“The best day a girl can have”

That is how my daughter described how she felt the day she got to help pick our summer nanny.

It was the first time that my kids were very involved in the nanny selection process. They always got to meet their nannies in the past, but it was more about observing the nanny candidates and how they responded to the kids than vice versa. This time we had a family meeting and put it all out on the table. We talked about how change can be scary, and that it’s sometimes hard to meet new people, and that being cared for by a nanny is not their favorite thing. But then I showed them some of the candidate profiles and photos, and invited them to ask the candidates any questions they wanted when we met them. We compared meeting the nannies to making a new friend at school: you want to be polite and inviting and save any negative thoughts for the post-interview debrief amongst ourselves. I told them what time each candidate would be coming to visit the next day, and what we might talk about or show them.

The kids were beyond themselves with excitement. They started speculating and picking early favorites. This offered another opportunity, namely to teach the “you can’t judge a book by its cover” lesson. Each kid expressed preference for a certain gender or hair color or hair style, so we discussed how it’s important to remain open to people who look different.

After each nanny meeting we debriefed as a family, and the reactions were fascinating. There was a lot of “I just like X better but I can’t really tell you why.” We talked about how we “just have a feeling” about people, and how it’s okay to go with your gut. My daughter made up a chart to evaluate each nanny—nothing scary, just a simple way for her to track her thoughts. (I can relate.) When the meetings were over she wrote down key findings for each: “always had a smile on her face”; “seems like she would be a lot of fun”; “might be overwhelmed by three kids”.

Another interesting thing was how one of my boys very strongly preferred one of the nannies, while the other two kids were ambivalent about the two final candidates. We had to take it into serious consideration that one kid would be very sad if we did not choose his favorite, while the other two would be fine going either way.

That particular little boy appeared to be on to something, as we ended up selecting his favorite. It all worked out for the best—and as it should. We all learned so many lessons in the process, and I think the kids, my daughter in particular, made huge strides in feeling engaged and empowered in a life choice that was previously outside of their control. As the parent I will now seek as many similar opportunities as possible to involve my kids in family and household decision making, as it can only contribute to greater harmony, collaboration, and growth opportunities for all of us.

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