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Location: Northern California

Read all about the adventures of the Tsao Family during the summer of 2012

Friday, September 30, 2005


The wisdom of a nanny will set you free

Now that Thomas is getting older and less dependent on me for nighttime nursings, I’m able to check out more of what the vibrant literary scene in the Bay Area has to offer. I’m lucky enough to live close to almost all of the locations of "The West’s Oldest Independent bookseller," Books Inc. and I’m really excited to find out that Cody’s Books in Berkeley has just opened a Union Square location in San Francisco. Both of these bookstore chains host author readings, signings, and discussions almost every night of the week. The events are typically free and not too long—perfect for a mom who’s just popping out for a breather.

Tuesday night I caught childcare professionals Kim Nicholson and Justine Walsh talking about their new book Nanny Wisdom at Books Inc. in Burlingame. These two women are no-nonsense nannies trained in the English nanny tradition, which is hugely popular nowadays thanks to TV shows such as Fox’s Nanny 911 and ABC’s Super Nanny.

Nicholson and Walsh have an impressive twenty-seven years of child watching experience between them. They were easy going and personable at the reading, and because there weren’t many people there, it quickly turned into an intimate question and answer session with harried moms in the audience picking their brains for advice on what to do when your son will only poop in a diaper and your three-year-old won’t eat anything that’s green and bites other kids for fun.

The two professional nannies (one currently works for Richard Gere and Carey Lowell and the other currently works for fashion photographer Pamela Hanson) answered each question with solid and sage advice. They obviously care for children and know a lot about taking care of them.

I’m fond of the British nanny tradition because it favors manners, proper eating habits including family mealtimes, discipline, structure, and loving yet firm guidance—things that I think are important to raising happy and well-adjusted kids. Oh, and it encourages plenty of giggles and hugs and play and fun, too. It’s a no-nonsense, common sense approach to child-raising.

I don’t read many child-rearing books these days—preferring instead to read fiction, momoirs, or books about writing—but I bought Nanny Wisdom and so far I’m enjoying it. It’s well-written and contains entertaining stories culled from Nicholson and Walsh’s years of caring for the offspring of both the rich and the working class. It tackles the subjects of sleeping, eating, tantrums, and biting, as well as many other topics that are of interest to those of us whose constant companions are small, willful, and have a tendency to cry at the drop of a pin.

One topic the book does not address is that of toilet training. This was brought up at the signing and they swear they will add their opinions and advice about it on their website ( as soon as they return from their book tour. One thing they did mention (when I asked), was that they favor potty-training at age 2-2.5 for girls and slightly older than 2 for boys. They claim there is a window of opportunity that makes these ages ideal.

Based on their advice, we’re going to start potty-training Emily next week. Mike is all in favor of trying to potty-train her sooner rather than later; I’m the one who needs a couple more days to adjust to this idea and get into the proper mindset. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Blog entries with poo in the title coming soon to a mommy blog near you.

If you enjoy watching nanny TV shows and you believe in—or are curious to know more about—the English nanny tradition of child-raising, you will want to check out Nanny Wisdom. The authors know their stuff and have written a jolly good reference book. They also have a radio show and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see them soon on the telly.

I’m off now to change a nappy. Cheerio!