October 14, 2007

I saw your nanny... if that was your nanny.

Here's a NYT article about a blog — I Saw Your Nanny — that collects and displays reports about things nannies are doing with children. It's not all that clear when you're looking at strangers whether the woman with a child is a hired caregiver or not. It's a judgment call, often based on race. Or do you think you can tell whether there is love? But some nannies love the children they take care of, and some mothers are brusque and cold.

How about a blog called I Saw You With Your Child? Recently, I saw a woman — I think with her own child — pushing her child in a stroller on 4th Street in Greenwich Village. The child, who was about 2, was clearly unhappy about sitting strapped into a stroller, with no exercise or human interaction. He was whining and writhing, reaching toward the area in back of the stroller where he could hear his mother talking on the cell phone with someone. The mother's response was to talk about the child — "I've got a cranky one here" — insulting him to the back of his head and expressing irritation at him for thinking that his presence, in person in the real world, should matter more to his mother than the people who are off somewhere else.


Adrian said...

meanwhile we have nannies blogging (and writing entire books, like the nanny diaries) tattling about the families they work with. everyone's blogging about everyone! once the kids themselves are old enough to start blogging about their parents *and* their nannies, it's gonna be absolute chaos!

Zachary Sire said...

This is ridiuclous and offensive. Great, all we need is another forum for passive aggressive wanna-be vigilantes with an internet connection and racial prejudices. If I saw someone (nanny, parent, whoever) mistreating a child, I'd say something right then and there on the street (assuming it was dangerous and/or particularly cruel)--not wait to get home and anonymousy write about it on a blog. Jesus Christ.

rhhardin said...

Koehler, on dog training in public, recommends carrying hard candy to give spectators something to suck on when they offer criticism and advice.

Synova said...

Hard candy to suck on. Hehe.

For all the years I went into public with todders... something would have to be really *really* bad before I thought it was bad. Ignoring a child? Making them stay strapped in a stroller!?

I've been derided in public for asking someone if they'd seen a little girl in a red shirt... lectured about people who steal children rather than helped to find her... and after I *did* find her behind a rack of clothing (and absolutely where she could hear me call *without* my voice raised) she went strapped in the shopping cart and stayed there, no matter the pleading and pitiful looks and squirming to please get out. I had errands to complete and shopping to do and she did NOT need my attention. She was miserable because she deserved it for being naughty.


Joan said...

When my daughter was two, whenever we went out, she wore a little belt with a pouch attached, which also had a strap that I wore around my wrist. Yes, I'm admitting I put my kid on a leash. She loved it, as it gave her the freedom she wanted to move around, and I loved it because she couldn't run off, which is something she'd do if allowed.

I never needed this thing for either of my boys, who were the stick-close-to-Mommy types. But for her, it solved the problem of me trying to hang onto her hand while she constantly pulled me this way and that. Of course I got comments about putting my kid on a leash, and obnoxious questions about how could I treat her like a dog. I always replied it was better than losing her.

I wouldn't recommend it for every kid, but for a certain type, it's great. I've also kept squirming kids in strollers against their will; they're too heavy to carry long distances, their legs are too short to cover much distance very quickly, and they tire easily. If you have someplace you need to go and there is time pressure involved, putting the kid in the stroller is required. Yes, it's true that it's lovely to let them walk and to interact with them along the way, but the fact is -- as you well know -- that the 24/7 nature of the mother/child relationship means that there will be times when you don't want to interact with the kid, and when he has to go into the stroller whether he wants to or not.

Judging a mom's parenting ability based on a snippet of an overheard cellphone conversation and the fidgety state of the kid at the time is ridiculous... as is the nanny blog.

Beth said...

Joan, I agree. At one point, while my dad was away at war, my mom was 21 years old with three kids. One of my brothers would have been diagnosed as ADHD, probably (good thing they didn't do that then, and he escaped being drugged), and was a real handful. She had to "leash" him when they traveled across country, and often spoke of the nasty looks she got at the time. But I'm confident that if she hadn't, he have landed under a car or train, or just disappeared.

blake said...

So, Synova is criticized for letting her child run free, while Joan and Beth's mother were criticized for restraining their children.

Another good one is criticizing parents for scolding their children while complaining that children are too rude.

Children are apparently perfect, if only their parents knew how to raise them.

Trooper York said...

Theme: She was working in a bridal shop in Flushing, Queens, 'til her boyfriend kicked her out in one of those crushing scenes. What was she to do? Where was she to go? She was out on her fanny. So over the bridge from Flushing to the Sheffield's door. She was there to sell make-up, but the father saw more. She had style! She had flair! She was there. That's how she became the Nanny! Who would have guessed that the girl we've described, was just exactly what the doctor prescribed? Now the father finds her beguiling-watch out C.C.!-, and the kids are actually smiling-such joie de vivre!-. She's the lady in red when everybody else is wearing tan. The flashy girl from Flushing, the nanny named Fran!
(The Nanny 1993)

Ann Althouse said...

