I really want to get this off my chest. I never thought an 11-year-old girl could make me question so many things about myself. Things like, I like kids. I like nannying. I want kids of my own one day. I am a likeable person.
I have both nannied and worked in retail throughout college. Fed up with my retail job, of all us part timers getting only 10 hours a week at more than $5 per hour less than I got as a nanny, I frustratedly emailed my resume to a posting for a nanny on my school's job board. In 45 minutes I got a call and set up an interview. The next day I interviewed. The next day I was hired. The next week I started. They kids were older--an 11-year-old girl, M, and a 14-year-old boy, C. The parents were wealthy and paid above the going rate, with benefits, for only 15 hours per week. My last nanny job was with one 13-year-old boy. He was great, and I hoped to have a relationship like that with these kids. This was such a blessing to my frustrating work rut I was in.
The situation started out rocky. I know 11 years is a hard age, so I was sensitive to the fact that the parents told me M didn't have many friends and I should set up play dates for her with a few kids. Whatever, we all have rough patches in life. I'm sure this kid was fine enough. My first week was hell and I soon realized this household was ruled with an iron fist by the 11-year-old girl. After a week of her running away from me and making us late to C's karate practice every.single.day. I told her parents we needed to meet about her behavior. We met the next day and I expressed my concern. They were open and sympathetic and said M had a hard time "adjusting". I told them I was having a hard time meeting their expectations of "bonding" with her, because I did not want to do her a disservice by showing her it was okay to treat people poorly and they would continue to want to be friends. The parents nodded as if they understood. At the end of the meeting, I asked if we could call the girl in to explain to her that I was in charge, here to stay, and to know all the adults were on the same page about this. M, who had been listening outside the door the entire time ran up to her room. Her parents STOOD at the bottom of the stairs and called her down. She said "NOOOOll!!! I HATE YOU!!! I HATE YOU, MOM, DAD AND [MY NAME]" they told me I could leave, she was having a hard night. I should have quit then, but I still thought this would blow over and the kid would regress. I thought I could stick it out because of the pay. What kind of kid can really be this nasty to her core? And what kind of parents did not go upstairs, grab the kid by her wrist, pull her down and MAKE her sit on the couch and listen?
The thing about this kid was that she really had no friends and everything was revolving around that fact. Her parents wanted to be sensitive to her self-esteem. They didn't want to ever punish her too harshly... because she felt bad about herself enough as it is. Makes perfect sense, I know. At school, M was the kid that sucked up to the adults, but all the other students hated. She wanted to be not only her teacher's pet, but EVERY single teacher's pet. She had a list of all their birthdays and would make them cards, even if she barely knew them. If a song was on the radio that was playing bleeped out swear words, she would tell me "this is INAPPROPRIATE! CHANGE IT OR I'LL TELL MY MOM WE'RE LISTENING TO MUSIC WITH SWEARING IN IT." The parents and I had regular talks. In each of them, they told me exactly what I wanted to hear, but nothing ever changed. The most "punishment" they ever gave the kid was taking away her iPod for one day at a time. This family's emotional regulation and power dynamics were some of the most screwed up I have ever witnessed.
Every day the girl would say something rude. "Your butt looks big" "Stop talking about your classes, it's really annoying." C would thank me for making him a snack and she would say "Don't thank her, it's her JOB!!" She would come up to me while I was doing homework and say "Come play with me, you HAVE to play with me!!!" I would tell her no, not when she asked like that and she would call her mother and tell her I was "refusing to play with her so I could do my homework". After a while I'd just start ignoring her. I'd pick her up and say hi, but there was no conversation except for her malicious comments. Why did I think it would go away? How did I not realize it would not stop after 4 months? 6 months? Why did it take me 9 months?? I never condoned physical punishment until I met this girl. What this girl needed was to be slapped across the face by her parents every time she said something blatantly rude. I don't think it would continue. However, the parents worked to appease her. She knew she had no boundaries and she pushed them FURTHER. Meanwhile, the mom was constantly giving me the list of her classmate's phone numbers so I could set up play dates for her. She'd scream at me and say "I'll just call them back and say I'm not coming!!!" I was torn. I did it from time to time, as it was her mother's #1 expectation of me -- to get her kid some friends -- but sometimes it was just unbearable. The other parents knew their kid didn't like the girl. When I called to ask they would say "It's a really hectic next two weeks for us, I'll give you a call after that!" but they never did. My employers were a slave to this girl's "self esteem". I'd tell them I called but no kids were available and I hated seeing the pain on their face. They didn't want to "damage" her. They were too afraid to be assertive with her. It didn't matter what her behavior was. They wanted to make her happy because she was not liked by her classmates.
