Monday, May 23, 2011

Date Night Gone BAD

A couple weeks ago, Mom and Dad had tickets for a Bruins Playoff game- on Friday night. SCORE! Overtime for Tea, coupled with the rare opportunity for a night with the kids, following which they would have no plans. Friday night. We could stay up late, maybe watch a movie. I would surprise them. We would do something special.

I really wanted to write this post when I got home that Friday, but the stupor into which I had to drink myself to forget the apocalypse that was the evening rendered that unlikely.

Day was going well. Sweetpea had a good day at school, we read and he settled to and completed  quiet time without incident. We picked up #1, had snack, and they headed to #1's room to play together- (he often wants alone time in the afternoons, which #2 finds intolerable).  I  remained downstairs for a bit, doing chorey things. All was well.

Not being an idiot, I knew they were up to something. It was  quiet.  Alarm bells.
I crept  up the stairs, trying to ascertain just what sort of trouble might be brewing. There are whispers. Aww, shit!
The last whisper I heard before I decided to look was #1 telling #2 if they were quiet, Tea wouldn't know. Double shit!
 I walked into the room to find them playing Star Wars Legos. The problem is, ALL the Star Wars Legos are out, including #2's totes, which I know have been taken away from him, and have been residing in a corner of #1's room all week.  Apparently, #1 wanted - needed, I'm sure- some of #2's guys to play the way he wanted to. So, he prodded #2 to play with confiscated toys.

Four Effing Thirty!  and they are  both in BIG trouble.  'Get on your bed, and do not move. You, too.  NOW.'  The fact that I  proceeded to begin picking  up all the toys, coupled with the quiet voice of death,  let them know they were goners. There was no argument, just compliance.  I quickly recovered my senses and stopped picking up, checked to see that each was on his bed, sans books, toys, or animals, and went back downstairs, figuring if my head exploded, it would make less of a mess in the kitchen.

When I had reigned in my internal- and extremely profane- dialogue concerning my disbelief of the circumstances-  our special Friday had just been ruined by a Plo Koon Lego (THAT took nearly ten minutes), I climbed the stairs to deal with them. 

Number 2 tried  his newest tactic- a big soppy smile and 'I love you, Tea' greeted me and was met with my stony silence. I waited until he dropped it, then we went over the absolute nature of having toys taken away, and speculated on exactly how long they would NOW remain confiscated. I told him to get ONE book, and stay put until further notice. 
I had to give him something- dinner was well over an hour away, and I couldn't face any further degeneration of the evening. Bad, I know, but I was trying to salvage- for myself, I admit- bedtime stories.
Besides, being the nanny, I'm loathe to deny them dinner, as I know they will then wake up hours early- on their parents' time- the following morning.
Knowing his goose was cooked, he asked only  if he'd still be allowed to eat dinner, and have stories. 'If you behave until I call you.' (I walked away, fingers crossed, praying he would make it.)

Number 1 had an attitude. He knew not to voice it, but at 6, he's not yet had any success hiding its physical and expressionistic manifestations. We had a talk about collusion (we always supply the proper terms)- sort of like felony murder accomplice rulings, dialed back to knowingly playing with  a sibling's confiscated toys. He had hoped  to argue that- since they weren't toys  taken away from him, he should skate. Nope. His problem was much larger.

'I know we tell you not to tattle unless something is hurting someone or is dangerous'- I could see this argument rolling around his crafty little head- 'but that does not apply here. I was on the stairs, listening, before I came in here.' (Now he's wearing the Aww, shit! look.) 'I heard you tell him to play with them, and explain how you'd avoid consequences. You weren't just with him, it was your idea. He wouldn't have done it, if you hadn't told him to. (So, he's not an accomplice, he's the head of the conspiracy.)
 I explained that the instigator is just as guilty, and added the caveat (which he's already beginning to dread) that as the oldest, he has a responsibility to set the example . Since he had not only failed to stop his brother, and further had,in fact, caused the incident , he was going to bear the brunt.
He, of course, burst into tears when he inquired about TV and was turned down. I heard him muttering about me as I left, but ignored it. He was not allowed a book.

