I’ve looked after a lot of children over the years, and never am I so sure about attachment than when I go back to children I’ve been really close to. It’s hard when you leave a child you’ve been really close to. I’ve done a lot of leaving, but I’ve also done a lot of coming back, and I think the relationships I have with children have been forged more strongly when I get to come back to the kids I had such a great closeness with.
This weekend, I was with one of my favourite charges, Glo-Worm, a very bright and sweet 21-month-old. I was her full-time nanny last year for a few months, and we became very close. She was initially distrustful and strange with me at first. It’s been almost four months since I’ve seen her, and toddlers have short memories. But soon after a warm-up period, she was cuddling in close, engaging with me, and enjoying every moment together the way we always did. It made me think about the ways I know children love me and are attached to me. I’m going to share a few with you.
1. They want to be near me all the time: most children I know show their love in touch – they want to hug or kiss you, hold your hand, sit on your lap, or even just be pressed up close against me. I had a little boy who wanted to just always hold onto my skirt or the pocket of my jeans. Now, 19-month Diva and Footballer are two of my charges who show their love in touch – Footballer especially. He needs to be on my lap, his strong arms around my neck, and burying his face in my hair, or giving me open-mouthed kisses (we still haven’t managed to teach him that this is inappropriate, haha!). Diva is just happy to be sitting on my hip while I prepare bottles or food for the kids. It’s nice to have them close, even if I am someone who gets touched out a lot – it shows that they’re comfortable with me and want me around.
2. “I need to show you!” Kids who want me around want to show me special things. I’ve had grand tours of their homes, intricate discussions on their favourite toys, or been presented with “gifts” of their favourite snack or a special drawing they made just for me. Often when I get in the door, the first thing I’m greeted with is, “Look, L! I need to show you this!” It’s sweet, and makes me feel very special that the children want to share these things with me.
3. They don’t want me to go home: Glo-Worm was my most recent charge, who, I think, would have been quite happy if I’d just moved into her house with her! She never wanted me to leave, and would hop into my arms upon arrival and cry when I left the house at night. Attachment really shows in this way, and though it can be awkward with the parents, I am glad that the child is showing attachment to me, because it means that the child trusts and loves me. I think that also gives parents a bit of reassurance that their child is fine to be left alone with me, even if it’s a bit sad that the child is crying heartbrokenly that I’m leaving!
4. They talk about me positively when I’m not there: I’ve had many a parent pass me on the street and laugh, telling me that their child couldn’t stop talking about the last time that I babysat or the activities we’d done the last time I was over. That’s good, because it means I made a good impression on the child! My favourite part is when the parents ask me when I can come back next, because the child is clamouring for me!
5. The child is not afraid to tell me secrets or come to me when he or she is upset: This is the biggest indicator that a child loves and trusts me. A child who is closemouthed about everything when I’m around is a child who doesn’t trust me. A child who is willing to tell me secrets, hopes and fears is a child that knows that I’m there for him or her. I’ve been the lucky recipient of many stories, secrets, fears and hopes from children, and every time, I feel honoured that they have chosen me as a confidant. It’s what I hope for whenever I come on with a new family, and it’s a reward that is very, very sweet and amazing to me.
I say all the time that I don’t just look after children for the money. If I did, I think it’d be a very unfulfilling, inappropriate job for me. I love the families and children I meet. I have had times where children haven’t liked me, but they’re few and far between. I am honoured to do the job I do, and to earn the love of children. It makes me feel as if I have a purpose, and it definitely makes me feel like I’m in the right profession.
What ways do children show they love you as a caregiver? How do you deal with it when children don’t remember you? Sound off in the comments!
About the Author: Elizabeth Hawksworth, also known as Torontonanny, is a nanny, writer, and blogger. She’s been in the childcare business for approximately 17 years, and currently works part-time with a number of children in the city. She enjoys working the most with newborns and babies up to the age of 2, and details her nannying experiences on her blog. She is also a published writer, and you can find her first poetry book,Break for Beauty, on Amazon.com. Elizabeth enjoys walking, shopping, reading and crafting, and lives with her two cats, Athena and Fili, in the heart of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.