays, acknowledged that at the end of the day, they are who the child needs and longs for the most.  To become a nanny is to purposefully place yourself as second best- and try to be second best as best you can.  This bothers me.  But it seems to be a necessity of our culture.  Mothers work; Babies need caretakers.  So what characteristics make up the ‘best second best’?  From what I’ve experienced and found throughout the pages of this book, I propose the following.

  • Engage with the children in your care from moment one of the interview to beyond your final day at work.  Don’t ‘act like a professional’; show that you are passionate about kids.  Parents don’t like it when you come for an interview but don’t engage with their child almost as much as they are bothered by a nanny who leaves their child wondering why the nanny left and where she went.  (If this one is particularly challenging for you, then perhaps being a nanny isn’t the best career choice!)
  • Be honest and generous in relaying your professional and personal life.  While maintaining some boundaries, its important to try to keep a balance between how much you know about them and how much they know about you.  Withholding when they have little choice but to divulge only causes suspicion that you have something to hide.  Dishonesty on either side results in a painful situation when you are this deep into each others lives.
  • Punctuality and dependability are important for a reason!…Even if the mom or dad works from home and no matter if they are healing cancer or taking a nap.  Its not about the minutes but about character.  This is one of the few aspects of your career that is observable by your employer.  A nanny is rarely observed on the job and even more rarely has anything to show for her hours of work.  Being where you say when you say speaks volumes about your quality of care.
  • Contracts are a must in order to keep expectations and needs clear on both sides.  A good contract contains a detailed job description, clearly laid out compensation package and mutually respected position ending procedures.  To begin a job without any of these discussed and agreed upon is a breeding ground for disappointment and difficulty.  Once the contract is signed, stick to it.

Searching for Mary Poppins is worth the read if you are at all interested in understanding the nanny phenomena that is growing in our culture.  I fear that it is a bit more negative than positive in its portrayal of nannies and that it doesn’t incorporate nannies like myself or several of the friends I have made who also strive to be excellent nannies.  At the end of the day, the collection of painful stories in this book made me wish that there was not a need for nannies.  That families were close knit enough to care for their own children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews.  That more women were willing and able to make the sacrifice in their careers for the sake of their child’s first few life-molding years.  But as long as great nannies are needed and sought, I will do everything I can to be one and facilitate others toward that worthy end.  To be the best second best possible.