Saturday, March 27, 2010

Nanny Diaries


Babysitting is a pretty common experience. Most people, at least most girls, have babysat at some time or other and everyone with kids has employed a babysitter. I feel like it's one of those things that is so much more often terrible in real time and hilarious in retrospect that it lends itself pretty well to story telling and movie scenarios. Even though my days of ordinary babysitting are long long behind me I'm sometimes still plagued by memories of the terror of the parents returning home to the overwhelming smell of burnt popcorn, broken dishes, children out of bed or hurt, dead pets and other such horrors. Of course it's rarely as bad as most movies where demon children lock their babysitters out, call 911, run away, completely trash or burn down the house etc(or absolutely WORST case scenario, of Hide and Seek, the dad and/or kid is a murderous schizophrenic/demon possessed lunatic). All that to say, living as a perpetual babysitter who pretty much only associates with kids, parents, or other perpetual babysitters, I've not only lived some real doozies but I have several meetings a week with fellow martyrs where the sole activity is sharing such stories. It goes like this:

"My kids are monsters, when I ask the 14 year old how her day was she just flips me off."

"I know this one au pair who's dads* best friend sends her flowers and love letters."

"I gave a six week notice and they told me they no longer trusted me with their kids and kicked me out."--this one was around Christmas, she'd been working for them for 3 months by this time.

"I had to go home Sunday afternoon to make a sandwich for my dad."

"I had to stay home from Stockholm because my parents didn't get back form their dinner until one."

"My baby sleeps in my room so I have to take care of her when she wakes up in the night."

Just so you know, those are all true.

But....uh, yeah, my life here is pretty easy. I have a room and a bathroom with a real shower and bath and most of everyday free. There are real downsides to the things but if you are going to sign yourself into partial slavery you would pick the more comfy slavery and thats what I've got.

Thursday was a pretty dreary day so I didn't go out. It rained all morning a little inthe afternoon but by 4 o'clock, it was clear and sunny so I thought we'd go to the park after school. Jade hurt her knee a couple of weeks ago so she's been on crutches. She gets tired quickly on the five block walk between the house and school so I bring her scooter and she stands on it while I pull her along and carry her crutches and back pack. Sometimes as I'm doing this I feel like the kind of mom I don't want to be, the frazzled kind.

So I went to get them, carrying the scooter and snack for them both as well as some knitting for the park. We managed to make the two extra blocks to the park and while the kids played I sat in the midst of nounous(nannies, usually a very international crowd) and au pairs and the odd parent(not many moms bring their own children to the park in the privileged suburb of Neuilly). The sun had come out but as if began to disapear the wind picked up and thought we better head home. I picked up all the snack trash and stuffed it in my bag, I got the crutches and Jade hopped on her scooter and off we went. It started to sprinkle in the robust spring fashion. By this I mean that there was thunder and the few but massive rain drops were drilled into our hair, faces an clothing by high speed wind. As we reached the block with no shops on it, the longest block, the block where we live I realized that I'd left Jades back pack in the park, a good six blocks behind us. Just then we were sprung by a sudden torrential downpour. The kids began running and screaming(this wasn't the first time i doubted the legitamacy of jades injury). I was behind them with everyones stuff, sans backack. It was about this time that I began to have a pretty serious feminine emergency. We were nearing half way point on the block when I realized the rain seemed to pack quite a like of force. It wasn't just rain, guess what they have some real hail in France. When we made it into the lobby Jade was in hysterics clutching her...forehead. The hail, rain and everything was hitting us in the face and we were all completely soaked to the bone.

When we got into the apartment Jade started hyperventilating about the backpack and said she was fainting several times. I had no real choice but to leave them both there with instructions to change tout de suite and run back to the park. By this time(approximately thirty seconds later) the sun was out and everyone on the street seemed to have time traveled past the storm because every person I past tut tutted me and my dripping hair and clothes. When I arrived at the park it was not just deserted it was backpackless. I walked around for a few minutes keenly aware of the hysterical seven year old twins I'd left alone. I asked a few concessions stands, no one had seen it. I hoped there was some name on it and walked back to the house. When I got in I followed the puddles to the kitchen where I found Noe standing in the middle of the kitchen floor with a broom and a large towel and no clothes on. "You're going to be really disappointed," he said, referring to the muddy foot prints. "Go get dressed," I said.

About five minutes later another nounou called. They'd picked up the back pack. I waited a minute for Agathe to get back before leaving, agonzing over leaving all three of them there without supervision. I walked six or so blocks to the apartment, got the backpack and took a new route ho,me in order to avoid passing the same street for the sixth time that day, especially since I was still dripping.

And as a side note, you know when you have some really cheap shoes and they stink wierd, especially when wet? The ones that are still drying on the radiator have redefined foot odor for me. This isn't foot odor, it's shoe odor but I'm really not liking it.

And uh, London was great, more on that later.


*More often than not we refer to our family as if we simultaneously filled all roles(believe me, this is not unlikely). So each of us call the children, our children, the mom, our mom, the dad, our dad, etc.

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