In an attempt to prevent my current employers from entering a Witness Protection Program, let it be known that this post does not represent my present placement. All names have been either omitted or changed to protect the innocent. Attempts to uncover the the specific family by way of bribery will be highly frowned upon, unless or until the payoff exceeds my ten year salary amount…including bonuses.
I suppose something of this nature is bound to happen when one works for so many years in peoples’ private living spaces. One does their very best to avoid areas that might contain adult or intimate paraphernalia, such as unmarked boxes in the master bedroom, drawers or closets in the master bathroom and one of the most suspicious locations of all…bedside tables.
In general, I find that the “Don’t Peek, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy works pretty well under most circumstances. However…TODDLER’S HAPPEN…and when they “happen” there are a few things you can count on:
1. The result will not be pretty
2. There will be casualties
3. Clean-up and recovery will be long and arduous
The day begins innocently…almost too predictably. I should be suspicious. In this particular home, I have two charges, a three year-old precocious tomboy, and her 18 month-old, slobber covered brother. We are settling into an after breakfast playdate with two neighborhood delinquents, ages three and four. As usual, I am multi-tasking…folding clothes while watching the older children squabble over who gets to be Batman, and who has to endure the humiliation of being the scrawny sidekick, Robin.
There are three older children, one coveted Batman costume, one fairly acceptable Spiderman costume whose mask makes the younger sibling scream…added bonus. Then there is the “dumb” Robin suit, who nobody wants to wear because “Robin doesn’t do anything cool.” Due to the ongoing battle, there is a chart on the wall which indicates who wore which costume last. One would think this is the type of forward thinking that would terminate a fray before it even gets started. However, in toddler-land…one would be sorely mistaken. The children are all shouting at once, sounding like a gaggle of short, angry stock brokers.
My charge, the squatty, red-faced damsel in distress rushes me, until her nose is an inch away from my own. “Nanny, it’s my turn to be Batman!” She shouts. “Clancy ALWAYS thinks it’s his turn, but it’s not! I can remember whose turn it is to be Batman, cause I’m the biggest. First it was Eddie’s turn, next it was Clancy’s, and now it’s mine. I ALWAYS remember cause I’m the biggest!”
Having starred in this psycho-drama a hundred times, I sigh and rise calmly from the table where I am folding what seems to be a mountain of underwear and socks. “Let’s all take a look at the chart and buy a vowel, shall we?” I say, swishing dramatically toward the wall, doing my very best ‘Vanna White’ impression. Three sets of watery eyes stare at me, while Eddie stuffs a finger as far up his nose as it will go. They don’t get it…and it was a really good ‘Vanna White’, I must say.
At the chart, the three tots are jockeying for front row positions, but as usual, my charge makes sure she is front and center. “It’s MY house, so I get to be in front!” She shouts at the two cowering boys.
“Well Miss Sassy Pants!” I announce. “It seems as though you don’t ALWAYS remember whose turn it is to be Batman, because it’s not your turn. It’s actually Eddie’s.” Her face is frozen in utter shock. “Oh, and by the way…you are a big girl, but Clancy is just a little bigger than you are right now. So…how about it? Think we can be a little nicer to our friends so they will want to come over and play with us again?”
Her bottom lip quivers. Betrayed by her own Nanny. Now she’s really mad. “Come on!” She commands, saving face. “I want to play cars and trucks, not dumb ol’ Batman. The two boys silently obey and follow the surly toddler down the hall.
Her perpetually slobber covered 18 month-old brother, who has been rummaging through the dress-up cabinet throughout this scene, emerges in what appears to be some sort of Ninja-Butterfly-Drag Queen outfit , and waddles down the hall to join the cheerful three, blowing bubbles in his own ooze.
I sit back down and continue to fold clothes where I have a full view of the hallway and bedrooms. The children’s conversation turns from contentious to cooperative soon after the toys emerge, and peace reigns supreme.
There is nothing more satisfying than achieving a successful period of toddler play that is not interrupted by mental breakdown or bodily injury. With the exception of the earlier emotional collapse, this playdate is a winner. I can’t believe how much I am accomplishing and how happy everyone is. Yet…as I am emptying the dishwasher, something begins to bother me…a slight buzzing noise in my ears. It’s sporadic and annoying. I shake my head, trying to make it go away, and then walk from room to room, in an attempt to locate the source. Entering the master bedroom, I find the children in a circle on the floor, surrounded by cars and trucks. My three-year old charge jumps to her feet, and holds an object up to my face for inspection.
“Look wat we found under Mommy and Daddy’s bed, Nanny!” She shouts, as she thrusts a battery operated, intimate activity aide a little too close to my face for comfort. I notice the buzzing has stopped. “What is it?” She asks.
Taking one small step backward, I stumble loudly into the bedroom door, holding tightly to the knob for support. I hear myself trying to speak, but only a strange combination of bodily noises escape, as I clutch my chest…”Squeak, Grunt, Gasp…” Someone grab the paddles, I may go down.
“It’s a hot dog.” Says Clancy, ignoring my cardiac event.
