March 07, 2012
Witches of the children
As previously reported in "Out of my comfort zone" I have been teaching twins English for the last month or so here in tropical Moscow. I go every day and spend ninety minutes separately with each child. Teaching adults is far easier than teaching children and I would prefer to teach adults any day. However, some kids can be fun to teach, some can be cute, while others can be total monsters. I think how a child develops, is down to his or her parents, their home environment and due to their educational experience. Some kids turn out well, while others fail badly socially and academically from a very early age and this failure can often be irreversible. The two kids that I teach, have loving Russian parents who spare no expense in helping them to learn English. I believe they will turn out to be good human beings. They have a small team of carers to make sure this happens.
These two kids, have three nannies. Yes I said three, in case you thought I had typed the wrong figure. As amazing as it sounds, it's true. I have worked at Oligarch families before here in Moscow but the family I now teach at, are not oligarchs but obviously have cash in the bank to pay for full-time nannies and for me. Both parents run the family business and are busy from dawn to dusk and therefor not at home most of the time. I have written before about Russian nannies but they are a rare and unusual type of woman with their own methods and with their own systems of childcare. I do not claim to know the right way or the wrong way to look after children and we all have are own opinion of how kids should be looked after but these nannies are an interesting subject of species analysis and I have pitched my tent in their environment and study them from the bush, taking notes as I observe their witch like, methods of childcare.
The nannies at the family where I teach at, sleep with the kids and live in, they work on agreed rotational shifts, two are always on 24 hour duty, one for each child. The kids have normal single beds and each night, these nannies squash in with the kids and sleep with them. They are with them all day every day, do the shopping, cook and clean the flat. The windows in the flat are never opened and the stale slaps you in the face when you arrive and could turn milk to cheese. Opening windows, is seen as a deadly sin in Russia. Travel on any overground train in Russia and the windows will all be shut, open them and a train ticket babushka will tut at you and abruptly slam the window shut. Open a window and you will be immediately deported. The other day, I was sitting at the kitchen table teaching one twin and I began to sweat, the flat heating was on full heat and it was a sunny day outside, the flat was like a sauna. I ran to the window and opened it slightly, then one of the nannies rushed to the window and shut it, when I asked why she shut it, she said "the children" and looked terrified as if they would catch the plague or pneumonia, these nannies have built in nipple alarms, that sound when the temperature drops below 35 c. Further to my amazement, one of the twins had woolen tights on his legs, under his trousers inside the hot flat. He split some water on his trouser leg and rolled his trouser leg up and hopped around as if it was acid, this behavior has been caused by over protective nannies. I wounder if he will help his future wife out? Probably not, they will hire a live in nanny or nannies.
I have noticed that Russians love children and even the most stony faced of Russian's, will crack a smile when they see a child. However, these nannies are over protective and wrap the kids up in a protective cotton wool that I am sure does not do them any good later on in their lives. On the positive side, they are often wonderful cooks and will make very tasty classic Russian dishes. Many don't know western foods and will stick to what they know. It is usually high in calories but very tasty. They also make homemade jams and juices from wild berries that are high in vitamins and rich in goodness. These women have an in depth knowledge of plants, berries and herbs that have health benefits. I don't know if this knowledge is passed down from generation to generation or if it is a habit born out of necessity from the old Russia? Maybe they have all attended Hogwarts school of witchery? They know what the different berries are good for, some are good for the blood, some have natural antiseptic properties, some are good for energy, some will make you more beautiful or turn your enemy into a toad. They pick mushrooms in the mushroom season and make very tasty soups. It's amazing for a ignorant westerner like me, to meet people with such a good knowledge of the natural world and of natural medicines. People like me are used to just going to the pharmacy and buying a box of pills or powder to cure a certain medical condition. These treatments are man made, chemical and probably very bad for you. I would prefer to choose natural remedies to chemical remedies if I had the choice and the knowledge that these Russian women have.
These nannies have big hearts but a tough skin, they amaze me, yet slightly scare me. They are like witches who love children. If you get to teach at a Russian family, that has one or more nannies, tread carefully with them, charm them and get them on your side, you would not want one as an enemy. It will be Women's Day tomorrow on the 8th of March and this is a big thing in Russia. Women's day here, is not really a feminist celebration as it used to be but more like Valentines Day and Mothers Day. Men buy flowers and give their women presents and rightly so, they deserve it. In Russia, women don't enjoy the heady rights and equality freedoms, that their sisters do in other countries, Russian men are generally fairly lazy at home and don't help out much, so Women's Day is a good opportunity to show their appreciation for all their hard work. I will be giving these three nannies chocolates when I go back to the family on Friday. They help me with the twins sometimes and I need them on my side, as they say when in Rome or be turned into a frog!
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