As occasionally happens in Nannydom, I am asked to stay over a weekend with the children while parents enjoy some peaceful, mucous-free alone time. Obviously my job is to ensure their little darlings remain alive and within acceptable limits of physical and emotional wellbeing in their absence – sometimes easier said than done. During these weekends, there is inevitably some sort of calamity, regardless of the Nanny’s years of experience, or hours spent preparing. Although the details differ, I’ve found that most disasters follow a few standard plot lines. Over the years, I have maintained my sanity by giving these debacles special code names. Here are a few of my favorites:
“THE JERRY SPRINGER”
This fiasco falls in the physical category and occurs when siblings engage in hand-to-hand combat, although household items can be used as weapons if one prefers to keep one’s hands clean. Toothbrushes, dog bones, Barbie doll body parts, carrots and roughly shaken cans of soda are among the more creative household items used as weapons. The results are cuts, bruises, torn clothing, and in severe cases – hair or tooth extraction.
A foodborne or pathogen-acquired gastric illness resulting in the most vile examples of projectile vomiting, that are remarkable for not only volume and frequency, but for force and distance. The same title may be used for “ODE’s” (out-of-diaper-experiences) where a foul yellow-green liquid is over-produced by tiny bottoms with violent force.
“THE FREDDY KRUEGER”
Known mainly for its element of surprise and ability to induce raw fear. It occurs in total darkness, and involves the most spine-chilling night terror, in which the Nanny is jolted from her bed by gut-wrenching screams. So alarming are these howls, that they send the Nanny banging into walls and sailing over furniture. The children involved almost never remember the terrifying incidents the following day, while the sleep-deprived Nanny nurses bumps and bruises with bags of frozen peas.
“THE BOY GEORGE” (AKA the crying game)
The most dreary and Godforsaken of all the disasters. This apocalypse involves hours upon hours of ear splitting wailing, buckets of streaming tears and equal amounts of gooey snot. The causes range from lunch choices to clothing preferences, to squeezie yogurt flavors, to Barbie accessories. All of which result in the kind of complete emotional breakdown seen in only the most epic of Greek Tragedies.
My recent weekender gifted me with not one but TWO new calamitous categories. In this instance, I would spend Friday morning through Sunday evening in the company of two small children, one puppy, two African Dwarf Aquatic Frogs, and one Leopard Gecko named Houdini for his special ability to escape his aquarium and skitter around the house with said puppy in hot pursuit.
In preparation, I have carefully copied the parent’s license tag and social security numbers, and have the Chief of Police on speed dial, just in case the adults have a bit too much fun with Jose Cuervo and decide to make a run for Zihuatanejo.
With the help of Walt Disney and cheese pizza, Friday night passes without a hitch. Saturday, however, begins just a tad early (3:45am). I am awakened by the eldest of the two children, a very serious four-year-old girl, whose face is approximately 2 inches from my own.
“Nanny!” She says in a harsh whisper. “I want to tell you some stuff.”
“Oh Good.” I say without moving. “I’m so glad you didn’t wait until later–that would never do.”
“I think I have something crunchy right here.” She points to her forehead with one finger–although I see three fingers pointing. “I picked at it, but it won’t come off. And there’s something outside my window that sounds like this ‘IIEEEEEEEKKAAA,’ ‘IIEEEEEEEEKKAA’.” Then she is silent for a beat.
“Is that all?” I ask hopefully.
“No.” She announces. “Did you know your mouth-air is hot and bad like Mommy’s and Daddy’s at night?” She pauses again.
“Is that all?” I ask again.
“Yes, but what ARE they?” She asks, disturbed.
“What is what?” I ask with a yawn. “My bad mouth-air?”
“No!” She whines, exasperated. “The noise and the crunchy thing!”
I sit up, knowing there is no escape and turn on the bedside lamp. Moving her hair aside, I inspect her forehead. Then, I put one hand to my ear and listen intently.
“Ah-Ha!” I say. “I believe I have your answers. The crunchy thing on your head is definitely a dried booger. I promise it will come off in the bath, and the noise is the sound birds make when they lay eggs at night.”
“Why do they make that sound?” She asks.
“Have you ever tried to lay an egg?” I ask. “It’s probably not very comfortable.”
“I don’t like the crunchy booger or the noise.” She says, tears welling in her eyes. “Can I…?”