Okay, 4:50.  I'm alone, kids are in trouble, dinner's over an hour off, and I don't even work Fridays. This B.L.O.W.S.  No movie, no cuddling on the couch, no dance party. Just angry/sad boys. And I now NEED a drink, but can't have one, as I'm at work. (See- it is sometimes better to be the parent, you can't leave, but you can have a calming drink to sustain yourself for the storm ahead.)

The rest of the night was fine.  They completed the cleanup, we enjoyed a lovely dinner, had a fun bath time, and I cuddled with both of them and read stories- albeit abbreviated, due to their earlier transgressions.  Still, that left me alone, wounded, and drained- not to mention sober-  from 7:30 until the 'rents turned up around 10:30.

Date night from Hell. Believe me, we've had far worse days. This was truly unspectacular in scope. And, yet, I was soo disappointed. It wouldn't have been anything extrordinary, had it not been my only Friday night with them, ever.

They ruined all my plans (by being kids, I do realise).  

It happens to all of us- the kids ruin the good time we plan with them, but we have to suck it up if we want them to grow up to be good people. One of the  eternal conundrums of parenting.

Sweatpea's continuing Quest.

A while ago I wrote All The Way to God, a post about my 4 YO's fight to live a life absent societal responsibilities. He's still at it. Last week, on our way home from Thursday daycare, he started talking about their house. (They have spent the last year under construction, doing a massive renovation and build-out on the house and property. It is now drawing to a close.) He offered his opinion that he likes the house now, and thinks 'the guys' can leave and not change anything else.

Then, he started planning. 'When I grow up, I'm going to build my house next to Mommy and Daddy, and you should come see me there, but you will have to follow my rules, because I'll be the in charge of my house. ' Alright.

'Honey, there's no place next to your Mom and Dad to build. You would have to buy one of the neighbor's houses and then you could remodel it like Mom and Dad have. But, if you really wanted to build a house, you could buy Uncle Charlie's land behind me and build a new house- and you could live next to me.' He liked that idea, and allowed how he could have his parents and I over for dinner (and, I'm sure, boss US around for a change). Of course, he could then hang around on the FARM. Big bonus! Future accommodations solved.

Down the road a bit, I stopped to mail my bills. He asked if those were important letters, and I explained paying the bills. Adults have to pay for their houses, vehicles, electricity, TV, etc. I explained insurance payments to protect the things you own- 'In case there's a emergency?' 'Correct, the insurance people pay to fix it. That's why grownups work, Hon. Some people, like your parents, and Tea, are lucky  because we have jobs we love, but even if we didn't have our jobs, we'd still have to have jobs to pay for our lives.

The idea of paying for EVERYTHING, I could tell, (even watching TV???) was not sitting well- remember, he'd just committed to home ownership. I also reminded him that his parents payed for all of that, and for their children, and still were willing to buy new toys.

A few minutes later, he broke his silence. 'Hey, Tea, I think maybe when I grow up I'll just live with Mommy and Daddy.' PRICELESS!

We never hedge with them, so.... 'Well, when you finish all of your school, and are a grownup, you could live with your parents, but, because you'd be a grownup, you would still be responsible for yourself. You would have to pay them rent, for the your room, and the part of the electricity and TV and heat and things that you use, and for your food.'
'But it would cost less than a house. right?' Yes, but it wouldn't be yours , and they would still make the house decisions.'

Damn! Foiled again.

He thought for a bit, but before the reveal, I'll tell you how much fun Mommy and I had with this while he was down for Quiet Time. When I got to the life at home, she started, as I knew she would. She did allow that he could remain rent-free for a time after college, but was firm on the fact that an adult life with Mom and Dad would be pricey enough that he'd soon tire of it. She already has a plan for reticent new adults. Love her.

