There comes a certain amount of guilt a parent carries with them as they raise their children. We hope that we are making the right decisions and punishing them fairly…but then we carry those questions of “what if…”, “they’ve had a long day…they’re tired”, or my favorite, “everyone is sick right now…she’s probably just coming down with something”.
I was a nanny for 5 years in Philadelphia and I helped raise a few families kids. It was some of the best times of my life. I learned SO much. I honestly don’t think i’d be ready for this challenge of raising Lacy without having that experience in Philly. Even just being a “hired hand” with families (who really treated me more like one of their own) I experienced some guilt as I reprimanded and laid down the law for these kids that were entrusted to me.
The story is no different now with Lacy. In fact, I think I sometimes feel more guilty about scolding and punishing her because of that deafening voice in the pit of my heart yelling at me, “She’s just a child! You don’t know what she’s been through! Don’t be so hard on her!” That guilt of “is this punishment doing more harm than good for her” is a constant question I ask myself.
So how do we know when to be still and be stern with children who are broken?
To be fair…Lacy is a smart little thing. To our knowledge as of now, she is not special needs, but just needs to be caught up into the realm of a 3-year old. When I first got Lacy she had the mindset and mannerisms of a 1-year old. In 4 months she can count to 10, attempt to dress herself, go potty (we have our days) and yell the words, “NO GET AWAY!” at me almost constantly. To you that may seem normal…but for Lacy. It’s amazing. To see her do those things in just 4 months makes me excited about the future and gives me hope.
She is also smart as far as manipulation goes. She knows how and when to push buttons. Some of you may be reading this and thinking,
“Oh come on, Ashley. Get real. She’s 3! She doesn’t KNOW that she’s manipulating you!”
That is genuinely the face I make when people tell me things like that.
Boo…you don’t know Lacy….
While you’re correct…she may not KNOW that she’s doing it.
She does it because she knows it confuses me…which really isn’t that hard to do anyway.
For example: Lacy doesn’t really like to be touched. She doesn’t like to be rubbed or held for the most part. She’s just not a toucher. So it’s pretty funny when Lacy gets in trouble for trying to rummage through the garbage to see if there’s any candy left in the wrapper she sees at the bottom of the full can.
Amazingly she’s astounded that I would ever get mad at her for doing such a thing!
Cue: *hands balling into fists and her head thrown back as fake tears stream down her face towards her feet that are pounding the ground in endless rage.*
“No Lacy! STOP throwing a fit! The garbage is disgusting and there’s germs! Do you want to get sick again?! If you want candy go ask Grandpa, you know he has the good stuff! OH MY GAWWWD YOU’RE NOT EVEN CRYING, YOU FAKER! I’m going to put you in the corner if you don’t calm down! BREATHE!”
Like she was hit by lightning she stops mid-fit and looks up at me with puppy dog eyes and says in a whimper like voice, “Mama I need a hug…”
You gotta be kidding me.
Of course I immediately pick her because these are my thoughts as I hold her tight and tell her softly that we can’t pick things from the garbage because we are not disgusting human beings and it makes Ashy crazy:
1) I will never deny a small human cuddles
2) I will always take and give hugs to Lacy because these moments are few and far between.
3) If I don’t pick her up she may think that I don’t love her and how many people has she asked for love from that haven’t given it to her. My mind begins to race with these thoughts of what SHE’S thinking of ME!
4) She’s good. Like….really g00d. #touche
While I know that this situation may be perceived differently to some, that’s OK. You don’t know my kid just like I don’t know that crazy kid who’s always at the indoor park. You know…the one who’s Mom gives him a juice box and smiles warmly at him as he chases other kids around squeezing juice all over the area and innocent by-standing kids…yeah…that kid is an asshole! And so is the Mom for thinking it’s cute.
***Note: I put an end to that pretty quickly. I’m a firm believer in not raising asshole children. I expect to be told when Lacy is being a jerk! I’m sometimes an asshole and this cute little human will be too! Let’s be real! I want to fix that problem while they are young and not when they are bigger than me and have a license to run away from me!
I have no problem swooping your child up and putting him down in front of you with a smile on my face and say, “Hi. Sorry to bug you…but…do you mind watching your kid?”
cue: *NASTY look from the mother who immediately packed up and left.
With her kid and the new juice box she supplied him with.
It could be that as she was leaving and two other Mom’s and I were on our hands and knees wiping up sticky juice I said something along the lines of, “Don’t worry. We can clean this up! Have a nice day!” But who knows.*
In all fairness…I try to just make the best decisions I can for each tough challenge I face. We’re not always going to like one another and fighting is inevitable. I do know that I will never deny Lacy a hug and a smooch….ever. That girl deserves to feel loved and will just have to deal with me smothering her with forced kisses her whole life.
I also know that every night she goes to bed, regardless of how hard a day we’ve had, I will tell her how much I love her. And that we can try for a better day tomorrow.
I have to remind myself that this is a whole new world for Lacy, just as it is for me. She’s beginning to have a voice and an attitude…which i’m not THANKFUL for…but it’s better than nothing. A little girl who’s only friend were characters on TV and spent a majority of her life thus far not being talked to…just forgotten in another room…is now learning that she not only has opportunities to be a kid…but have a god damn opinion!
CORNER TIME: I found that time in the corner is not a suitable punishment for a child that was left alone for so much of her life. It actually regresses her and gives her a chance to go back to when she was just left alone for hours at a time.
I’ve noticed that she won’t pick up her toys at night and so I would begin a countdown “….1….2….Ok, Lacy. You’re going to the corner now until you can listen.”
And she’d gladly go! It was nothing for her! If I would let her, she would stay in the corner or be alone in her room for hours. Just standing there.
CHORE PUNISHMENTS: She now has to do a chore. Dust. Get the vacuum out and run it over the carpet. Some type of work for being naughty. Sometimes this means I do it with her.
Why do it with her?
Come on, people. She didn’t know what a Kleenex was…but she knows how to run vacuum?
Plus, if she sees me doing it…she’s more prone to want to follow my lead. So we do it together.
Lacy gets “punished” and I get my floors vacuumed.
And some days we don’t get our toys picked up because she really is just so tired.
She went from doing nothing to always having something to do and someone to talk too.
She’s adjusting and while we have our rough days, the good is always more memorable.
If there’s anything I learned from being a nanny, it was from the mom of the 3 boys I lived with for 3 years.
I was having an especially tough day handling the boys.
She came out into the hallway where we were arguing and sent the middle kid to bed without brushing his teeth…and I was appalled!
She looked at me and said,
“Sometimes, we just have to pick our battles.”