Archive for the ‘ The Sitter Chronicles ’ Category

The Neglectful Nanny

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

Okay, I know I’m not talking world peace here. And I know there are plenty of clueless parents and caretakers who commit far more egregious acts. But I have to vent about this one nanny who drives me crazy at Emmett’s gymnastics class.

First of all, it’s a “baby and me” class. Which means you have to be with your kid the whole time. It’s for tiny tots. Em and I have a blast—he runs from the rings to the mats to the trampoline while I dash behind making sure he doesn’t smash his face or break his nose.  Or run into another tot and smash their face and break their nose. The first 15 minutes are free play. Then it’s trampoline time.

One by one each child gets on the trampoline while the caretakers/parents and kids sit on the sidelines and clap an ABC song. It’s not even as annoying as it sounds (unlike music class). It ends with a seat drop and a high-five to Coach Sam. If your kid doesn’t want to sit and wait his/her turn, you just take them to play on the other 51 things available. In other words, participation is not required. However, being present is.

The coach is really good about telling kids who invariably jump out of turn to, “sit down and wait or go play somewhere else.” Parents/nannies are generally really good about jumping in and making sure their kid isn’t being disruptive. Except for “Purple Shirt” nanny. That’s what I will call her. Because today I went to take a picture of Emmett on the trampoline and she ended up in my picture. You can’t see it because I cropped it (though I did debate…), but she is standing there on her phone. The girl is to the right of Emmett jumping up and down.

Notice the other kids are sitting down, waiting for “popcorn.” That’s when the coach bounces them up and down together. You have to be sitting for it. But is this girl? Of course not. Is her nanny telling her to? Nope. She’s too busy doing something incredibly important on her phone. Maybe she’s CIA? Though I doubt it.

From the very first time I saw this woman, she wandered aimlessly on the mat, eyes glued to her iPhone while her then 2-year-old charge ran wild. Before I knew which parents/caretakers went with which kid, I wondered if this tot was here by herself. Which I knew wasn’t possible. But literally the little girl would be on one end and the nanny would be at the other (and it’s a real gym, used for gymnasts. It’s big). That was 6 months ago and it’s never changed.

It continues to astound me that this woman has a job taking care of a kid.  I cringe to think what she’s like on the playground. It would be pretty easy to abduct a child when your nose is buried in your phone.

On the trampoline the girl repeatedly kept jumping up and down out of turn. Coach Sam had to keep stopping the other kids to say, “Charlie, sit down. Charlie, sit down or go play,” as Purple Shirt did nothing. Nada. Every other adult holds their child so they can’t just randomly jump out of sequence. Not Purple Shirt. She doesn’t even sit with the kid. She just sits there half smiling, eyes half glazed from looking at her phone, and waits for the coach to get up and physically remove the girl. If I didn’t know better I would think she was blind, deaf, and dumb. Luckily, the coach is very patient and gentle about it, but I can tell even he is annoyed.

Here’s the kicker: when Coach Sam told the girl to go play somewhere else, she did. She jumped off and went running. And Purple Shirt? She stayed at the trampoline with her back to the girl. Head down, eyes on the phone. Maybe she is a spy and solving world peace. But something tells me her phone is just much more important than her job.  I can’t imagine the parents are aware. If they were, how could they tolerate this?

And remember: this happens Every. Single. Week. It’s sad and annoying all in one.

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Stupid Idea–Why Babies and Perfume Don’t Mix!

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

 

I hate perfume on women and cologne on men. I didn’t always. When I was, oh, 10?, I got Jean Nate after-bath splash. When I was maybe 12, I graduated to Love’s Baby Soft. At 16, I know I used some horrendous smelling thing with a name escapes me. I think my mind may have blocked it out. I dated guys who wore Polo cologne. I remember that was a “selling p0int” with my girlfriends. “Oooo, he wears Polo!” we’d whisper. I don’t judge myself because I was, well, a teenager. Plus it was the 80s and perfume was in, patchouli was out. Unless you were a Dead Head. Which I mostly wasn’t.

Anyway, I digress. It’s now 2013 and I often wonder when all these celebrities endorse a perfume, who is buying them? Old ladies? Must be, right? I think my generation is mostly into natural scents and aromatherapy like lavender and rosemary. My younger friends say they don’t wear perfume. If they did, they say it would be Jo Malone, which none of them can afford. So perhaps in a push to get the infant generation interested in manufactured smells, Dolce and Gabbana released its latest product. You ready for this?