 In the end, he opted for a life at home, but he has -as ever- his terms. 'I think I will live here  with Mom and Daddy,  but I'm moving into Granna's room.' Well played, kid. It is bigger than yours, and it has its own bath.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Date Night

Tonight, was  date night, which is when Mom and Dad go out to dinner, and Tea hangs with the kids through dinner and bedtime. It is my favorite night of the work week. It is Mom and Dad's favorite night of the week. We often cook together, and instead of being interrupted by my end time, can progress more naturally though the evening. I love being able to put them to bed, and in the summer we tend to hang a little longer, a little looser. It's just fun. In theory.

 Four and six. Number 2 is in his first year of preschool, the other in full time kindergarten. Needless to say, they are wiped, and often cranky by 4 or 5 PM. I'm being generous, here. Five o clock meltdowns, seemingly out of nowhere, are common and often seemingly rootless. Number 1 would put the average 12 year old girl in the throws of hormonal earthquakes to shame. Sometimes it's just weepy, often it's psychotically bitchy. Again, with no incitement of any note. The other one; well. As you know, he is on the ultimate quest to figure a way around all authority and responsibility. Lets just say he gets real mouthy. And intractable. And a little physical, when he gets desperate. Nothing serious- just a desperate half swing, which he often stops half way, when he realises he's screwing himself irrevocably with THAT move. But still. So much for my idyllic evening with the boys.

Not to mention the interaction of the two. Number 2 one loves to goad his big brother when he sees him on the edge. Number 1 one forgets to step back and let the grownups handle this, and gets physical on #2- now he's in trouble, and howling at the injustice, and the tween girl, for whose care I did not sign a contract, has returned.

So, Mom and Dad, fresh from their showers, descend the staircase and kiss their wailing boys- situated in time out on their respective staircases (Thank God there are 2)- goodnight, and leave, silencing the protests with 'do your time out, and listen to Tea. I swear I've seen them skipping. I don't blame them. I have seen them laughing their asses off at me as they pull out, and I start making dinner amidst the sniffling. That's an average night. They sometimes have to kiss a boy on his bed in PJ's, hoping for the reprieve that will allow him dinner, even if he's missing his half hour of TV. Talks with them inform me that I have a better track record than they on that one- maybe I am getting soft in my old age.

We do have tons of fun on these nights. The extra time is a must- especially now that they're both in school, and I am often relegated to chauffeur and taskmaster duties. Not to mention that these big boys would rather play with each other or the other kids on the playground than with Tea. Sure, they make me Darth Sidious (I hate being Darth Sidious), but then they largely forget I'm there. They check in, yell to me to watch them, get pissed when I call them on misdeeds, but they don't NEED me to play. You know the drill, folks, we've all been there. I'm proud and sad. Be careful what you wish for, little Nanny....  
The difference is,  I have  to go there repeatedly every few years, as a new family grows. But I digress. I have a story from tonight.

The evening had been truly uneventful. Sweetpea got up from quiet time, made his own bed and put away his books and animals without my presence, in a timely manner. Score! We picked up his brother, they snacked while I made lunches, and retired to #1's room to play. I finished up downstairs, ear to the stairwell, and decided to hang back. However, I wanted to really know what was happening when (Oh how I hope for the advent of an or if) I had to intervene. They played so well- as they often do- for the whole afternoon. I sat out of sight around the corner (it's a really big house). Only opened my mouth twice, and they must have thought I was just passing, because the other times they disagreed, they solved it themselves, often with a drop in volume in case I could hear the threats they were lodging at one another:

I'll yell, and Tea will come up

You know Tea will say that you should.....

I'll tell Tea that you said.....(which he hadn't) and you know that's unacceptable.

Tea will just take it away from both of us if I yell.. (true, but still trying to get his way, not to compromise)

Hitler status aside (soo over being upset by that), I was really proud of them for working it out every time without coming to blows.  I ignored all but the worst 2 incidences of meanness/ blackmail/ name calling.  They do have to learn how to be people, and if invoking me (or the rents) is the biggest threat they can come up with, I figure the grownups are still winning the battle, even if it often seems we're not. They are wonderful boys.

