|Illustration by Sandi Fitzgerald|
I'd like to say I look back with pride and comfort on my year of nannying. I don't. I hate to think about it because I was a terrible nanny and not a very good human being during that time. What affects me most is that the family I went to nanny for wanted to believe the best and gave me a second and a third chance.
I was never malicious or mean, but I was reckless, thoughtless and self centered. I used the $700 cash a week I made per week to explore the city and shop, only I didn't wait for the weekends. I took the three year old boy with me on many trips that weren't good ideas. They weren't good ideas not because I was visiting drug dens but because I didn't know my way around. I would get lost. I would be late. I would have to lie about why I was late picking up the sister. I used the three year old to help me proffer these lies.
When the five year old was home from school, I would lock us all in the basement playroom and fall asleep for hours in the middle of the floor. I left dunkables, oreos and juice boxes lined up on the art table.
I was tasked with helping potty train the three year old, but it didn't fit with my plans. I would put him in a diaper, even bought diapers on my own dollar so the parents wouldn't notice the supply dwindling.
When the parents traveled together, I was left in charge of the home. Fortunately, this only happened a few times. I would give the children Benadryl right after dinner, regardless of the season and let them fall asleep much earlier than needed, even in their street clothes.
My social network was largely inclusive of people I had met online. I would invite these people over to my employers home and fete them with chips,beer and wine while the children slepts soundly upstairs. One time, my employer came to me delicately, and told me she wasn't accusing me, but she couldn't find a pair of diamond earings and two bracelets. I told her truthfully that I didn't know about it, didn't take it and would never. But in my heart, I knew it had to do with some of the people I let come through the house, which wasn't limited to just times when they were out of town. I couldn't even imagine who it would have been or when. I thought I'd done a reasonable job of safeguarding the house and laying down rules. But the jewelry must have been upstairs, and that couldn't be, because I didn't allow anyone upstairs.
I met my first nanny friend. She had a boy of almost two that she cared for and we would take the boys together to different playgrounds. They ended up having to be different playgrounds because we were so obnoxious while there. We always had our cans of Arizona Ice Tea with tequilla. I never drank before I moved to Chicago.
I was at the doctor's office once, having been sent on from school with both kids as a follow up to make sure the five year old was okay after falling off the monkey bars and having another child fall on top of her. I didn't appreciate how wrong this could have gone. My iced tea and tequilla was in a insulated cup. The five year old was being checked out and the three year old was messing with all of the equipment. A second doctor came to see me and a social worker. I had signed paperwork that I could seek treatment for the child, so I didn't understand the problem as I chomped on strong gum and answered their questions. The questions turned harsh. They had tried to call the mother and could not reach her, did she know I had brought the child in. They found her injuries strange. I told them of the fall from the monkey bars and added, "oh but another kid fell on top of her then". If the mother hadn't been enroute to meet us, who knows what would have happened. Had I been thinking clearly, I would have presented myself and the whole situation differently. I only realized months later how I must have looked.
I took the three year old to the bookstore one day. We started out in the children's area, but I wanted to go and look for a novel that I'd read a review on that weekend. I woke up with an irate black nanny standing in front of me. She was holding the three year old's hand. "Is this your boy. is this your boy? He was looking all over for you, I stopped him from leaving". I apologized profusely. I explained that I was sick. I assumed she believed me. I gathered the three year old and we left.
My last day of work was the 3 year old's fourth birthday party. It was at 2 in the afternoon on a Saturday. I had helped the mother put together the list of friend invites. She had relatives and friends of hers there. The adults were drinking wine and as most adults do, they conduct themselves appropriately when in the company of children. My nanny friend and I had mini bottles of alcohol, from Kahlua to sour pucker to Cuervo. I don't know how much I drank.I think I behaved okay, likely a little loud. I know I ate a lot then, and I only knew that because by the time we got home, carrying gifts, including a big stuffed blue bear, I began to vomit uncontrollably. All over the presents, the foyer. I remember looking up at this beautiful entry mirror and seeing the vomit shoot from my mouth. But it didn't end there. At first my employers thought I was sick. They were worried that it was the food we had just eaten. Both of them helped me to my room. They went back upstairs and I am guessing they cleaned up the mess I had made.
Later that evening, I heard a knock at my door. It was my employer. She asked to come in. She came in and sat down in a chair by my bed. She asked me if I had been drinking. I told her I had. She said that she was concerned for me. She told me she was sorry. She told me I should get myself in the shower. I fell back asleep, and heard knocking again. She asked if she could come in. I sat up and looked at her. I remember she said, "If you'd like to shower and clean up now, you should. We have a car coming to take you to the airport in 90 minutes. You'll need to get your things together quickly." She wasn't mean. She left. I almost fell back asleep, but something inside of me clicked and realized the mess I had made.
I showered. I packed. I was afraid to go upstairs from my room. I put my suitcases at the bottom of the steps. I stood there looking at them listening for sounds from the top. The father began to start down the steps with exasperation when he saw me standing there. For a second I think I saw a flash of pity on his face. "Good, you're ready" he said and turned back. I remembered him carrying my bags down these steps almost a year ago, cheerfully, welcoming. He wouldn't help today. I took one suitcase at a time and set it outside the front door. When I went back down to grab my carry on and purse, he met me at the top of the stairs. He asked me for the keys. He handed me a check, folded. I looked at him, ready to ask if I could say good bye to the children and he just shook his head at me. I walked outside and waited with my suitcases for the car to come. I never heard from them again.
I really wanted to apologize to the family, but it's easier for me to admit that never happened. When I moved up to Chicago, I had a one year nanny contract. I remember the mom saying "we shoud tear this up now, because we're keeping your forever." I'd forgot about making actual plans. I'd taken some terrible personal risks while I was there, but more so, I'd failed to do the one thing I had gone there to do and that was to be a good nanny. I was always a great babysitter. The best. I lived in fear for awhile after I returned to Kentucky thinking that they were going to contact me. They never did. I explained my sudden move back to friends and family by saying I had gotten in a huge fight with my boss at the birthday party..when he wanted to sit next to me. It was ridiculous. To excuse my sudden return, I had to paint them, particularly the mother as jealous and vindictive.
I hope the next nanny who worked for that family was much better. I think of the mistakes I made every day, they aren't all included here. I was careless. I was glib, I was selfish. I am sorry. I returned to school three months after my return and graduated with a bachelors in sociology and then later a masters. I work with the public schools now. Life turned out okay for me and for that I'm grateful. Thank you for letting me get that off my chest.
-edited for content & space, ISYN