Rebecca Nelson Lubin
It was on the trip to Hawaii, the third morning in, when herding the three children out the door at 6am to hit the breakfast buffet that it happened. Now, in my defense, well, it was 6am, and in the hour that we had all been awake waiting for it to be late enough to leave the villa there had been an unusual amount of arguing amongst the two boys, and my patience was thin and I had not had nearly enough caffeine. As we pushed through the door with the jogger stroller packed with one Girl Baby and one huge diaper bag our process was slowed by the two big brothers wrestling over who would push their baby sister. They continued to jostle down the hallway to the elevator, pushing and shoving at each other and hurling insults until, fed up and horribly jet lagged spun tired I found myself shouting the following sentence:
“Oh my God, will you STOP BITCHING ABOUT THE STROLLER!”
My words were met by with complete stunned silence. I actually thought, “Did I really just say that out loud?” I looked at the children. The four year old looked confused that I had spoken in a register above my usual soft whispering tone. (I’ve been told I possess a “Baby Voice”.) The ten year old looked delighted at the possibility of getting me into trouble for unsavory language. I thought briefly about holding my head high and saying, “Yeah. I said that. Now fall in.”
Instead I asked, “Who wants to push the elevator button?” brightly, and vowed that once out of the villa, our first stop would be the espresso bar for a triple shot Americana for the tired nanny.
When we settled into our table, laden with buffet items and a fresh, hot, caffeine filled beverage for me, the ten year old really lit into me.
“You are in sooooooo much trouble!” He lauded.
“Nah, I’m not.”
“I’m sooooooo telling!” He said, rubbing his hands together in glee. “What would you give me not to tell?”
“Go ahead and tell,” I said, and reached into my bag for my phone, “in fact, I’ll tell first.”
I texted my mom boss the following message: “Super Nanny just yelled at children not to bitch about stroller. Bring u back some bacon?”
Her response? “Hahahahahahahahahaha. Yes on bacon.”
Okay. Yes. We as Nannies should not yell OR swear at our charges. We should endeavor in every way to maintain a sense of dignity and decorum in our relationships to the little monkeys. Even when jetlagged, even when premenstrual, even when going through a hideous breakup. As professional nannies, I believe we’re supposed to remain kind and even in all situations. Or something like that.
But I wonder. How many bad nannies sighting on this board are just sightings of a good nanny having a bad day? It happens to the best of us. It even happens to the parents on occasion.
As research for this week’s column, I polled several parents about their more colorful outbursts towards their children. We shall call it “Shit we shouldna have said.”
A relative of mine who shall remain nameless, once shouted at her daughter while on the phone with me, “Stop fighting with your sister or I’m taking all your candy and giving it to some other child!”
Last Saturday I went on a wine tour in Sonoma. One of my tour mates was a good friend who has two small boys. She confessed that she will sometimes let loose obscenities at stupid drivers while in the car with her children and cover up her foul language by insisting, “No! Mommy just said FORKLIFT!”
One of my oldest nanny clients couldn’t get his five year old into the car. He meant to say, “Get in the car child, or I will take away all your toys.” He actually yelled, “Get in the car child, or I will take away all your clothes!” He feared for quite a long time that he had surely sent his son into years of therapy. Said child is now 22 years old and doing just fine, and not, as his father feared, lugging a suitcase with a fresh change of clothes everywhere with him.
My own sainted mother, when pushed too far in my childhood, was sure to explode with the following statement, at full volume:
“Cut the crap right now! It’s not funny and it’s not cute! Seriously! Cut that shit out now!”
Truthfully, my brothers and I used to laugh at this sort of outburst. My older brother could even pantomime a scissor cutting motion at the back of his pants, which would result in me laughing, which resulted in further fury from my mother.
But seriously, the innocence of childhood only last so long. They learn swear words on their own so young. Sierra and I still joke about the time I was driving her and her older sister Willow to school. Willow was whispering some newly acquired vocabulary into Sierra’s ear. Sierra screeched, “Beach? That’s a swear word? I say beach all the time!”
“Son of a beach!” she will text me now, at seventeen, “Having a bad day.”
I suppose that is how I will sum up my own outburst in Hawaii. I was having a bad day.
When we returned from breakfast, the ten year old was still intent on selling me out.
“Did you hear what Rebecca said?” he asked his parents, delighted.
“We did,” said my mom boss, “and we agree with her, you guys were totally bitching about the stroller.”
Rebecca Nelson Lubin is a writer and Nanny who resides in the San Francisco Bay Area. You may read more of her articles at http://www.abandofwives.ning.com/