Monday, August 31, 2009

A Dummy's Guide to Baby sitting : Toddlers

Recently I visited a cousin of mine. She is mother to a kid who is currently a toddler.
During the visit I had the privilege to baby sit my nephew. While the experience of being responsible for the kid, albeit for just a few hours, may not teach much about parenting... It is still a great leveler... It taught me that a degree in college and growing up from infant to adult may give you all education and experiences to carry on life dauntlessly, but it can't teach you anything about kids. Even though all of us have been kids at some point of time ....we are never quite ready for handling kids ...until we have handled one...
After an emotional start to this post, its now time to get serious and give out the words of wisdom that I got from my few hours of baby sitting..

  1. Toddler = Duracell Bunny....
  2. The first thing I learned when my cousin left me with her kid is that kids are like the battery powered bunnies. I mean, most of us would have seen those battery powered bunnies which once powered up can keep running all day .. till the battery gets exhausted. The situation ain't any different here. A toddler is powered by food and milk, and once powered up ... its exactly like a Duracell bunny ... keeps running around, shouting, smiling, crying (all Moms reading this post .. please add a few more verbs). Typically the person running after the baby will get tired long before the baby needs a power up (foor or milk).

  3. Toddlers are heavier than dumbbells.
  4. Anybody who has done any weight training might beg to differ. After all dumbbells come in various weights and sizes and thus you could always pick up a 30 Kg dumbbell which is theoretically heavier than most toddlers...But there is one detail that a gym going bachelor will miss.....
    The dumbbell is .. well .. dumb !!! and it does not fight back.
    A toddler on the other hand will not sit quite on your arms. I learned that a kid needs to be occupied and entertained all the time. Not to mention that a kid will wriggle, play, jump around etc .. all of it when in your arms. Then again, unlike a dumbbell ... even if your arm hurts, you can't drop the kid.. Even if you try to put one down gently, the chances are that the kid may not be ready to give up the free ride on top of your arms....

  5. Poop and Pee alarms - the most desired inventions for baby sitters.
  6. We are in an age of technology. So I thought to myself what would be the most desired invention for baby sitter... A toddler as you might realize is not quite potty trained and thus will shit or pee without adequate warning. Sometimes even when perched comfortably on your arm. However as disgusting as the act may seem to you, I think the toddlers thoroughly enjoy the activity and its output. While you are searching for a place to dispose the diaper or a mop / tissue to clean up the pee, the kid will seize the to opportunity to play in the pee. Thus if some one invents a Poop / Pee alarm that goes off about a minute before the moment of truth, that invention will be very popular with babysitters.

  7. "Actions speak louder than words"... "Crying Baby speaks louder than actions"
  8. I once attended a soft skills training about body language. The trainer reminded us about a proverb to prove his point "Actions speak louder than words". That's often correct cause actions can be seen from a distance much farther than sounds can travel.
    However inside a home, actions in one room can't be seen in another, but sounds can be heard. So we shout to get our voice across. Nothing however, can beat a crying baby. I think the crying of the baby is loud because it is a survival skill. At least till they learn to speak, it is the only language they know is to cry out aloud.... "wah wah wah.."
    So for baby sitters here is a definitive guide to baby vocabulary...

    Repititive "wah wah" (mostly unless the bottle of milk fails to quieten the baby) = Feed me
    "wah wah" (with arms held upwards and an innocent look in the eyes) = Pick me up
    "wah wah" (while looking at gadgets like mobile, remote control etc) = I want that toy
    "wah wah" (with eyes half closed) = I am sleepy
    Non stop "wah wah" (none of the above works) = I want my mommy
    "wah wah" (when you try changing clothes) = I don't want to wear shorts / daipers
    "wah wah" (when in your arms) = Put me down
    Loud "wah wah" (when in your arms) = Stop restraining me

    It looks simple yet so complicated. Everything the baby wants is conveyed just through its crying... I know most of us like to think that the baby's mom can make out the different needs from the way it cries ... The truth is ....all moms are as clueless as rest of us.
    I think that they just try out different stuff (from the list above) till the baby stops crying.

  9. Toys = An adult's futile attempt to understand the kid.
  10. I think toy industry was built by adults to milk the helplessness of other adults when they are unable to understand the "wah wah" mentioned above. The whole idea they want you to believe in is that your kids need toys and that these toys can help them become smarter while they play. Certainly sounds useful, that is if the kid actually plays with the toys. While kids need toys, toddlers don't really bother classifying toys, gadgets, kitchen tools, furniture, books etc differently. For them anything and everything can be a toy.

    When I saw my nephew playing with anything and everything that he could lay his hands on (mop, broom, gas lighter, mobile phone, telephone, remote control, electric switches, .... and of course his toys), I was reminded of that master card advertisement about watching something priceless. While I completely endorse the part about watching the kids play being a "priceless" experience, I think the toy industry does make significant profit by making us adults believe that the kids actually need those toys.
    I think the truth is that we as adults want to play with our own toys (mobiles, laptops, telephones, tv etc) and not share them the kids, so we buy them toys and teach them to play with those.

  11. The next generation always seems to be smarter than your generation.
  12. While playing with my nephew, I observed a couple of things. First that he (like a lot other kids) wanted to play with gadgets and tools that adults use. Second that he was always thinking of ways and means to get hold of those gadgets. I heard that kids learn by imitation. If that is true, then it is no surprise that kids want to play with gadgets that we adults use. They are really just trying to imitate us. But we don't trust them with our gadgets, sometimes for their own safety. Thus the parents try harder and harder to keep their gadgets out of the kids reach. The kids keep coming out newer distractions, pranks, tricks to lay their hands on the gadgets. Soon it becomes like a game of chess played between the parents and kids. So the kids have to outplay adults to get hold of their toys (adult gadgets) and thus every time they succeed, they only seem smarter.

  13. Laugh with the baby.
  14. A small prank from my nephew will remain fresh in my mind for some time to come. In the morning while I asleep I felt something move beside my arm. That's where I had kept my mobile phone after turning off the morning alarm. A few moments later I heard my nephew laugh and my cousin shout at him. I woke up and saw that beside my arm was his milk bottle instead of my mobile, which was now in his hands. I was a little concerned about him thrashing my mobile to pieces, but when I saw the twinkle in his eyes and the smile on his face I was no longer worried about my mobile. He did manage to send out a couple of short messages while I was negotiating a trade (yeah... trade, you can't just snatch the mobile back.....lest they start their "wah wah") with him to get back my phone. I did eventually get my phone back but learned a simple and important lesson.

    A baby laughs a lot throughout the day. Even simple things like the rotation of a fan when switched on can put a smile on a kids face. They remind us of the simple smile that we have all forgotten in our clockwork. Through all their tricks they give us opportunities to regain the lost laughter.

These were but a few tips based on my own experience.
At the end a very important disclaimer. All those tips will be useless if you are faced with the task of babysitting a toddler... Wishing you lots of luck, cause every toddler is different and no matter how smart you are, the toddler will probably outsmart you.

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