I was recently looking at a picture my sister posted on Facebook of her picking strawberries with the two remarkably sweet girls she nannies for and I thought, “Wow, I wish I got paid to do that! Why am I not a nanny?” And that’s when the suppressed memory flooded back:
It was the summer after my freshman year of college. I was working a dead-end job for a much-loved American restaurant chain that had over-hired, thus resulting in precious few hours for me to work. Then, at the end of summer, I was presented with the opportunity to make a little extra cash to go toward my mounting (if only I knew then!) student loans. My Aunt and Uncle’s neighbors needed a stand-in nanny just for a few days since their normal nanny was a teacher and therefore had to go back to school early to prep. It was only going to be a few days with three kids: a girl at the age of five, a boy at the age of seven, and a girl at the age of nine. I could handle that, right? No big deal that I had zero confidence where caring for children was concerned. I was an adult after all!
So the first day rolled around. I pulled into the driveway at 7:30 AM, ready for a day of simply having some outdoor fun with a few kiddos. I knocked on the door and was ushered inside by a slightly frazzled mother, clearly in a rush to get going. She took me into the kitchen and instructed me that we have an hour of TV time in the morning, the mac and cheese is in the cupboard, and oh here’s twenty bucks to take the kids to the nearby water-park. Have fun!
She dashed out the door and left me to my fate.
One by one the children stumbled their way downstairs, giving me my first glimpse of what I would later discover were really
tiny monsters cloaked in human skin just a wonderful batch of offspring.
They each had their morning routine down pat, sidling up to the kitchen table, pouring their cereal, and eying me with curious expressions. After introducing myself as their nanny for the next few days (cue the eye rolls because clearly it didn’t take a genius to figure that out), we settled down to watch TV.
At this point the clock read 7:40. I was ten minutes in. No one had died yet. My confidence was surging.
As I took a seat in the living room, I was surprised to find the five year old crawling into my lap. “How adorable,” I thought to myself, glad that she already felt so comfortable with me. That’s when I was reminded that five-year-olds have an attention span the size of a peanut. She started fidgeting on the seat, twisting and turning, throwing her body over the arm of the chair. As she dangled precariously off the edge of the seat I thought, “huh, I should probably help her back up so she doesn’t split her head open.” I bent over to ease her back up at the same moment she decided to launch her entire torso upright, the back of her small skull meeting my face with a dull “thunk.”
I blinked a few times, my eyes watering from the pain of the impact, and chastised myself for appearing to be on the verge of crying in the midst of three children looking to me for guidance and protection. (Such noble sentiments, I know.)
After a few minutes of staring at the television with the children, eyes still watering, the oldest turned to me and said, “Why does your eye look so weird?”
That is when I realized that perhaps the small child on my lap was capable of more harm than I gave her seemingly innocuous presence credit for.
“Um… I dunno. Maybe I should go check on it.”
“Yes, you should.” I realized to my chagrin that there had been a serious role reversal here. I had not been expecting that I would be the one in need of care. Alas, so it was.
I headed to the restroom, turned on the light, and was met with a face that looked only half familiar. My right eye was unfortunately swollen and black, lending a thug-like appearance to my normally perfectly respectable-looking face.
My first black eye. At the
hands head of a five year old.
I looked again at the clock. I was only fifteen minutes in.
That was when I first realized that the next few days would not lend themselves to ordinary experiences. This would require grit and stamina as I had never known. This was survival.
The rest of the day was spent literally trying to keep my head above water. I lost both a headband and a pair of sunglasses to the deep clutches of the water park but I was too exhausted to care because I had three not-so-small children hanging off of my torso, clawing at every limb, throttling my neck like a tube of gogurt.
Apparently they didn’t believe in the notion that a body must be able to surface after three minutes of being continually held underwater. You’d think I would have been able to simply push them off, but it was three against one. I was outnumbered.
Due to the oxygen deficiency my brain had suffered for the past four hours, in conjunction with the pounding headache from my black eye, the rest of the day passed in a blur, leaving me comatose on my bed for the duration of the night.
