On the one hand, I realize the important role a nanny plays in a child’s life; the effects of which–for better or for worse–will stay with the child for many years to come. On the other hand, as I have seen with every nanny job I have had: I am that “bad” person who represents the replacement of their mommy! I am completely convinced that a child always wants to be with their mommy, first and foremost! With this in mind, I will now share one of my stories.
Niko is now 3 yrs. old. He was adopted from Korea when he was 10 months old (I am told from a very loving foster family). I have been working with Niko for 1 year, 3 months. Our very first encounter was one of much laughter, eye contact and connection! This was a good start, I felt!
Over these many months with Niko, there have been many Staylistening sessions. I will also add, for almost an entire year, Niko did not want to cuddle with me when reading a book or at any other time. And, once when I said, “I love you,” he clearly told me he did not love me and that love was only for his mom and dad. This was a cue for me to “zip my lip!” Our listening sessions are always the same themes: ”I want my mommy, now,” “I want my daddy to pick me up from school, not you,” “I want mommy to put me to bed, not you.” (I put Niko to bed 3 nights each week).
On each and every one of these occasions, I remain calm, stay close, talk little, but softly acknowledge that he misses his mom or dad, and that they always come back. Some of these sessions have been deep tantrums. Without exception, after his emotions have been listened through, Niko emerges calm, talkative and ready to have fun with me. Recently, at a respite in one of Niko’s tantrums, he noticed me looking at him with deep love and caring. He became very quiet and he looked deeply into my eyes for what I think was 4 whole minutes as I continued to look at him with deep caring. It was really touching, and he seemed to calm down after this and wanted to be close.
Throughout my entire experience with Niko, we have had many Playlistening times with great laughter. For example, he loves it when I lie on the floor trying to get up, and he pushes me back down. As hard as I try to resist, I fall back down. We repeat this again and again, with consistent laughter. This is one example from many.
I feel my relationship with Niko continues to be an ongoing process as we develop more deep connection. There are now big stretches of time when he does not mention mom anymore, but when there are upsets, they center around the absence of mom or dad. On 3 consecutive mornings each week, mom drops him at school at 8 a.m.; I pick him up at 4 p.m., care for him and put him to bed. So for those 3 days, he is basically at school and then with me, with very little contact with parents. His parents have told me on several occasions that Niko fondly talks about me. They tell me that they consider me part of the family and that I am helping to raise him! (Wow, what a BIG responsibility!)
So, even though Niko will continue from time to time to tell me to “go away,” or “I don’t want you here,” or “I don’t like you,” I do know how deeply we are connecting. The other day as we were driving, he said, “Will you be my new mother?” I replied that he already has a mother, so then he asked me to be his wife! Oh, and now (finally!), we cuddle while reading books, he happily runs into my arms when I pick him up from school, and he now accepts it when I say, “I love you” (I tested this very gingerly). And he will sometimes say he loves me back!
Yesterday as we were building together (he has had a very bad cough and runny nose for 2 weeks), he was acting “grumpy.” I mentioned that I feel grumpy, too, when I am sick. He then said, “Yes, and I am also grumpy because I am at school so much.” This was said so clearly and causally. He then immediately switched to talking about the structure we were building.
I really see the importance of me having listening time in my Listening Partnership, so that I can deal with my own feelings about Niko’s adoption and abandonment issues, and about his clear upset from being away from his parents for long periods of time.
Stay tuned for Confessions of a Parenting by Connection Nanny: Part II.
-S. Hart, a Certified Parenting by Connection Instructor