Perfume for babies. Yes, infants, babies, wee ones. I guess they want to get them hooked early.  I mean we all know how horrible babies smell right? The B.O. from their mature sweat glands is enough to send you running. In fact, I know most people just leave their babies for days at a time because they can’t stand the stench. The good news is the perfume is alcohol-free. The bad news is it’s still made with chemicals. Something every baby should be saturated with, right?

Quoting from the Today Show, here is the following from a doctor:

“Babies and people who have babies should not wear fragrance,” Dr. Gordon told TODAY.com. “There are chemicals and toxins labeled as ‘fragrance’ in these products that can cause children to have respiratory reactions.” He adds that even though most of the formulas that make up baby perfumes are alcohol-free, it’s the components that create the actual scent that are the most potentially harmful to a baby’s developing respiratory system and sensitive skin.

Is D&G ridiculous or what? I shouldn’t even waste my time writing about how stupid this gimmick of an idea is. I honestly don’t care that much because no one I know would be the type to purchase this idiotic product anyway. It’s simply unnecessary. What irks me is the idea that babies need perfume!

If you don’t have a kid, let me tell you something: their skin is like sniffing purity and perfection–if there were such a scent.  Their hair is like sniffing heaven. Inhale their breath and you get an instant high. Basically a baby’s smell gets you closer to God than anything else I know of. Why in the world would you buy a $45 bottle of chemicals to change that?

I won’t even hire sitters who wear heavy perfume. I did once and as soon as my child stopped smelling like my child and more like the beauty counter at Bloomingdales, I let her go (there were other reasons too, so let’s not jump on this sentence and turn this blog into something it isn’t, i.e.: another nanny war).

I am obsessed with Emmett’s head. I often have him in the Ergo (baby carrier on my body) and I smell him constantly. It’s just instinctual. Each night before I go to bed, I pick my babies up, hold them tight and inhale them. I feel their rhythmic breathing as they snore gently on me. It’s like having a natural dose of Ambien. If I could bottle up their smell–their essence–maybe I’d be onto something. But I would selfishly keep it for me and me only.

I know it sounds like it, but honestly I’m not anti-perfume. I know there are probably some really light, non-offensive fragrances out there. My mom always wore White Shoulders. To this day if I smell it, it takes me back to happy moments with her. It’s just that perfume is not for me and definitely not for babies. So until researchers and product manufacturers figure out how to bottle up your own baby’s scent, they can all go smell themselves.

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Fia Friday: Big Steps!

Friday, January 18th, 2013

Big news. Emmett took his first steps this week. Two. In a row. It was very exciting to everyone but him. We were all in Fia’s room playing. Even Wayne Sanchez. Em stood up using the rails of Fia’s crib, balanced and took the steps. We all freaked out, clapping and screaming. He plopped down on his butt laughing and looked kind of baffled in his happy-go-lucky way. Like, “Why all the hoopla?”

I don’t have any pictures to show of his steps, but I do have one of him standing proudly.

 

Emmett turns a year old next Friday. Hard to believe. Here are some more recent pics.

I took them to the zoo today. Loads of fun, as usual. (Take that all you blog bashers who called me a bad mom this week…not that I need to justify anything to those types….)

 

Fia on our way up to Death Valley. Exploring a ghost town.

Last weekend Phil and I took the babes on our backs for a 3 1/2 hour hike up some incredibly tough hills in Griffith Park. I’m the beached whale nearly passed out on the table midway through….

I swear he gets prettier by the day…he is such a beauty. And a delight. Inside and out. They both are.

The two below are a little blurry because he’s such a mover, it’s hard to capture him! He is funny! His tear duct on his right eye is supposed to open when he’s a year. Come on duct…. do it.

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(My) Milestone Monday: Why I Let My Nanny Go

Monday, January 14th, 2013

I’m going to do a complete 180 here.  I got rid of my nanny and my life is easier. This is  contrary to my post a few months ago when I wrote about why full-time help is necessary.