However,  I was pretty jealous of the glass of wine a lovely, relaxed, still clean smelling  Mommy was sporting  when I finally descended the stairs, pant legs soggy up 6" (showers tonight instead of baths), socks in my hands, hair bedraggled (and soggy), with my commute still ahead. It was a good night, and I have my glass, now.

Monday, March 14, 2011

All the Way to God

Number 2 is  the most intelligent child I've ever met. Luckily, he is basically good natured and obedient. Because he is also one of the most stubborn.  He  believes that  'consequences are necessary, because it's our job to teach you how to be a good person, and stay safe.....' , he just thinks he should also be entitled to mete out a few punishments.
He rails at the unfairness of it all. I can put him in time out, take away his toys, put him to bed if need be, and he has no recourse, save behaving well and accepting consequences without escalating. We've explained  that adults have responsibilities and consequences. That as you get older, you have to do more, and get in bigger trouble if you don't. We  have battles because he's big, and can do what other big kids do, but balks at the added responsibility. Especially galling to him- we don't give him 'enough' chances any more. So, he's been trying to find a way around this whole societal deal, or at least forge a plan for a future that renders him untouchable. I'll be good for now, but when I grow up.....

First, it was 'I'm gonna be a boss like my Mommy and my Daddy. No one can tell them what to do.' Well, Mommy and Daddy have to follow the rules, AND they have lots of extra responsibilities because they are bosses. Extra responsibilities?? That was no good.
I told him that following the rules, and performing our responsibilities affords  us privileges. That I have my house, my truck(they love my truck) and my good job playing with them because I have worked hard and followed the rules. He thought that was OK, but was not pleased  when I said if I stopped doing the right thing, I could lose all those things and privileges.
 Last week, he started with  'I'm going to be a police officer. No one can  give them a consequence, and they get to give people consequences. I explained police  are not exempt from the laws they enforce, nor do they give out the punishments.  Then, I explained the justice and legislative systems. That left him  trying to decide between judge and senator.
A couple days later, he'd realised this wasn't foolproof. He'd have to pick whether to make the rules and , or mete out consequences. Besides, police was a cooler job.  Then he asked if those people had to follow the rules. Yup!
 'Well, Tea, if I was a really big king of most of the world, no one could tell me what to do. Explained Libya and Egypt to him.  Even despots don't get a pass.

'Well, Tea, no one can tell God what to do.' 'Right, Hon.' 'But God never dies'- (another recent conversation). 'Right, Hon.' No line of succession possible there.  He had found the end of the road, and he would still have to follow rules and be responsible. After a few moments, he brightened. 'I met God. I did.' I waited, silently. 'He told me I looked like a good boy.' 'You are a good boy, Hon'. (Conversation with God was later confirmed by Mom- a priest who said exactly that to him.)
 He's currently relying on that relationship with God, and trying to figure out how to get God to let him off.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Inappropriate Affection

OK, so there's such a thing, but that's not what I'm talking about. The other day, Number 2 (4year old) went to hug Daddy goodbye. (Number 2 currently comes to about crotch level on Daddy, so Dad is constantly in peril from his always-at-warp speed son.) On this day, however, that was not the issue. He proceeded to hug daddy tightly, kissing him repeatedly- on his crotch-  and kneading his hugging hands into Daddy's bum. He wasn't going to stop anytime soon.  I suppressed a smirk as I walked by them headed for the laundry room,  Daddy looked pained, and Mommy laughed aloud. This happens to us all, all the time, when the children are young.

There are several issues here. First of all, we don't ever want to crush the unbridled affection of which our kids are capable. Second, we have to figure out how to convey that whole concept of  self, family, friends, etc. when it comes to bodies and touching so they can function in society. Third, most unfortunately, there are bad people out there, so we have to deal with that whole bullshit deal, with an eye to (oh, how we hope not!) the fact that the very people in whom we've told them to place their trust could turn out to be the bad guys. That one I'll leave alone for now.