“Get in.” I say, moving the covers aside. “Although, you are just going to have to deal with the hot, bad mouth-air.”
She cuddles in and falls asleep, as do I, with a small heel kicking me in the liver and an extremely pokey elbow jabbing me in the neck.
I awaken at 6a.m. with a child sleeping next to me, and her younger brother still asnooze in his own bed. I step into the shower doing a VERY small happy dance (in order to prevent excess jiggle), knowing that I have skated by this weekend with a mishap so minor, it hardly deserves mention, much less it’s own code name.
I multitask my way through the shower, lathering quickly, humming “Oh Happy Day,” reviewing the planned activities and counting down the hours to the end of the weekend, when I am frozen in my tracks by a tiny sound coming from behind me. My backside is facing the glass shower door and I am in the bent-over, rear in the air, foot-washing position. Was it a mouse squeak, a tiny sneeze? I decide it’s probably best if I abort the offensive position. Standing slowly, I turn to find the two year-old boy sitting, crisscross-applesauce directly in front of the shower door, looking up at what had to have been quite a disturbing view a few short moments ago. Upon seeing the tot, I emit a strangled squawk and jump high enough to cause a frightening amount of movement among my numerous wobbly bits. I am now facing the poor child, and his eyebrows raise slightly as I perform an awkward modern dance involving splashing, squawking, and flapping as I desperately attempt to cover my wildly swinging parts with a ridiculously inadequate washcloth.
Deciding once again that my buttocks is the safest view for the young child, I turn my back to him. “Is there something you need, Sweetheart?” I ask with a shaky voice.
“No.” He says casually. “I’m hungry, Nanny.”
How he could be hungry after the scene he just witnessed is beyond me. “Okay, honey,” I say, trying to remain calm. “Why don’t you go to your room and play while Nanny finishes up here. Then I will be right in to make you something to eat.”
“Okay Nanny.” He stands and turns to leave. I breathe a huge sigh of relief and begin to rinse the shampoo from my hair. With my head under the running water, I hear the click of the glass shower door behind me. A small finger pokes me in the backside of my right hip. I freeze. “What’s this lump, Nanny?” asks the tot.
I have died and gone to Nanny Hell. There are few things worse than being completely naked in the shower, with a two-year-old pointing out your fatty parts. Of course this child doesn’t know what this lump is. He’s never seen anything like it in his short life. I think of his young parents, so thin and fit. Right now, I really don’t like them very much.
“Honey,” I say, trying to remain calm. “You really need to go play in your room and let Nanny finish here. Then we can talk over breakfast, okay?”
He pauses a moment, weighing his options, shrugs and turns to leave. “Okay Nanny.” He says and disappears again.
Upon making breakfast for the two children, the youngest, who unfortunately has not forgotten our shower conversation, once again pokes me with one tiny finger in the backside of my right hip while I am removing milk from the refrigerator. “What is this lump, Nanny?”
I sigh deeply and come up with a toddler appropriate answer – “It’s where I keep all of my special Nanny-magic.”
“Whoa,” says the boy’s older sister, completely hooked. “What kind of Nanny-magic?”
“The kind that lets me know exactly where you are and what you are doing even when I cannot see you. The kind that can fix the most terrible booboo with nothing but a Band-Aid and a kiss. The kind of magic that means I never run out of snacks or juice boxes.”
“Cool!” Says the older girl, now poking me in the left love handle. “You got LOTS of magic, Nanny!”
“But what’s IN there?” Asks her younger brother, now squeezing my lump like he’s evaluating a tomato for ripeness.
“Cupcakes and bacon.” I snap, tired of this lengthy conversation regarding my hefty hips. “Now eat your breakfast!”
Satisfied, the elder child begins to eat. The youngest, however, looks at his breakfast plate contemplatively.
“I want to have a magic Nanny lump too.” He says sadly.
“EAT!” I nearly shout, painfully aware of the irony, and sounding exactly like my Jewish Grandmother.
I am extremely thankful that this weekend draws to a close without further emotional harm to either the children, or myself. Naked modern dancing is kept private and all wobbly bits remain well restrained. The damage, however, has already been done and the weekend needs a code name. I decide to call it either –
“The Dr. Phil”–demonstrating the amount of therapy required,
or “The Jenny Craig”–for obvious reasons.