At six months old, Charlotte could fight her battles with more stamina, more energy, and more commitment than any kid I’ve ever seen. We always wished her name was Mary, because calling her “quite contrary” would look like a pleasant rhyme instead of nickname brought on by pure aggravation. Besides, Ceaseless Charlotte doesn’t exactly have the same ring to it as “Mary Quite Contrary”. In all of her battles, it’s hard to say which she liked best. There was violent thrashing at the diaper changing table, there was loud screaming in restaurants, but my personal favorite was nap time. Being violently opposed to sleeping anywhere other than in my arms, she would thrash and scream if she were to be put in her crib. After six months, it wasn’t practical to let her sleep in my arms for the rest of her life. It was me against the baby in a battle of the fittest every afternoon. Every day for two months was the same battle. A tear-soaked and red tinted face would stare up at me from the crib. Before I knew it, her coos translated into “please, save me!” and “Please don’t leave me!” in my head, and that made it all the more difficult to leave. But just as I did the day before, I left. I left before the “Please don’t go”s caught up with my head. Working with children is the greatest builder of persistence.
The number one lesson I have learned from nannying is persistence. I lived my personal life giving up and giving in whenever things got too rough. It was a philosophy that I thankfully dropped with becoming a nanny. It is a no-quit business. Unlike so many things in life, you can’t walk away. If your child is screaming in the grocery story, and your parenting (or nannying) has now become projected on a wide-screen TV with a watchful audience, you can’t just leave your child and “try again later.” I would use the cliché “Now or never” but it’s just “Now.” Thanks to supermarket tantrums, I have learned what’s on the other side of a challenge and I can now push myself in ways I couldn’t before. Homework assignments aren’t tossed aside after the second question, puzzles are not given up on after a short period without any matches, I am now able to push myself to finish, and finish well.
Persistence is consistent. It isn’t just about continuously doing something; it’s about doing that thing and following through with it. About a month into the process, I learned that giving into Charlotte’s crying only meant a longer process. There were days when I was fueled on three hours of sleep when I looked at her and cried “you win!” There were days when I would sit with heavy eyes next to the baby monitor, just listening to her scream. There were days when I told myself, “How can I be a good nanny if I let her hysterically cry like this?” On those days, I would pick her up and instantly the crying stopped. Sometimes, I could have sworn she knew exactly what she was doing. I learned that persistence isn’t just about being continuous. As soon as I made the connection that my laziness and self-doubt was stalling the process, the giving in stopped.
With persistence, comes patience. They go hand in hand. Without patience, there is no persistence. Not only did I learn persistence and consistence, I learned the value of patience while making a goal. My patience increased when I started seeing results. It made me realize that this was working. Goals can sometimes be difficult and they certainly take time. If I had given up after two minutes every day, there would have been no results.
This lesson in persistence has been of the most difficult, yet rewarding lesson I have learned while working with children. When you have a job where you can’t quit, you are sometimes forcefully, yet thankfully able to learn important values like persistence. In some ways, I’m thankful that Charlotte put up a fight. Through it was difficult and time consuming, I learned something that will follow me throughout the rest of my life. There are hidden blessings in challenging situations; you just have to look for them.