My problems in this area are complicated by the fact that I'm not their mother. As a family, and at home, we are readily able to deal with this.
 If I had a dollar for every time I've told #2 to 'stop licking me' in the past month, I could buy myself that flat screen. (If I had the same problem at home, I'd be a very happy woman).
 I have no problem with the  daily conversations-  with both Numbers 1 & 2-   revolving around their penises, and the amazing things they have to show and tell  me about them and what they can do.
 I  unthinkingly remove stray hands from my breasts when they start to distractedly knead at story or bed time.
 I can't count the number of times I have to say- quite matter-of-factly, that some part of  me or them is a private area-  and it's not polite to touch anyone but yourself there, and yourself only in private.

And then we go out in public. Over the years, the hands of small children have  strayed up my shorts or skirt leg just a bit too far on innumerable occasions.  No problem- except  now we're not home. Other people can see. People who  hear them call me Tea, or know us, and might let themselves think that something's not right. Never mind the logistics of toting two boys around-  I have to pee with them, and although I'm very good at keeping me private,  (it's a skill born of a lifetime spent in mostly male environs, where facilities are rare),  Oh! how I love the conversations in public restroom stalls that start with: "Tea, you sit down to tinkle because you don't have a penis, right?" Every mother of a boy has had these lovely talks, but picture yourself in the stall next to us. What is a Tea? Why does this woman have little boys- not her children- in the stall with her. Hell!  I'm not even Aunt Tea. I've been on the receiving end of some pretty pointed stares over the years.

 People unfamiliar with the closeness of a nanny/child relationship could easily let themselves wonder, and part of me knows they mean well. So, here's a heads up:  I care for these kids, often from babyhood, in every aspect a parent would. They don't differentiate  physicality with me from physicality  with their parents.  It's that simple. As the boys- and the girls for that matter-  for whom I care  age, my 'hands-on' involvement, except in an emergency, drops off.  Dad assumes  responsibility for reported 'penis problems' and their ilk. Mom deals with itchy vaginae and their familiars.  However, boys and girls alike still report these problems to me, because, as they see it, as they have always known it,  it's my job to handle whatever is wrong with them when Mom and Dad aren't there. The kids  remain only as concerned for their privacy around me as they are with their parents. If I suddenly shied away, they would think something was wrong. Now you know.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Puppies

