June 27th, 2011

The Nanny from Heck

Becca Sanders

Today was our new summer nanny’s first day on the job. I woke up at 4AM and willed myself back to sleep, only to awaken again an hour later after a bad dream. I got out of bed and finished writing my rather copious notes on the care and feeding of H., detailing his eating and toileting routines, the things he likes to do, and the things to watch out for—including his habit of bolting into lakes and other bodies of water.

Flashback to last summer: I’d hired a different nanny, a young woman who was studying special education in college. Her older brother had Asperger’s; she had classroom experience with kids with disabilities; she had good references. Dreamy, right? But she turned out to be (cue eerie music) THE NANNY FROM HECK.

I spent quite a bit of time with L., introducing her to H., printing out maps of our neighborhood and lists of activities, and giving her this little talk:

“Now, if you take H. down to the park by the lake, you really have to watch him. He doesn’t care if it’s cold or if he doesn’t have a suit on. He will want to go swimming. Be prepared to grab him!”

Only the week before, at the school picnic, one of H.’s classroom aides and I had been pushing H. in the swing, not far from the beach. We were chatting about this and that, enjoying the warm sunlight and the breeze off the lake, the rhythm of the swing and H.’s happy sounds, when suddenly he leaped out of the swing and bolted toward the water.

“You go that way! I’ll head him off this way!” I shouted to the aide, as we sprinted – or tried to sprint – in the damp sand. We grabbed H. just before he got his feet in the water. We both burst out laughing. “That was like a scene out of Starsky and Hutch!”

A little while later he tried it again, but this time we were ready for him: he barely made it out of the swing before we grabbed his arms, and he gave us a sly smile. (He’s very wily when properly motivated; he once grabbed an entire stick of butter off the kitchen counter while I was in the bathroom. Yes, he ate it all.)

So when I was training L., the lake-bolt episode was fresh in my mind.

On the third, and final, day of her tenure with us, L. decided to take H. down to the park by the lake. She met a friend there who was nannying a baby and also caring for a puppy. In the midst of this chaos, H. saw his chance and took it: he bounded into the lake. L., fully clothed, had to wade in after him.

She was apparently very angry about this. When she got back to our house, she was yelling at him – “I’m all wet! I don’t have any dry clothes with me! H., you’re not listening to me!” – which one of our neighbors heard and reported to us that evening.

She also heard the sharp smack of L. slapping our son.

When I got home that afternoon, I heard about the lake episode – minus L.’s totally losing it, of course. We had a laugh about it, then L. left for the day. A couple hours later, I heard the rest of the story from our neighbor. I called L.; she immediately confessed to losing her temper and burst into tears; I talked it over with my husband J.; called L. back and fired her; refused to answer the call from her mother, trying to make excuses for her (J. fielded that one); then took the call from L. in which she asked when she could pick up her check. Nice.

I took a week off from work and found a new(fabulous) nanny, who is working for us again after her wedding in June. This leaves a few interim weeks when we need another nanny, and I think I’ve found another good one. Of course, that’s what I thought of L. as well. I guess I should have asked, “Do you ever completely lose it and smack the disabled kids you work with? Kids who are non-verbal and can’t tell on you? Who are impulsive and extremely vulnerable and in great need of your patience and understanding?”

Fortunately the episode seems to have had a minimal impact on H. He is as trusting and fearless as he ever has been. Unlike his mother.

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This Weeks Tip

Leave the beach at the beach

Kids covered from head to toe in sticky sand? Reach in your diaper bag for the Baby Powder, give them a good shake-down (with the powder, that is) and “Poof!” they’ll be clean as a whistle (and smelling powder fresh to boot!)