It has taken me almost 2 months to write about this. It was a painful experience and really hurt me to the core. These people become part of your family; they are taking care of the most precious entity in your life. And even though I know we made the right decision, and it was our choice, the loss hit me hard.

I don’t know why, but I just feel like telling my story. Maybe because I’m still hurt, even though at the same time I’m so relieved.

I won’t go into all the reasons. But the main reason was her complete inability to get here on time. I spoke to her former employers to find out if she was late for them. They claim she wasn’t. She also lived nearer to them, which, in LA traffic, makes a difference. They also had full time jobs in which they had to be out the door at a certain time. Phil and I work from home, so we naturally create a more laid back atmosphere.

I did every sort of tactic. I switched the times around to help her avoid rush hour (didn’t work), I gave her a cushion time, as in between 8:30-9. Not only did that NOT work, it backfired and made things worse. I gave her pep talks, threaten-talks, and on two occasions I lost my sh-t and yelled. And then she cried. And I felt terrible.  So after a year of dealing with this–yes, a year–I realized the situation was exhausting me.

It was time for a final ultimatum.

Phil and I told her calmly and clearly that one more time and she was done. Communication had been a problem in that her accent is heavy and she also doesn’t text (which was another issue altogether). I wanted to make sure she understood how high the stakes were. She said she understood and reiterated that if she were late again, it was on her. She cried saying she would miss our kids so much–the mere thought of it broke her heart. I could tell her feelings were genuine.

That’s the thing about her. I had such a soft spot. Yet she would drive me crazy.

Her life hadn’t been easy. Her mother pulled her from school at a young age in El Salvador so she could care for her handicapped sister. She crossed the border when she was 17. Now she’s 50, a legal resident, and has 5 grown kids. But even though we paid her well above the market rate, money was tight (in part to bad decisions that drove me crazy–though I know–none of my business). With no formal education she is part of the true working class.

She became my project and my boundaries went out the window. I was going to teach her how to read and write (she was extremely limited in that regard, which I found out after hiring her). I offered to give her time off for ESL classes. I told her I could help her learn.  She cried, saying it was her dream to read the newspaper. Never happened. I mentioned it from time to time and she’d say she was going to do it. Then nothing.

There were other things too, because as we all know, no one is perfect. But as mad/frustrated as I’d get, at the end of the day, she did a lot of lovely things for us and ultimately, loved my babies as her own. If there were an earthquake, she would throw herself in front of a crashing beam to protect them. She is that kind of person.  I would tell myself that that is really all that matters. But it’s not. She was still an employee. And there to make our lives easier.

The ultimatum came right before we were giving her a week off (paid) for Thanksgiving.  That following Monday morning she was supposed to be at our house by 8:30. Fifteen minutes later I see a missed call on my phone. Phil called her back. She said her car battery died and she was just leaving her house. Wait, huh? If your battery had died, you would have known before 8 and called us. Which is what Phil said to her. No response. He hung up the phone and looked at me. We both shook our heads. He called her back and told her not to come. I haven’t seen her since.

I then sent her a check for 5 weeks severance. My friend Delia is the one who coaxed–and coached–me on that. I was just going to send her a week’s worth. Delia said, “Jill, there are the haves and the have-nots. We are the haves. You won’t ever miss the money. Consider it one less charity donation. To her, it is everything.”

I remember when I was in Al-Anon; there was a saying about detached compassion. “When the alcoholic is passed out on the cold, hard floor, rather than leaving her in anger, or trying to get her back on the bed, just drape her in a warm blanket.” So, even though I’ll admit the check was a little hard to write, I felt like that was my version of detached compassion. I wanted her to have a nice Christmas. I know how excited she was to buy gifts for her grandkids. And I know what a relief it would be to pay her rent.

She left us a message a few days later, after receiving the check. She thanked us profusely. I could hear her voice cracking. She knows she messed up.

I guess I felt betrayed. Hurt. Why didn’t she call us at 8 that morning? Why, after having a week off, would she not show up on time? On some level, my mind says, “Did she not love my kids enough to get out of bed on time?” But then I know: You can’t change someone.

I did get word that she found another job close to her house. In fact, I gave the woman the recommendation before all this happened, as we were going to take her down to part-time anyway and help her find a family to share with.

