Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Nanny Cam

If you haven't the time or inclination for a lengthy post, my FB status sums it up nicely:

Nanny Cam..... Survey says? I'm definitely not Mother Theresa. But, thankfully, I am even further from Mommy Dearest. I am aiming for Caroline Ingalls or Olivia Walton. And I now feel justified in being so damn tired at the end of the day. Counting the days till Gungah gets here and gives me all the solutions! (Thirty-six, give or take).

We hooked up the video camera today. I wanted to see exactly what the kids were doing and what I was doing and how what I was doing was making what the kids were doing worse. (Huh?) So... We hooked up the video camera today.

I was a little nervous. I mean, beyond the important things like The Camera Adds 10 pounds and I hate the sound of my own voice on a recording, what if I am just.plain.awful?

Let me back up. In my daycare I have 5 "rentals" and 1 of my own. Three of the daycare kids are 5-year-old Kindergartners. Two girls and a boy. They have struggled to get along. I call it "pre-pre-pre-prepubescent 90210 syndrome." Basically, they vie for leadership/being in charge and hurt each others feelings and are overly sensitive. Pretty typical stuff for a threesome of this age group but it was getting kind of tough to handle. My Elliott, being 4, was sort of stuck in the middle AND on the outside because he wanted to play with them (so he was willing to do mostly what they wanted) and they took advantage of that. He, in truth, could also play the "wittle boy" card and get, frankly, kind of annoying to them.

I semi-solved the problem of the 5-year-old battles fairly recently by running my daycare less like a home and more like a child care center. They have free time in the morning for a brief time. Then we do a structured "circle time," an "all skate" (a game or activity everyone does together under my supervision), snack, and then stations. Stations, in this case, are 4 activities (sometimes they choose, sometimes I choose) that are done individually. I explain what (i.e. audio books, puzzles, computer, PlayDough...) and where the stations are and then they each go to a station for 10 or 13 or so minutes. They rotate through the stations and when they are done, about an hour has passed and it's time to make lunch. Usually if they have been supervised to that degree in the first part of the day, it's safe to let them "free play" while I throw lunch together because they haven't driven each other crazy yet. The kids seem to like the structure (and each other!) a lot more than the more relaxed schedule I had.

The other two kids are both 2-year-old boys. I LOVE them. They are funny and adorable and smart and fairly hilarious.


When they are together they are absolutely TOXIC. I have been at my wits end about these two since just before Christmas. It was as if they finally understood all the rules that applied at my house and made it their mission to break each one of them, in succession, without interruption, through out the day. Seriously. Apart they are gems. But, they are allergic to each other.

I called a state agency that is tasked with helping idiots like me with problems like this. It went exactly how I knew it would go. "Time outs are really for the adult." "For every one thing you tell them they are doing wrong, you need to tell them 5 things they are doing right." "They are looking for your attention and right now the only way they know how to get it is by breaking the rules." "It sounds like typical 2-year-old behavior." And so, I cried. And I cried some more. And I worried. And I worried some more.

But I still didn't think it is typical 2-year-old behavior. I mean, if a two-year-old is standing next to you and across the room from another 2-year-old.... and you see that gleam in his eye and he starts to run at the other two-year-old.... and you reach out and pick him up and say to him "remember to walk and use nice hands".... and you put him down..... and then he RUNS over to his friend and hits/pushes/shoves/kicks him RIGHT in front of you..... and THEN LAUGHS MANICALLY.... is THAT typical 2-year-old behavior?

For real. Both of these boys will hear and repeat the instructions I give them (please walk, let's put the crayons away, sit DOWN on the couch - don't jump) and do the exact opposite. With complete and utter glee.

Okay. I know. They are looking for my attention. I know I know I know. But come ON!

Anyway... cut to today. I put up the video camera. I captured a couple of hours of our day. I saw myself do a lot of things just like Super Nanny and Dr. Phil would have suggested. And... still I failed. It was a completely typical day. Very frustrating mixed with some very pleasant moments.

Scott watched pieces of it. He said that my consequences didn't mean anything to the bigger of the 2-year-olds because I didn't follow-through. He's right. I tried to put him on the couch in a time out because he was hitting/squashing during circle time. He wouldn't stay there. I tried to hold him in time out. He screamed. I tried to hold him on my lap. He wriggled and screamed. He never sat in time out. I should have made him.


What about those 5 other kids? I can't get him to stay in time out AND give the other kids any kind of attention. They were trying to do what I asked them (and really WERE doing everything I asked and more by being so patient during chaos). So I just can't justify telling them, "Sorry, kids, we can't do circle time, we can't play beauty parlor/barbershop, we can't do stations because I have to spend the next hour forcing B to sit his 2 minutes in time out." If I had another adult here it would be a snap. Okay, not a snap. But it would be doable.

I finally went and did what is actually against my licensing agreement (shut me down, State of NH, I'm beggin' ya!) and put him in a time out in the Pack 'n Play in my room. I was then able to give the rest of the instructions to the rest of the kids and get started on our activity. Later in the day I moved on to another time out system I have been trying. I put him in the back pack and force him to stay with me. I figure that way he's not being isolated so it can't be a violation. I'm really the only one suffering. Oh. And him. He really dislikes the pack back when he sees everyone else playing. Of course, so far, this hasn't improved his behavior after getting out of the back pack.

Annnnnnnyway..... what this post was meant to be about was how, although I am completed defeated and down in a lot of ways, I am somewhat impressed with my own lack-of-losing-my-flipping-mind. When I scanned through the day, I saw all the managing I do to keep everyone fed and mildly entertained and (dare I speak it?) enriched.

I am not terribly good at this. It is definitely NOT my calling in life. I will not miss it when it's over.

But I'm doing it.

And, probably... we will all survive.


  1. I like the back pack idea...keep your chiropractor on speed dial. He is prevented from injuring anyone, within your control, able to witness the others engaging in activities,...I think you are on to something.

    Dad suggests that you title your video "One Flew Over the Phoebe's Nest".

  2. I, for one, am duly impressed with you, Phoebe. I could NEVER do what you do. I simply haven't got the patience. (At least I know that about myself.) And honestly, KUDOS TO YOU...you are making a difference in these kids lives! AND...you are trying to do the best possible thing you can to make it good for you AND them by seeking help and trying alternate methods like the Nanny Cam. Honestly, the rest of us go to our jobs, do our "adult" things that, really, at the end of the day may help pay the bills, but most of us aren't having a huge impact on the future - on making a difference for the future. YOU ARE.

    I mean, really, I babysit 20+ 40-50 year olds as a Project Manager. They may not kick and bite, but they sure can be mean. And I don't get to help with the formative stages...and I certainly can't put any of them in a backpack, or I'll need more than a chiropractor! :)

    I bet the video is a hoot. I know days are tough (as I said, I could NEVER do what you do, but THANK GOD there are people like you who CAN handle childcare!), but you should be proud of what you are doing!!!! It may not be your life's work, but for now, YOU ARE ROCKING IT.