Introduction: Cop and a Half
I've always wanted to be a Hollywood cop. I think Hollywood cops have it pretty good. They sleep in until 10, have a leisurely breakfast and do about an hour's worth of work with their partners, who always resemble supermodels. When their cases or their lives become too much, they spend the day sitting on a pristine beach, reflecting on their lives.
Even their telephone etiquette is cool. They don't answer the phone like you or me. If their phones ring, they'll snatch them up and yell, "Yeah!" or "Parker here!" or--my favorite--"Talk to me!"
Of course, Hollywood cops reside in an alternate universe. In reality, a cop's job is much less glamorous. A more typical call-out in Cops involves interviewing some speed freak standing in his driveway, sans pants, swearing he didn't steal his 12-year-old neighbor's skateboard to sell and make a few extra bucks.
I prefer Hollywood fantasy, where the most aggravating thing a cop faces seems to be questions surrounding the almighty "jurisdiction." Part of the job description of the Hollywood LAPD or Hollywood NYPD involves telling those no-good federal agents "I have jurisdiction!" or "This is our jurisdiction, pal!"
Cops only say this in Hollywood productions, I suppose, or else law enforcement officer Bill Bailey would have told Supernanny Jo Frost this many times over in the Supernanny episode that aired Feb. 24.
Meet the Baileys--Not as Smooth as the Drink
Here come the Baileys: Stacie works weekdays, and Bill, a peace officer, works nights and weekends, like my long distance plan. Here are their two children: Jadyn, 6, and Billy, 2.
Jadyn is a sulky one and does typically teenage things, like talk back to her parents. Billy has the tendency to fly off the handle and throw tantrums for no discernible reason, like my crazy ex-girlfriends.
Stacie admits to being more "tolerant" of her children's outbursts, which is probably why they've descended to this point. Stacie says that the children "drain" her.
I don't know why the ABC TV people think it's entertaining to get the parents' first reactions to Jo, but they do, and they always capture the mother and father's impressions.
On meeting Jo, Stacie says that Jo doesn't fit her "conception of what a British nanny should look like." What do British nannies look like, Stacie? Angela Lansbury? Robin Williams in drag?
Jo is attractive, and so what if she's carrying a little junk in the Mini Cooper trunk. But imagine if Stacie and Bill had applied for Nanny 911, and Hot Young Nanny Yvonne had shown up.
Jo assures the Baileys that she'll find a solution for them all. Bill and Stacie just stand there and stare at Jo. All-around, I'd say that's a pretty auspicious start.
Too bad it won't last.
Don't Make Billy Angry: You Wouldn't Like Him When He's Angry
As always, Jo spends the first day observing the Baileys without offering guidance and without commenting on what she sees.
Jo watches Stacie play blocks with Billy. Who knows what triggered Billy's tantrum, but he tosses his blocks across the room.
Stacie tries to give Billy a time-out, but he refuses.
Jo tells the camera that when a child is told nicely to go to his or her room and play and then told to go to his or her room as punishment, that creates confusion about the role of that room.
Next, Jo watches as Jadyn goes down for a nap. When she refuses to sleep in her own bed, she's allowed to sleep in a child-size foldout couch in the hallway outside her bedroom.
(I sleep on the same kind of thing if I'm given a "naughty corner" time-out, myself.)
The Baileys call this Jadyn's "extra bed." Jo heartily approves of the extra bed and has never seen a more effective method of child-rearing.
Still With Me?
Jo? Approving of the "extra bed"? Hell, no! I'm just kidding.
Jo is horrified by the extra bed, of course, and asks "Don't pets sleep in the hallway?" I don't know about Jo's pets, but my dogs sleep on a four-poster bed with a goose down comforter, covered with a handmade quilt and electric blanket.
The kids both "nap" for three hours, get up and get a snack even while Bill's preparing dinner. Jo thinks a three-hour nap is too long, but I disagree. Get up, play, take a three-hour nap, eat a snack before dinner, eat dinner, play a video game, be in bed by 7:30? Sounds like the perfect day to me.