The only person who seemed to see the situation for what it was was the brother, C. C was fairly normal, considering the circumstances. He was 14, but he knew not to behave like that or take advantage of his parents. I loved the 15 minutes alone in the car taking C to his activities. He'd vent to me about his sister. About how she'd kick and slap and scream at her parents at 11-years-old and they wouldn't do anything. I really felt for him, and told him to see the situation for what it was, and that it was not good, but other than that, what could anyone do? I stayed with this family for 9 months, before I reached my wit's end. The week before I quit, I drove this girl and one of her teammates to soccer practice. Neither girl spoke to each other. M told me to "be quiet" when I talked to her. The girls ate a snack in my backseat and left crumbs all over. The next day I teased M about the mess. She said, "My friend left that, I'm going to call her and tell her you're mad!!" I just looked at her. She picked up the phone and called the girl, "Hi A, my nanny is mad you left crumbs in her back seat yesterday." I just stared at her. When she hung up I said, "M, A is not your friend. You don't have any friends because you treat everyone around you like that. It is my sincere hope for you that one day you'll figure it out. You are a sad and lonely kid and people do not like you because of how you act. Even the teachers, who you try so hard to be their pets, see you for how you truly are and they aren't fooled either." She screamed and called her mom, and her mom never discussed the incident with me.
The next day I put in a week's notice. I remembered how happy I was before I took this job. I was under stress from both school and work, but now I was under stress, having muscle spasms in my back, trouble sleeping - insomnia and nightmares when I worked the next day, crying before and after work, feeling depressed enough to talk to a doctor about it. I went to the gym 6 days a week instead of 3-4 because this kid called me fat. She said my butt was big and my stomach had rolls. And I did this for NINE months? WHAT was I thinking?? I just couldn't stand this abuse from an 11-year-old and now I understood why they paid so high above the market rate.
Looking back, I should have done so many things differently. But the cycle was - kid would act up, I'd tell the parents, they'd tell me what I wanted to hear, I regained confidence that things would be different, nothing changed. Repeat. Every goddamn day. I should have been better. I should have quit. I know. I was under pressure. The pay was good, I needed money for an upcoming surgery I had scheduled that summer. Maybe I shouldn't have said that to her. I should have been strong enough to not let a child affect me so deeply that I still question if I'm a likeable person and if I am a good nanny. I should have looked harder for a new job. All these things I see now. My last day there was the happiest of my life. I sat on the trampoline with C and listened to him vent and cry about his family. He said he was sad to see me go. I told him he could call me if he ever needed anything, but I couldn't continue this. I liked nannying and I like being with kids who like me. Even now, I get a rush of joy when I remind myself I'll never see that kid again I still just can't believe the parents let their child act like this. They neither supported me, nor directly opposed her. They were just neutral witnesses. Successful professionals that were voluntary slaves in their own house.
Reading these words now, it just sounds surreal. No way a child could be this bad. No way I, an otherwise competent person and nanny with great references, could actually be reduced to this. Now, in interviews, I am much more assertive with my expectations of support from parents, but I still don't know how to feel about the situation. Maybe I am a bad nanny. A weak person. A fat girl with a big butt that listens to the edited version of songs with swear words in them. This was over a year ago and I still am so unsettled. I hope to post it here and get some feedback. Support, criticism. Whatever. My friends aren't nannies, and they don't understand. I feel I should really go to counseling about this, it just shook me up so badly.