Selecting a pic for my new blog  (one which wouldn't involve compromising any one's privacy or require a release) brought this story to mind. It's old, and only cursorily about my nanny life,  but illustrates some aspects of  'Tea's true nature', if there is such a thing.  Or, it just shows how bat-shit crazy I am, and why I deal so well with whatever the kids can throw my way.
In the spring of  1999, having been recently fired from my so-called dream job, I was working at the neighborhood garden center, for farmer  friends who'd recently diversified. I was also trying to find my first nanny job. That took from Dec ('98) until late August. Meanwhile, at the other neighborhood farm, a litter of pups was born. I'd wanted a dog for a long time, but had been held back by my work schedule- no longer a concern. So, when one of the pups was up for grabs, I took her. Since I had this great farm-type job, I came home for lunch, and was also able to bring her to work quite a bit.  Dustea (pronounced dusty) quickly became my best friend and ally. When I started the  nanny job, she often accompanied me for 'date nights', and became a part of their lives too- which their dog didn't seem to mind too much.
Cut to spring 2001, when I decided to breed her. I thought she should have one litter, and as there was nothing in my decrepit  house to ruin, I did.  Seemed like a good idea. After a few tries- oh, the stories!- she was expecting. The kids were as excited as I was. The puppies were due early to mid July- I was hoping  early, as I had  the week of the Fourth off. I drove my family  to the airport, and promised to call them if the puppies came. I did not, as had become customary, take their dog for the week- as  Dustea was beginning to exhibit nesting behaviors, and seemed to need her space. Thank God! A day or two into vacation, we went up the farm, and Dustea tangled with a rat. She was good at this, but sustained a couple of bites- possibly because her condition had left her a little slow. Geez, ya think?- the poor thing was a house!  I doused her muzzle in peroxide several times. She was OK,  I thought.
 The next morning, I found my dog with an abscess that had grown to softball size on her throat. Panic! Vet! He couldn't put her under because of the pups, so I was summarily dismissed and asked to return when he called. He - after leaving an examining room with an owner and her three cats,  and having let the distressed Dustea who heard my voice run through, explained what he'd done, gave me my instructions, and offered to come up for free if I had trouble with the wick in her neck (for drainage). He did all this while walking us out to the truck and helping her in- seemingly not worried whether I'd written out the check or not before he left us. Loved him that day. Most importantly- he told me she'd probably deliver early, owing to the trauma. Not how I'd pictured it, but I was about to get my Vacation pups.
Fourth of July she started her day pacing around the house- this was it. I had  had a big box with lots of shredded newspaper ready for a couple of weeks, but she had preferred to rip the new insulation out of nearly the whole bottom of the living room (walls weren't in yet) TWICE, and drag it behind the washer. On the day, she despondently checked behind the washer a few times, and finally, grudgingly, set about to fix the box to her specifications- although I stridently forbade  (threatened her within a inch of her life) the further employment of fiberglass insulation for additional bedding- on multiple grounds. Eventually, I left for the party at  her mom's house down the street, checking back every hour or so. She didn't have the first until late that night. The first four- born on the fourth, were slow in coming. The remaining seven came right along between midnight and three AM. Yup; eleven puppies, one very tired dog, and me.
Around 7 AM, I called out to Michigan, to tell the kids. My boss answered the phone. Only he and the youngest, (pictured here with Dustea and the pups), were up. He  congratulated me, marvelled at the size of the litter, oohed and aahed, asked me all about it, and then paused and  said, "So, when we get home, you basically go from  my three kids and dog home to  your eleven puppies and dog? Every day?  You're nuts, Tea. Really. " he continued in the same vein for a few minutes, lamenting my fate, while I assured him I'd be fine. And I was. The kids- and most of their neighbors-  were able to spend time with the pups, and one of them went to one of their neighbors. Dustea recovered from her bites, although she did end up - as did I- pretty haggard before the pups left. Eleven rapidly growing  puppies became increasingly hard to deal with on every level, from feeding, to cleanup, to housing. It was crazy, tiring, and so rewarding. As are my kids.   It was a good idea.  It was a great summer.

The Unlikely Nanny

This is my first post on this blog, so a little introduction is in order. Having been summarily fired (for the first time in my life and  from what I had thought would be my dream job and lead to a steady career path- it did, but only through the firing incident) three weeks before Christmas, I hit the Globe to peruse the want ads. (Not before my truck died on the way home from being fired, and I walked- OK, stomped off  enraged and crying - to the garden center having - luckily- coasted to my godfather's repair shop to secure a temporary source of income). When I (finally) picked up  the Globe  I saw ads for nannies- at a (then) whopping $400-600/wk. I could live on that.... I love kids...I might not be able to have my own..... Something clicked, and I decided this was what I was meant to do.
 That was nearly twelve years ago. I love being a nanny, and have been blessed to work with some truly wonderful families- and a couple of others. Not many  understood why someone with 'a hundred thousand dollar education' (1992 prices, and their emphasis, not mine) would choose this. But I did it anyways. My current employer graduated Notre Dame the same year I graduated Colby. My last college reunion afforded me the opportunity to meet no less than three of my classmate's nannies (Only they were confused by this- Colby grads are  used to the many personal and professional eccentricities of our cohorts.)  I am one of the happiest people I know professionally. No matter what kind of day I have with the kids, I want to go back the next. And, as anyone with kids, or in the industry knows, this life is rife with good material for humorous and touching anecdotes. So, I'll share- often as therapy, always with wonder at how much the kids and their families enrich my life.