At dinner, Billy sits in a high chair, apart from the other adults. "He's not a baby," Jo observes, and shouldn't be in a high chair.
Jadyn jumps on Billy's bed while Stacie tries to put him down for the night, and when Stacie tells Jadyn to stop, Jadyn snaps back with a load of attitude. Jo says, "She's very, very rude, and I find that very disrespectful."
Of course, Billy and Jadyn continue to get out of bed. Stacie let Jadyn sleep with her until Jadyn was four and thinks that contributed to Jadyn's sleeping problems. Finally, Jadyn goes to sleep in the extra bed.
Stacie is anxious to hear what Jo has to say at the parents meeting. (Well, remember, Stacie, you asked for it.)
Jo starts by telling the Baileys that the house is fantastic, the family is fun and the kids are beautiful.
So much for the pros. Here are the cons: The routine is not consistent. Naptime is overly long. The kids lack discipline.
"Your child treats you in a way that's despicable," Jo tells Stacie.
Bill is riled.
We don't accept their behavior, he responds, we're looking for an answer to solve those problems.
"Right now, your tact is way off," he growls. "You want to talk about respect? People don't come into my house and talk the way you just did."
Jo nods at Bill's rebuke but comes back. She's honest and doesn't mince words, Jo replies. And in her experience, honesty and directness are the best ways to cope.
Jo then redirects the line of conversation and asks if they're ready for some hard work.
"Okay..." Bill grudgingly replies.
Nice to see how well that went.
The Journey of a Thousand Time-Outs Begins with a Single Step
When Jo returns the next day, she notices the Baileys are still defensive. She's just glad that the Baileys allowed her back in the house, Jo laughs.
Jo seems a little pensive herself, of course. She asks permission before putting up the hand-written schedule she's prepared for the Baileys.
I have to give it to Stacie. Stacie acts like a real trooper by studying the routine carefully and asking questions when she doesn't understand.
She wants the naptime issue clarified, and Jo confirms that, yes, the children should only nap for 1 1/2 hours.
It goes without saying, Jo adds, that they'll be expected to be on their best behavior, which means no backtalk, biting or hitting.
Jo then introduces the concept of the "naughty step" for Billy. If Billy acts out, he should be told to stop. The Baileys should crouch down to Billy's level to speak to him. If he continues, on the naughty step he goes.
The "naughty step" means that Billy is required to sit on the bottom of the stairs for two minutes.
Stacie has a few questions about the naughty step, and Jo replies that it's okay if Billy throws a tantrum on the naughty step, as long as he stays on the naughty step.
For Jadyn, it's the naughty room. Jadyn is too old for a traditional time-out, so she gets the naughty room. Jo converts the guest bedroom into the "naughty room" because it's boring and lacks stimulation, like a television or video games.
(It all goes back to Jo's assertion that sending children to their room is no punishment at all since they possess all those toys and games in their rooms.)
Naughty Step: Take One
When Billy misbehaves during playtime, Jo puts Billy on the naughty step. He conforms, which surprises Stacie. Bill is also surprised, admitting that at first, he was skeptical Jo's methods would work.
When Jadyn gives her mother a dirty look and slams her bedroom door in Stacie's face, Jo prods Stacie to go after Jadyn, explain why her behavior was wrong, and place her in the naughty room.
When Jadyn refuses to answer her mother's questions about why she misbehaved, Stacie places Jadyn in the naughty room. After six minutes (one minute of time-out for every year in age), Stacie enters the naughty room, explains why Jadyn's behavior was inappropriate, and coaxes an apology from Jadyn.
At dinnertime, Jo sets up a booster seat for Billy, doing away with the high chair. Bill admits to being "really nervous" about the booster seat, but it goes very well. Jo tells the Baileys that Billy needs a lot of positive reinforcement for his first time in the booster chair, but Jo is the only one clapping for Billy and squealing, "Yay, Billy! Yay!"
Enjoy sitting at the adults' table while you can, kid, because every Christmas and Thanksgiving until you're 35, you'll be sitting at the kids' table like the rest of us.