I’m sure this post sounds like an “upper class problem” to many people. Some would tell me to just get over it. And I am. But dealing with another human being on a deeply personal level is tough. I’ve never had a nanny before. And I doubt I ever will again. She was with Emmett from the day he was born. He is a special baby and I know she must miss him dearly. But at the end of the day, we are better on our own.

I have now hired a few sitters to work a couple times a week. They are young college graduates from New York. I won’t be taking on their problems. My boundaries are in place.

I also realize I’m utilizing my time far better. Instead of napping when my kids nap, I write or pay bills or make phone calls. I think having full-time help without a full-time job myself gave me license to be lazy. Now, every minute counts. Energy begets energy. I have cleaned out closets and organized photos that have sat for a year. I feel good. I have spent more quality time with my kids in the past 2 months than I did all year. I still don’t have any regrets in how we did it. I had some crucial time to myself and I needed it. I had plenty of delicious moments with my babies. More than most people probably. But now I get even more.

I’m looking forward to 2013 knowing we’ll have loads of adventures. Even if “adventure” means a trip to the grocery store with both babes in tow (something that 6 months ago sounded impossible to me. Granted, Em is almost a year now, so having him older makes all of this a helluva lot easier).

My mind goes back to a line I read not long ago. It’s from Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project and gives me great perspective when I do get tired from the daily grind.  ”The days are long, but the years are short.”

Like I said when Fia turned 3,when my kids are older and out late with friends, I will be watching the clock, wishing they were home.  I will yearn for these sleep-deprived nights. They are all mine (almost) all the time. And for now, I don’t want it any other way.

Took Em to a fun playspace the other day. Making it a weekly thing now because he had so much fun. And  I had so much fun watching him!

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A Horrible Tragedy and Our Grief For the Family

Friday, October 26th, 2012

No. No. No.

Stop reading!

It can’t have happened.

Eyes partially shut, trying to skim the story without really digesting it.

Compartmentalize. Don’t think about it.

But then, you look at your kids–in my case–Fia hugging Emmett. Your heart crushes to its core.

Super Why is on television. It’s daddy’s birthday and we’re letting him sleep in. It is, by all accounts, a normal morning. Except it’s not. Something awful—unthinkable–has happened.

Two kids are stabbed to death in their Upper West Side apartment bathtub. A 2-year old and 6-year old. The mom is out with her 3-year old. She comes home to a dark home. Something is amiss. She opens the bathroom door and sees something no one, absolutely no one, should ever witness. Her two children. Dead. Her nanny is also there with a stab wound to her neck. She is alive and suspected of committing this atrocity. The mother goes into a psychotic state. The father gets off an airplane in New York. The police meet him and deliver the awful news. They take him to the hospital where he joins his wife. Their life is forever changed. For the worst.

Terrible things happen all the time. A plane crashes and it’s front-page news. This too, is front-page news. But as awful as all tragedies seem, this one hits a different chord. It is so personal. We are moms and dads. It is we who make the decision to have someone help us with our kids. We entrust these people with the most precious thing in our life. And 99.99 percent of the time they are a gift. A story like this so rarely happens. But when it does, it is a nightmare beyond comprehension.

There are no words to comfort, no justification to make us feel better for this family. And no God who can say this was meant to be.

I have a nanny. She loves my kids like they were her own. I know her whole family. We did a background check on her before we hired her. It was flawless. When I told her about this story, she started to weep. “How do you ever know someone, truly?” she said to me through tears. “You know me, you trust me with your kids, but how do you know you really know me?” I understood exactly what she meant. Sometimes as hard as you try to do the best for your children, your efforts fall short–and tragic.

I don’t want to put myself in the shoes of this mom or dad. It’s too painful. But I can only imagine if the allegations prove true, and the nanny did this, not only will this mother be haunted by the loss of her children, but also by what she maybe had missed. The clues, the signs. And sometimes there simply aren’t any. Sometimes people just aren’t who they seem. My heart just aches for her, the dad, the surviving child–how will they go on?

When Fia was a newborn, I, like many moms, was paranoid to leave her with anyone. A friend of mine said, “At some point, you just have to trust.” She was right. But stories like this leave you reeling. Questioning.

I can’t live my life in fear. But today’s nightmare is a stark reminder that it is only by the Grace of God, Go I. And all of us, for that matter.

 

Darkness picture courtesy of Shutterstock

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