It started with Nanny X. I thought she was it. The one. Tops.
That swingy pony tail. Those pie eyes. That earnest, can-do attitude.
Scam. Scam. Scam.
Nanny X phoned me at work while I was pumping for my baby in a basement room of my workplace.
Ugh that noise. That shhzz shhzz shzz shzz. I’m a fucking milking cow shhzz shhzz shzzz. State fair prize winner shzz shzz shzz. Kill me now shzz shzz shzz shzz shzz shzz.
“Your daughter has white spots on her head. I think it’s lice.”
Call to my editor.
Bad reception. Basement. Schzz shzz shzz shzz.
“I have to go home. Daughter has lice”
“Liiiice. LIIIIICE!!! For the love of God don’t spread the word!!!”
Google. Mayonaisse kills lice. ‘Super Market Sweep’ esque run to Wal-Mart. Six jars of mayo.
Run to Starbucks. My god I exposed her to lice. She needs an iced grande latte! To the bank! Paying her in cash. Giving bonus! Scrape side of vehicle on bolts jutting out in ATM line.
Did I mention it was Laila’s birthday? Did I mention she didn’t have lice?
She wanted to quit, so she called me at work, on my daughter’s birthday, and lied about lice. She left early and went to a wedding. I sent her a text.
“YEP she has lice. Try not to spread it to the bride.”
And so began my nanny journey. There were six, total, in roughly two years, four months, that my son and daughter needed childcare.
A middle class family who desires a nanny is $%^&$%. That’s code for fucked.
I don’t think that’s right.
It’s not even the lack of reliability found in people that’s the slayer (lots of people are full of $%^&, I’ve learned!) It’s the price! Holy hell, the price! We’ve gone weeks without a trip to the grocer. I’ve coasted down hills trying to save gas and praying I’d make it to work and back ’til pay day.
Yet, I have to admit, even our years-long tour de nanny has been one of those things that *possibly* made me better, or crazier, or better. I reached deep (into our pockets). I worked harder. I waited tables at a restaurant. A journo friend took pity on me and told me to start pitching to his contact at an international outlet, so I did. We wanted to preserve Eli’s lungs, if only for a little bit. I sought out bigger bylines for the cash, for my kid. I worked when I didn’t want to because I want the best for my son.
After Nanny X, Nanny L came into play. She was our savior. An angel. Until she wasn’t.
So engaged, she was, with my children. Until she wasn’t.
She was tiny and came with size XL drama.
She arrived one day in shorts; her legs were covered in bruises. She was going through a divorce. Sounded messy. I worried about her bruises. I referred her to every woman’s service I could. I hooked her up with a stellar divorce lawyer who takes on pro bono clients in poor financial circumstance.
Nanny L moved in with her mother, a grade-A drunk. Nanny L toted her Al-Anon materials to my house.
I asked Nanny L if her estranged husband knew where my house was.
One day Mark came home unannounced at lunch.
A woman we didn’t know stood with Nanny L in my kitchen. Nanny L had little to say, other than she needed to go to the bank.
So – what, was this stranger about to watch my kids while you ran my errand?
I fired Nanny L’s ass on the spot.
The empathy well only runs so deep.
Then came Nanny B. LOVED Nanny B. Begged her to stay. Mary Poppins’-esque.
But she didn’t want to work full-time. And she wanted to work closer to home. And we couldn’t pay her enough.
Like nannies before her and nannies since, she was searching for something. A purpose. To better herself, some how. Maybe this was it, caring for children. She wanted to be a mother.
Two weeks later, she left.
I call her periodically. She and her husband had a baby. The baby is everything she ever wanted.
Along came Nanny – I can’t even remember her name – I’ll call her Nanny Z
On a try-out, I stayed at home to see how she did with my son. I liked her. She was a psychology graduate student who seemed to be an above-average together person.
At lunch, Eli wandered around like a tiny drunk as tots do while she looked at her phone and ate noodles.
Then came Nanny S.
Nanny S – Nanny S reads this blog – you are the best!
Nanny S made me wanna pick up my game.
She made it through college debt-free by living at home and taking her sweet time.
Before she worked for us, she had worked for a wealthy family. They were terrible, btw, the wealthy family, to each other and to the children. With them she traveled all over the world. They didn’t respect her time, though. She was trying to finish college.
The young women who work for us are on the way to something greater.
I do respect that.
Nanny S graduated and got a job with good health insurance.
Along came Nanny M.
She stayed with use the longest.
One day over the winter, Eli lay in his crib. Every muscle in his body tensed. He couldn’t breathe.
On a hunch, Nanny M checked on Eli. She thought he’d been sleeping too long.
She started CPR, which didn’t help. She picked him up and pounded on his back.
She called me.
He started breathing again in a labored sort of way.
We raced Eli to the ER.
We still don’t understand what happened, other than Eli’s lungs are different. He has a disease, cystic fibrosis. He had severe cold virus — #$%^$%^& coronavirus, cousin of SARS (!) — and his airways were not OK for a hot minute that terrified us.
We did not have a bronchodilator on hand as he strained to breathe, the muscles in his neck flexing so hard you could make out tendons and fiber. We hadn’t gotten the memo that we should, always, have one a bronchodilator on hand. Albuterol is what we use now. It’s the same medication used by asthmatics to open the airways.
Nanny M stayed with us for almost two years.
Our working relationship wasn’t always perfect, but what long-term relationship is? I remember how she calmly handled that episode, the time Eli stopped breathing. I remember her concern and love for my children. How she painted my daughter’s nails with hot pink and then sparkles and together they listened to top 40. Nanny M. washed her hands every time she walked through the door to kill germs that could hurt my little boy’s lungs.
Like those before her, she was going somewhere.
The time today came to say goodbye.
I gave her a hug this morning and said “Don’t give up, OK? Gotta run now ’cause I’m going to cry.”
Eli leaves his bubble on Monday. He’s going to a little day care in a church. He’s ready and we’re ready.
Laila wasn’t really ready. She spent tonight wailing “I miss M.! I want M. to live with us! I love M.!”
We called M. to assure Laila she’d be back to babysit, but this didn’t calm Laila down.
“M.! She’s in my heart!” Laila wailed. “I miss her I miss her!”
Out of nowhere she stopped and ask Mark if he liked Ninja Turtles.
“Just wondering,” she said.
Then she continued: “M.! I love M.!”
She cried herself to sleep.
Thank you, in particular thank you Nanny S and Nanny M, for helping Mark, me and the littles navigate the unknown in some of the most topsy-turvy years we’ve ever known.
We couldn’t have done it with out you.