I normally use this blog (when I have the time to use it at all) to pour out my love for NYC in the form of recommendations, musings and advice. Today I am writing a post outside of that genre in the hopes that someone may be able to assist me in my work as a trainer of young New Yorkers.
In my day to day life as a nanny I am subjected to a barrage of criticism and thoughtlessly cruel remarks from the children I care for. Often these are in the form of questions that I feel obligated to answer to give them a better understanding of the peculiarities of our physical selves. In most cases I think they truly mean no harm and in others I assume they’re teasing me to indicate that we have a close relationship. In each instance I struggle with how to respond. I want to help them become empathetic, not to mention polite. I’m sure every parent and caregiver deals with similar moments. In the spirit of solidarity and in the hope of hearing other methods of handling such comments, here are some of mine. These are just related to my body; the commentary on my character and interests would go on far too long.
5yo “Your thighs are so pouffy. You have a lot of fat in them. If we didn’t have food anymore it would take you longer to die.”
5yo pointing at calluses on my feet, “Why are your feet like that? Is something wrong with them?”
9yo “Your legs feel scratchy. Why do you have hairs there? It’s gross.”
11yo “Your hair looks too shiny. Is it greasy? Maybe you should wash it more.”
9yo “Why is your toe curved like that? What’s wrong with it? Is it deformed?”
11yo “You shouldn’t wear tank tops; it’s gross.”
11yo “Do you know your nail polish is chipped?”
5yo looking at the freckles on my arms, “Do you have spots because you’re sick?”
5yo noticing veins in my hands, “I thought only men had veins like that.”
9yo “Your nose is really big.”
11yo “You shouldn’t wear shorts because your thighs are big.”
11yo “Why don’t you wear makeup? It would make you look better.”
9yo “Your feet are really big.”
I consider myself to be beautiful and a fair number of people have told me they feel the same way but some of these comments do get under my skin. Do I need to shave my legs right before work so they won’t be scratchy? Maybe I should have them waxed? Should I stop wearing shorts? I have long powerful shapely legs and yet I find myself worrying if they’re fat. How do I get through to these children that words can be hurtful without making it impossible for them to ask questions? I don’t want to teach them that grown ups are so fragile they can’t handle a few critical remarks. I want them to have more confidence than I do, not less. When working with children every statement, every reaction, feels loaded. How do you handle these moments?