I hesitate to write all this because I don’t know what you’re going to say and I’m all torn up. People always say stupid stuff about not wanting strangers raising their kids and the thing is, most of the time they’re not strangers. But in the beginning, they are, and it is so fucking hard, in the beginning, to walk away from your children, to leave them with strangers, to not know how it’s all going to go. Worse, you never really know how it is going. So I look for signs, clues, anything to reassure me, red flags to alarm me. And, well, there have been a lot of, I don’t know, not red flags exactly. I mean, none of this stuff would matter much if they had happened in isolation. It’s just that there were so many things.
Our new nanny (can I just call her Nanny for now?) came over on Saturday morning for a bit of an orientation. Her 11-year-old daughter came with and again got along very well with Ella. On Monday morning, Gatito woke up and declared it a very exciting day because Nanny was starting. She and her daughter arrived on time and, when I left, Ella was cheerfully engaged with the daughter and Gatito with Nanny. That’s where the happy part ends.
On Monday, she set off the alarm, missed the phone call from the security company, and the police were dispatched. Okay, fine, new alarm system and, since we don’t really use it, I forgot to point out where our home phone was. Although she had the secret password, she probably never even heard the phone ring and forgot. But what she also forgot was to mention it to us. We found out because of a message on A’s cell from the security company and because Gatito told us. When A asked her about it, she said she forgot.
Gatito also reported that the daughter was hitting him all over and that he hadn’t liked it. And that she had hidden his shoe behind her back and kept pretending she didn’t have it. Where was Nanny, we asked? Not there, he said. When A talked to her about that, she said that the previous five-year-old boy she’d taken care of liked to play rough and he and the daughter used to wrestle. She said she’d tell her to go easier on Gatito, but she didn’t actually bring her with for the next two days. I can sort of imagine a kind of play slapping that might be normal for some 5yo boys but not for Gatito. And I know he will face more physical kids when he starts school, real school with a class of 20 kids, but this is a girl 2x his age and in his house. But, she seemed to get it and said she talked to her, so okay, I guess.
Yesterday, everything went fine. Ella was wailing when A left (I left earlier) but the report was she calmed down pretty quickly. I think the second day was harder because this time she realized she was being left all day. They stayed home all day, which is Gatito’s idea of a good day.
Today, I worked from home in the morning before a dentist appointment. Ella was very clingy in the morning, as is her usual m.o. when the nanny arrives. She was often like that with Pow, too. I left her downstairs and went up to try to work and she was hysterical. I know it was worse because I was in the house. I even asked Gatito if she cried this hard and this long the day before and he said she had not. But man, did she cry long and hard. First it was, “I want mommy!” Then “I wanna go in crib!” I thought she was going to make herself sick. I finally went down to calm her down and sent them out to get donuts and go to the library before Gatito’s swim lesson. She was calm when I put her in the car. I know this has nothing to do with Nanny, but it left me on edge.
At 11:20, I received a call from G’s swim teacher that he had not shown up for his 11:00 lesson. I called Nanny to figure out what happened and got no answer. By this time, I was outside the doctor’s office and I worked myself up into such a frenzy, worrying that they’d been in an accident or something. I just checked my phone logs and discovered it was only 13 minutes between when I called her and when she texted me back. Not sure how I got so crazy in such a short period of time, other than that she also hadn’t responded to my check-in text at 10:30. Apparently she hadn’t been able to find a parking spot plus they had closed halls and locker rooms for painting and by that time G was already in the pool. It sounds reasonable enough, right? I could say that she should have left more time, but it does seem like extraordinary circumstances.
(My poor dentist. I totally cried from the stress in his chair. My teeth have been hurting for a week and I was sure he was going to tell me it was stress, but it turned out I’d apparently injured a tooth biting into something very hard but perhaps the size of a grain of sand. Who knew? It will all heal itself over a few weeks.)
As I arrived at work, I got a text from Nanny: “What’s the password? I set off the alarm and am waiting for them to call and left the password at home.” Seconds later, the security company calls my cell to inform me the police have been dispatched. Again. She… swears she went to the phone right away and they didn’t call. I got an answering machine message left about 4 minutes before her text. I’m guessing maybe it took her a while to turn off the alarm and she didn’t hear the phone? I really don’t know.
And finally… last week, I emailed her a schedule of all of the activities of the week. At 3:30, I get a call saying she thought viola was at 4:30 and has just realized it’s at 3:30 and they haven’t left the house. She said she got mixed up, since karate is at 4:30. I said, no, karate is at 4:00. She said, well, that special karate program on Monday was at 4:30? Sorry, that was at 5:00. A was the one to see her tonight and she told him that… my email was too far back in her inbox to find.
I think these things are fixable in isolation, you know? A had her practice turning the alarm on and off this evening. I can find some other way to provide a schedule, and it will get a lot more consistent when school starts anyway. The daughter has been talked to and, for the most part, won’t be here anyway.
But you know, one thing I thought I was getting when I hired someone with 18 years of experience as a nanny, is someone who could take care of things. I would rather not have to ask if she has sunblock for the kids or tell her not to use half an inch of butter in the pan when cooking a couple of eggs (both things happened today also– argh!) or find some way of helping her remember the schedule. (A piece of paper? She could leave it at home. A board in the house? She won’t be able to refer to it when she’s not home. A google calendar? Neither of us are regular google users. I’d have thought an email, which she always has on her phone, would be good but apparently she entered all the times wrong into her calendar.)
I also can’t help wonder, does all of this mean that she’s not that bright? A little scattered? Lacks good judgment? Is it just a run of bad luck? Just getting used to a new job? Am I making too much of it? Will it all settle down and turn out fine?