I’ve been a nanny for almost 5 years now, been babysitting for over 10, and taken care of around 100 children (not all at once). They are obviously all different, yet there are similarities in all of them that I think they would want you as parents to know:
The time you spend with them means more than the money you spend on them
I hear about the money you spend on them a couple of times, usually right after it was spent. When the excitement and newness wears off, however, I hear more about what you are going to get them next time. But when I see you with your kids, baking that cake, packing for a trip, or passing a ball– I ready myself. Because those are the times that I hear about the most days, weeks, even years later. I hear about that time on the boat, that rainy summer day, or the fort in the living room when the power went out. I hear about it so often, I feel like I could relate it as though I was there.
You’re children aren’t necessarily needy– they just really missed you
It happens all the time. Parents come home from a long day of work or arrive at a daycare, and all of the sudden their children turn to invalids. Suddenly, they can’t carry their backpack or do another problem in homework without your help. I know it must be annoying, but they know that your love is shown through acts of service to them, and they want to feel your love. They crave your attention, and by whining, they get it completely. I’m sure some therapist somewhere has a way to help them convey to this to you, but I’m just calling it like I see it.
Your help means the world
On top of watching children in their homes, I’ve also had experience helping children at school and a daycare. One thing I’ve noticed helps children learn the most isn’t when their teacher spends one-on-one time with them– it’s when you do. Working through a difficult math problem or spending fifteen minutes reading a book really does make a difference in your child’s learning. You know how they learn best because you are their teacher every other time. You have the ability to shape the future for your little one by helping them learn the value of hard work, perseverance, and mastery. Yes it requires time, and yes sometimes it sucks. But it’s worth it. I promise.
I believe that if we really wanted to hear what your child wanted to say the most to you, you would hear a lot of thank you’s and I love you’s. For real. They cherish the cheering from the sidelines, the snuggles when their sick, the present just because, and the water fight in the yard. Those little moments between “getting things done around the house” are the moments they talk about for years. So go ahead, build a fort in your living room and turn the music up loud– that laughter is their thank-you’s.