I think the child leash is a great idea, but the disapproval makes it unusable. But I stand by my observation that there are way too many able-bodied youngsters vegetating in strollers and way too many mothers and nannies pushing them around while talking on cell phones. And when the cell phone conversation is about insulting the child and the child can hear, that's psychologically abusive.

And in case you're about to ask me why I'm not complaining about fathers, I haven't seen fathers talking on cell phones when they are with their kids.

Joan said...

And when the cell phone conversation is about insulting the child and the child can hear, that's psychologically abusive.

That's insane. How is saying "I've got a cranky one here" insulting to the child? It's a factual statement. The mother is with the child, the child is cranky. The child knows he's cranky, his crankiness is perhaps his best tool for trying to control a situation that is completely and appropriately outside of his control.

Calling such a statement an insult and then making the leap from insult to psychological abuse is absurd. Many is the time I've told my kids they're grumpy or whiny. It's a statement of fact, and putting a label on it helps them down the road to identify it in themselves. Ideally, we also teach them better coping techniques so they don't have to resort to being whiny, but that is a time-consuming process and requires much repetition.

The kid needs to learn that just because he's cranky he's not going to control the situation. He also needs to learn that his moods have an effect on his environment, particularly his caretaker. I don't know about you, but I never let my kids get away with being rude to me or anyone else just because they weren't in the mood to be polite. Start doing things like that and your kids end up as obnoxious jerks.

If you found that comment psychologically abusive, no doubt you'd be calling CPS on me over some of the confrontations I've had with my kids. I'm glad I don't live in your neighborhood.

Finn Alexander Kristiansen said...

That two year old must have massive powers of perception to know his mom is totally psychologically abusing him.

A little Stewie indeed. I shiver for his well being.

(However, I do think mothers should put down the phones and engage their children in conversation. I see enough young mothers on the bus where the child is chirping away, pointing at this and that, and the mother is on the phone or staring off into space, more concerned with the artfully displayed cleavage tatoo than getting the child to speak and understand the world around them).

former law student said...

Ann, when you're with your child 24/7, consider that, JUST MAYBE, you'd like to talk to an adult human friend of yours for a few minutes. My mother, who stayed home with us, quieted us by snapping her fingers at us, and mouthing "I'm ON the PHONE." We were constantly amazed by how she could switch instantly from yelling at us to a friendly conversational tone with her friends.

And two-year-olds are notoriously hard to deal with.

Linus said...

I'm glad to have run across this post. Criticizing other people's parenting based on 15 seconds of observation is pretty easy to do, but strangely, it doesn't make you look smart or caring, it just makes you look like a (clueless) busybody. Hopefully I'll think of the comments made here the next time I'm tempted to make such criticism myself.

Synova said...

I have certainly been exposed to people who talk their kids down in the hearing of their kids. It is abusive. Saying a kid is whiny? Unless it's all the time, I wouldn't think so. Personally, I'd probably have not gone to the third person but would have simply stated, "Jenny is whiny today." If I had a gripe with that particular statement it would be the... distance... of it.

The thing that people don't *get* (and some people who actually are parents don't *get*) is that parents and children have "days". Good days and bad days. Children are not uniformly wonderful and parents are not uniformly nurturing. There is no way to know from a glimpse if a child is throwing an entirely capricious tantrum or if the parent is past the last straw or got two hours sleep the night before, total. (Not at *all* unlikely for a parent with toddlers.)

I've been chewed out for my parenting and lectured by total strangers. I've also been stopped by total strangers and complimented on my lovely children's wonderful behavior. Children have *days*.

Synova said...

Reminds me of a story told by a friend of getting off the bus in Berkeley with her two children, needing to go one way and her two or three year old wanting to go the *other* way.

Long story short, the child is on her back on the sidewalk screaming while mom snaps at her to get up *now* because they have to go.

Enter young Berkeley college student who sees this and his horrified and, knowing all there is to know, tells mom to pick her daughter up and hug her (or some equally inane directive) because this is what the kid obviously needs.

Even wonderful children can be willful brats when it enters their heads to be willful brats.

Terri said...

Cell phones are a major problem with me. Once upon a time, while waiting in line at the grocery or the post office, you would strike up a conversation with someone else in queue. It was human interaction and, almost always, rewarding. Today, people shut out those around them in order to yak on their cell phones about their weekend or whatever. Even going so far as to ignore the checker who is busy ringing up their order. I long for the days when people would venture outside in order to connect with new people, not drag their phones with them.... And children ARE often ignored while mom is busy chatting on her cell phone. It doesn't matter what she is saying or to whom she is talking, the message is "the call is more important".

therapydoc said...

I had 3 under 3 many years ago, and I avoided restaurants for years. Going for a stroll was always a test of my patience.

But good moms (and I did my best) are armed with treats for the kids, drinks, diapers, and if they're very, very lucky, another set of arms. Almost any will do.

Too Cool for School said...

May I suggest: a blog called "people suck"? You know, in the spirit of being inclusive.