"Billy behaved, and I was wrong," Bill admits.
Extra Bed, How Can I Live Without You? I Want to Know...
The big changes don't stop there. Jo proposes doing away with Jadyn's extra bed. That's when the tears come. While Stacie comforts Jadyn, Jo admits that Jadyn's tears made her very emotional, as well.
Bill is nervous about doing away with the extra bed because he knows it gives his daughter "comfort" to have it. Well, Bill, if children were allowed to hold on to everything that gives them comfort, I'd still have Checky, my red and navy blanket and Sunny, my little stuffed cat.
And thank goodness my mother was so permissive, because I think Checky looks good thrown on the back of my office chair, and Sunny gets to sit on the shelf in my office and watch over everything I do.
"What do you think I should do, Sunny?" I sometimes say out loud in my office. "My boss thinks we don't need to include those figures in this month's report to Headquarters, but I told him that I'm not going down for corporate dishonesty, yes I did, Sunny. What's that, Sunny? Go with my gut feeling...?"
I'm sorry. Where were we?
So Jadyn's bed is gone, and she goes to bed without too much hoo-hah.
"Jo is a god!" Stacie says.
If the Children Have Abandonment Issues, It's All Jo's Fault
Now, as always, it's time for Jo to "go away" for a little while to see how the Baileys do on their own and whether Jo's guidance works without her constant presence. Jo wants to see fewer tantrums from Billy and less attitude from Jadyn upon her return.
Jo views a DVD of Stacy, Billy and Jadyn playing; Jady and Billy get into a fight. Jadyn throws a piano at Billy, and Billy grabs a stuffed snake and starts shaking it. (Hey, it's just like a Guns 'n Roses reunion concert!)
Stacie sends Jadyn to the naughty room and coaxes an apology out of her, much to Jo's delight.
But when Billy disobeys after his parents tell him to put away his toys ahead of dinner, Billy is sent to the naughty step. He refuses to stay put on the naughty step, and Big Bill gives him a smack on the leg.
"I need to get back there," Jo says.
Jo shows the footage to the Baileys. In the first instance, they're all spending time together. It's a nice domestic picture...until we realize they're playing in Jadyn's naughty room, going against everything Jo said about the naughty room needing to be as dull as possible for Jadyn's sake.
Bill agrees to move the TV and video games out of the naughty room.
Next, Jo points out that the naughty step/naughty room threat should not be used on the children, even if they're being grumpy. They have a right to express how they feel, Jo explains, and that's not cause for time-out.
Finally, Jo corrects their technique and reminds them to get down to the children's level and explain why their behavior is wrong.
"I don't want him [Billy] to think a smack is necessary" to get him to obey the time-out, Jo says.
Jo spends time over the next few days reinforcing what she's taught to Bill and Stacie.
Jadyn doesn't like the naughty room and begins to shape up quickly.
Jo observes Bill getting down to Billy's level and telling him why it's not okay to overturn his dinnerplate at the table. When Jo compliments Bill on his technique, he replies, "I learned from the best." (A little kissing up never hurt nobody, right, Bill?)
Bill explains that the first day he met Jo, he wrote his wife a note: "She [Jo] is full of [expletive]."
Bill admits that Jo's way is working. Bill feels he owes Jo an apology.
Nannies Don't Shake Hands! Nannies Hug!
It's time for Jo to tell the Baileys goodbye. She offers to shake hands with Bill, who turns the handshake into a hug. When she goes to tell little Billy goodbye, he turns away, leading Stacie to tell Jo that Billy is upset she's leaving.
"Without Jo, it's like being on your own for the first time," Stacie smiles.
"You pray to God you do right by your kids," Bill adds, and says he hopes to be "a better parent than yesterday, I hope I'm a better parent tomorrow than I am today."
It's a nice thought and something to ponder...
...that's ruined by the final shots of Stacie proclaiming, "I like being a mom...[children screaming] most of the time..." and Billy rubbing a dirty spoon on the camera lens.
Bizarre. Unnecessary. And not a little weird.