So I’m a nanny for two adorable two-year-olds. They’re from two different families, who are friends, and the kids couldn’t be more different. The boy, who I’ll call Alex, is shy and sensitive, does like running around and making noise, but also staring off into space and drooling. The girl, Margaret, is a pistol– chatty, independent, affectionate, and obsessed with babies and leggings.
Today we rugged up in our snow gear and headed to the park across the street for some snow time. It’s been snowing since late last night, and the flakes are wet and fluffy. We trekked through the mucky March cold for almost an hour, and when I finally had had enough, we turned around to come home.
But Margaret didn’t want to.
Her little face was bright red, with blonde wisps of hair freezing to her snow-covered cheeks, but she insisted on staying out.
Margaret, as I mentioned, is extremely independent. She’s pretty good at doing things herself, too. She can put undies, pants, socks, and sometimes even shoes on. So when I said it was time to go–no other choice, we’re leaving now whether you like it or not–she insisted on not holding my hand. She wanted to walk by herself. Okay, I said. Go ahead.
She began running in the other direction, shouting, “NO NO NO NO NO!” Which, being freezing myself, I was going to have none of.
So I scooped her up, flailing and crying, and said that when she was ready to walk in the proper direction she could walk by herself. She calmed down enough to say she was, and then took off the wrong way again. So I scooped her up again. She gave an unholy scream and commenced struggling. I was holding her sideways by the tummy, tucked under my arm, to avoid being kicked and smacked in the head, while I held Adam’s hand and helped him through the snow with the other.
We walked like that all the way home, and when I set her down to open the door, she began running as fast as her snow gear would let her back to the park.
If only I had as much tenacity with the things I want as Margaret does.
I caught up with her and carried her under her armpits back to the house, where I balanced her on my knee to get the door open and then promptly locked us all inside. Despite the cold, we were both sweating, and poor Alex was just watching the scene with a long string of spit hanging from his lip. Margaret screamed and clawed at the door to open it, but being two, she had no recourse. I have to admit there was something satisfying about knowing I’d won.
After I hauled her up the stairs to the apartment, I set her down on the couch, and it was like the spell had broken. She was still hysterical and growling, but was no longer physically violent. I sat down next to her, exhausted, and she threw her arms around my neck and sobbed.
Normally, I’m pretty no-nonsense with temper tantrums. Throwing a fit does not get my attention. It gets you a seat in the “calm down chair” until you’re ready to express yourself appropriately. But today I wasn’t prepared to handle round two of the shit storm that would come from a time out. Instead, I held her close until she was breathing normally, and then I said this:
“I love you, Margaret. It’s okay to be frustrated or sad. It’s not okay to throw a fit. You’re still a little girl. When Meesa tells you to do something, it’s only because she wants to keep you safe. Do you understand?”
“Meesa,” Margaret started, and then stopped herself and looked me very seriously in the face. “Meesa, one time a birdie stole my chip.”
Then we had lunch and all three of us had a nap.
This has been day 210. Just another day in the life of a nanny.