Saturday, July 5, 2008


People often ask me where we found our current nanny. An agency? Word of mouth? I tell them the truth: I met her in kickboxing class at the NYSC. Then people ask: "Can I borrow her?"

She is British, and falls into that category of caregiver known as the Supernanny. I'm sure you've seen the show: A trim and tidy British nanny shows up to a household where all hell is breaking loose--the children are usually beating the parents and each other senseless with sharp objects while the mom threatens half-hearted time-outs that never really materialize. Usually, the children are quite feral, with glimmering eyes and sharp fangs. The parents are on the verge of divorce because they never get a decent cocktail hour, thanks to the fact that the little mites go to bed around midnight.

Our boys were not so horrid, but they were wild enough. It's hard to put a kid in repeated time-outs when you are desperately trying to find a shoe and a comb just so you can make it to the 8:29 express. Not only that, bedtime was a misery of trying to stuff wriggling bodies into jammies and enforce "full body pinning" toothbrushing sessions.

On our very first day with Supernanny, our youngest child immediately threw his half-grapefruit on the floor. "I don't wike it!" he screamed.

"Pick it up,"said Supernanny. "That's bad manners!"

"I won't!"

"Then you'll sit in this chair until you do."

The husband and I had to leave for work, and we chortled all the way to the train. That little bugger had met his match! in the end she won, and the grapefruit was picked up. Boy, was he sore about it.

Charts went up, and the boys earned stickers for potty, making their beds, getting dressed, good manners, and brushing their teeth. If enough stickers are earned they get "specials day," which often involves a treat out at a diner on Supernanny's own tab (her choice). I never imagined a two-year-old could make a bed, but there he was fluffing his pillow and tossing out the blanket on the floor prior to folding it. Admittedly, the end result is poor and would not be fit for a photo shoot, but that's not the point. Now we sometimes see them working together to fold: "Corner to corner, and then meet in the middle!"

They are not perfect by any stretch. Despite all efforts, the little one poos most ferociously in his pull-up as many as three times per day. It's quite ghastly. But as Supernanny says, "I don't think he gets much warning." The child eats like a linebacker. The elder child still insists on several time-outs a day as part of his regular routine, just because he can.

But, when bedtime comes, one can actually say to them: "Go upstairs and put your pajamas on and brush your teeth." And, by crikey, they'll do it! Sometimes. Most of the time.

Table manners are another thing. Grandma came over and did a double-take the other day when the little boys got up from the table and carried their plates and cutlery to the sink. I smiled proudly, as if I'd had a thing to do with it. "Please may I have some more?" is the question of the day, as is "Please pass the butter." Sure, they are fully capable of singing "poo songs" and flinging their forks at each other at the table, but we are talking about savage little boys here, and perfection is a mirage.

After a while, I noticed an alteration in their vocabulary. "That make me quite giddy!" said my elder son, spinning around on his own axis. "We are all out of potty towels [toilet paper]," he pointed out one day. They have not yet started to use the word "bloody," but I expect that will come, in time.

Sadly, Supernanny departs for her fair isle come September 10th. In late July and August (due to the fact that we will soon have no home), she may be available for assignations at your home. Write to me here if you would like to access her prodigious skills!

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