The next day I showed up armed and ready, with harmless craft supplies that would not result in my almost being drowned. Thank goodness.
The mother whisked me into the house again, saying the kids loved me and, “why aren’t you taking off your sunglasses?” and “Oh dear, where did that black eye come from?” Upon my explanation, she simply nodded as though receiving serious injuries from her children was a regular occurrence, and scurried out the door, leaving me with a handful of cash to take the kids to Chucky Cheeses.
Chucky Cheeses went without incidence besides my getting lost in the unknown area for nearly an hour with three kids complaining in the back seat that it’s never taken them this long to get to Chucky Cheeses before. “We’re on an adventure,” I tried. When that didn’t work: “Bad fairies eat children that complain while their nanny is trying to navigate the winding landscape of Eagan’s patchwork of streets!”
Clearly my patience was wearing thin. Not that threats worked anyway. The kids never took me seriously – the disposable nanny that would only be with them for three days. I was like the substitute teacher of the nanny world.
When we got home, they insisted we go for a bike ride, with me riding the bike with the carrier for the five year old hitched on top. How difficult could that be? Very.
After wobbling along at half the pace of the two older children, the bike tilting dangerously toward the ground with every stroke of the pedal, I toppled onto the hard asphalt. Meaning that the five-year-old also toppled onto the hard asphalt. However, being the great, protective nanny that I am, I sacrificed my body under the bike so that the child would meet no harm.
Nonetheless, my confidence was now sucked down an endless void.
“Hey guys!” I called to the older kids who stopped, turned, looked at their fallen comrade with astonished faces, and sent me accusatory glares, “We’re turning around now!”
I walked the bike home.
Day three. Last day. Hallelujah. The entire day went flawlessly. We walked to a local tennis court and played tennis. Did crafts. Ate a picnic. All was well.
With one hour to go before my
freedom!! duties with the children would regrettably be completed, the kids decided it would be fun to join the neighbor kids in their kiddy pool. Awesome. I didn’t have my swimsuit so I would simply be supervising their play.
The kids quickly dawned their suits and then splashed into the pool with the two neighbor kids, their father already outside supervising. A sense of relief washed over me. At least I wouldn’t be the only adult responsible for these children.
After five minutes or so, two more neighbor kids decided to hop in the pool. Ten minutes later, another joined and, a few minutes after that, a couple more crammed into the small pool. I looked around, perplexed, wondering just how many young children lived in this neighborhood and praying that no more came because a) their parents simply dropped them off with a wave and a “thanks for watching them for a while” and b) I was fairly certain the kiddy pool had more than reached maximum capacity.
The children had started growing bored with just splashing around in the shallow water filled with grass from the freshly cut suburban lawns their parents so nicely cultivated, and were demanding further means for entertainment. So naturally, the father decided it would be a great idea to bring out the hose. I nodded, thinking of fond memories of waving the hose around as a child, it’s slow stream of water creating a nice soggy foundation for my footing.
Only wait, the father came out with a fire-grade hose. A fire-grade hose?! Who is this man?! The grim reaper, that’s who. He proceeded to hand it to one of the children, wave at me to have fun, and quickly disappear inside the house so that I was now the only adult left supervising ten children armed with a hose that possessed the kind of power to put out ten foot flames.
Naturally, I was the ten-foot flame in need of putting out in this scenario. And fully clothed, no less, because the kids I was nannying for insisted that “it’s alright. She won’t mind.” (I know, I got played by a bunch of children. What a pushover. Blah blah blah – YOU try it sometime!)
So I spent the next half hour being continuously pummeled by a spray of water that felt like a line of sumo wrestlers were launching their bodies at me one by one. When finally the mother came home, I shut off the hose, shooed the children away, and dragged my dripping body to the front step of the house like a chastised dog, wringing water out along the way.
The children each dashed inside, running upstairs to dry off without even a “goodbye, thanks for being our personal hacky-sack for the past few days!” as the mother shelled out my pay for the day, thanked me, and sent me on my way.
Thus ensued my vow to henceforward avoid nannying as though my life depended on it … because I’m fairly certain that it did.