In the last two hours, I have heard a two-year-old girl scream at the top of her lungs for 15 minutes straight and then mere moments later hug me and say embarrassedly, “I love you, Pammy”; I have been kicked (hard) in the gut, the ribs, and the boob by a tiny yet strong little dude; and I’ve cleaned up the equivalent of half a can of peaches, a small pancake, and a cup of Cheerios off the floor.
I am glad it’s nap time.
I enjoy my job…most of the time. But there is no denying that caring for children can have its share of headaches, backaches, and brainaches. And since I am busy thinking about all the pros and cons of my job, I figure, hey, let’s put it in writing. And thus we have
The Good, the Bad, and…the HORROR! Oh, the HORROR!…of Nannying
- Innocent Affection: I had been taking care of Edy and Graham for about a month when I first knew I was making an impact on the kiddies’ lives. Their mom informed me that during the weekend (when I don’t work) Edy had awoken in the middle of the night, and after calling for Momma and Daddy for about 10 minutes, she started up with calls of “Pana! Oh, Pana!” Pana meant me. My heart just melted. Days later I got an offer from another family but even though they were offering me a bit more money, I turned them down instantly. I belonged to those babies. I have never looked back. Now that Graham leans out of his mom’s arms towards me, and both of them just light up when I walk in every morning, well, I know I made the right choice sticking around.
- A Walk Down Memory Lane: The first time I pulled Where the Wild Things Are off the shelf to read to Edy before her nap, I started crying–happy, wistful tears– before I even opened the cover. These old favorites of my own childhood just make every day so joyful. I giggle uncontrollably each time I read “My shoe is off, my foot is cold” in Dr. Seuss’ One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. Blowing bubbles outside, I am just as mesmerized by the iridescent orbs floating away over the rooftops as the tots are. And don’t even get me started on old school episodes of Sesame Street. OH MY GOD, do I love Sesame Street.
- Simple Minds: I very much appreciate when creators of children’s programming slip little jokes in here and there for the poor, suffering grown-ups (that’s the #1 sign of a good kids’ show), but now that Edy is in the “Why? Why Why WHY?!” phase, any time I so much as chuckle she demands, “What’s funny?” And then I proceed to try to explain why a book called “The Wonderful World of Concrete” on a particular show tickled my funny bone. It’s impossible. But after my explanation, she always fake-laughs, which is my favorite. I also love her naive little view of the world. She said to me last week, very seriously, “I have nipples. You have nipples, too, Pammy.” And just yesterday I had to try to explain why you can’t unscramble an egg. It can’t be done! It really can’t! But I adore her inquisitive nature.
- Candid Moments: This morning (before the screaming fit) I stood in the corner and watched Edy spin around the the center of the living room singing, “You do the Hokey Hokey and you spin spin spin spin spin spin spin spin spin.” She didn’t know I was there, and she would have gone on forever if I hadn’t interrupted. And little Graham, who’s not so little anymore and getting so smart, has dozens of moments a day that amaze and amuse me. After using loose socks as chew toys for weeks, out of the blue he picked one up, set it on top of his foot, and then clapped. He didn’t need my praise: he knew he had just figured out what that thing is supposed to do and praised himself. It was perfection.
- Constant Motion: An inch fell off my hips after I started this gig. I am on my feet at least seven of my nine hours every day, and that ADDS UP.
- Self-Neglect: On my really hectic days, when Graham won’t nap and Edy won’t eat and everybody is cranky–me especially–I will go six hours before I realize how badly I need to pee. A few times I’ve just forgotten to eat or drink anything all day. Their tininess and their close ages make them quite the handful on even the best days, so on fussy days, well, I won’t get a second to breathe or sip water until nap time…and even then sometimes that doesn’t even happen.
- NO PRIVACY: I have never been able to pee without having one or both of them in the bathroom. NEVER.
- My Poor Clothes: I am forever being covered in drool, spit-up (well, not so much now, but when I started and Graham was two-months-old with acid reflux…you better believe it), carrot and green bean mush, marker (wielded as if it is a sword by a certain little lady), strawberries (they are surprisingly aerodynamic), and formula. Most of the stains have come out…but not all of them.
- The Burn: I poured scalding water on myself one morning. I was making tea for myself, Edy called for me, I turned with the mug of boiling water in my hand, and my hand hit the wall. The water splashed onto my face, my chest, and my stomach, and the mug shattered. I was HURT and I knew it, but I had to put the babies first. I cleaned up the broken mug before Edy could traipse through it, I tried to sooth a shocked, screaming Graham, and put something hypnotizing on TV so Edy would sit still before I had a chance to get cold compresses onto myself. It only took a total of 4 minutes, but with serious burns, literally every second counts. With any other job I would have gone to the doctor, or at least home to care for myself, but there’s no “I” in nanny. So I was in pain, awful pain, all day, and for days and days following. And today, I have a lovely scar that takes up most of my left breast and a couple scars that look more like peculiarly shaped tans on my abdomen. Huzzah.
- “Headstrong and Intelligent”: Have I mentioned Edy is two? Yes, I have, but I need to say it again…SHE’S TWO. Guess what? That “terrible twos” thing? Not a myth. At all. And this two year old, well, on certain days she could be the poster child for what you don’t want. I have seen her slap her father across the face. She’s hit me more times than I can count. When you tell her “no” one too many times, she will get right in your face and hit the highest note she can as loudly as she can. She has sass down to a science. And she’s smart, so tries to work the system. I remember when she told her first lie. It was a few days after she had had the stomach flu, and I had announced that TV time was over. She had spent two days on the couch doing nothing but watch TV, so that was not happening. She screamed “NO NO NO!” and pulled her hand back to hit me, so I grabber her hand and scooped her up to put her in time out. When I set her in her crib and went to leave the room, she hollered, “I’m GONNA THROW UP!” I knew she was lying. I knew it. But I couldn’t risk it. So I carted her back downstairs, where she brightened up and said, “I want a snack.” Little lying brat. She’s trouble, that one. Trouble with a capital “T” that rhymes with “E” that stands for “Eden.” Or “Evil.”
- #2: I don’t want to go here, but I have to go here. Did you know that babies learn very early on that touching themselves is enjoyable? I didn’t. So seeing a little girl hanging out with her hand in her diaper was a bit disconcerting. Turns out, it’s normal. But it also can cause messes. Diaper+hand= Figure it out. I have had a few baaaddddd days when Edy’s hand has acted of its own accord at the very worst time.
- Sleep Wars: First, it was colic. Now it’s downright stubbornness. Graham will not nap for shit. He is one, He should still be sleeping 4 hours during the day. NO. No, he is happy with one 45 minute nap. You wish you could reason with him: “Hey buddy bear, I would give anything to be expected to nap twice a day, everyday. For the love of all that’s drowsy, GO TO SLEEP.” But his rationality hasn’t developed yet. So now it’s just endless singing of “Golden Slumbers” and lots of praying to the Sandman. Oh, lovely, he just started crying. Well, at least today it was a little over an hour.
Sooooo, clearly, being a nanny ain’t the fab life. I do get to use the washer and dryer here, which sorta rules, and I can mooch as much coffee as I want (but I’m not drinking coffee these days so there goes that perk), and, yes, I love the babies. But, sometimes, oh, what wouldn’t I give for a job–any job— where I don’t get rice cereal sneezed all over me. Seriously.