“Why do Mommy and Daddy get to eat in their room and I don’t?” Miss Large-and-in-Charge is mad again.
“I wonder if my Mommy and Daddy have one pink hot dog under their bed in case they get hungry at night?” Eddie speculates thoughtfully.
“They musta already ate the bun.” Clancy guess, as the grabs at the naughty item.
As the older children clamor for the pornographic accessory, the tiny motor roars to life once again, filling the large room with a mosquito-like buzzing. They all stop and stare at the vibrating pink hot dog.
“See?” Says my tyrannical charge, snatching the indecent object from the hands of her friend. “I told you it wasn’t a hot dog. Hot dogs don’t make that noise. It’s a toy car, but it’s broke. The wheels fell off. I got lotsa cars that make noise like that.”
She tosses the kinky paraphernalia aside and it lands directly in front of the slime covered 18 month-old, who instantly picks it up, and as if in slow motion, opens his gaping maw in an attempt to do the unthinkable…the unfathomable. For me, the world goes dark, with the exception of an X-rated car without wheels, slowly moving toward the face of an extremely sticky, oddly dressed cherub.
This cannot happen on my watch. My myocardial infarction will have to wait. Springing into action, I dive toward the toddler like a crazed Ninja-Nanny, flying through the air, screaming “NNNNNNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” and manage to snatch the offensive object away from the tot’s mouth at the very last moment, making him cry hysterically.
“NANNY!” Shouts the tot’s older sister in surprise, not having seen her chubby Nanny do a great many action movie stunts like the one she just witnessed. “Why can’t he have that broken car?”
I stand on shaky legs…hair cockeyed, and try to come up with a reasonable explanation. “Uhm…I can’t…you don’t…let’s not play with that, okay? It’ uhm…dirty.
“Why?” Asks Eddie.
“Because…it’s…well, it’s poop.” I say, settling on the #1 icky item understood by toddlers around the world.
“But why’s it pink?” My charge asks suspiciously.
I begin to sweat as their small eyes bore holes of doubt into my explanation…I’m losing them. I have to think faster…why would poop be pink? Desperately searching the room, I spot a new photo of the family dressed in their Easter best, taken only a few weeks prior, and the answer simply falls out…
“It’s Easter Bunny poop.”
That does it. The four children circle me firing staccato questions, while jumping up at the perverted thing that I am now holding above my head. I catch a quick glimpse of the scene in the dresser mirror. If there is such a thing as Nanny PTSD, this is where it is born.
“Why doesn’t it smell like poop?”
“Why is it so big and bunnies are so small?”
“Why is it under Mommy and Daddy’s bed?”
“Why does it make that noise?”
“Okay, Okay!” I shout over terrible the din. “I will answer all of your questions, but first let’s get out of Mommy and Daddy’s bedroom. I know they usually let you play in here, but today we are going to stay in our own space. Amazingly, the children agree without argument, and as they wait for me in the playroom, I am left with another dilemma…what to do with “it.” Should I fling it upon the mound of decorative pillows? Place it in the bathroom sink? Toss it into the dog house…the possibilities are infinite.
“NANNY?!” My demanding charge summons me. I toss it under the bed and and run from the area, wiping my hands vigorously on my clothes.
“Tell me about the Easter Bunny poop.” requests my charge, before I have even entered the room.
I take a deep breath and enter the room with confidence. “Okay, look…I will tell you about this quickly and then we are going to move on to something else because it’s really not a big deal and I, for one, would like to have some fun today. Easter Bunny poop doesn’t really smell bad because, well…it’s the Easter Bunny, not a big, stinky rhinoceros. The poop is big because the Easter Bunny is big. How else do you think he can carry enough Easter eggs and candy for everyone in the whole world? Big bunny = big poop. It’s in Mommy and Daddy’s room because they probably forgot to clean it up after Easter. The Easter Bunny is mostly house-broken, but he sometimes has accidents while delivering goodies. Because his poop is magic, it makes that noise so that you can find it the day after Easter and clean it up……………………..Now, who wants to make cookies?”
“Me…Me…I do…I do!” They all shout, jumping up and down excitedly.
I tried that day. God knows I did everything humanly possible to induce amnesia. This event occurred after breakfast, and I had the rest of the day to pack full of activities in hopes that the unfortunate event of the morning would get lost in the sheer volume of details. We baked, and intricately decorated sugar cookies. We made sock puppets, wrote, and performed a full-length, version of “The Princess and the Pea.” We made kites and went to the park to fly them. We even made up a new sport called “Waterfall Kickball,” which is kickball with the use of sprinklers and a slip-n-slide. At the end of the day, the neighbors stumbled home with eyes at half-mast. My two charges could barely hold up their heads. I am cautiously optimistic…We might just get away with this, without mentally scarring anyone.
We might get away with this, without mentally scarring anyone, if it were not for one small factor…these are toddlers. I realize that even if I took the children on a Disney Cruise following this incident, the outcome has “disaster” written all over it.
Mommy and Daddy arrive home from a busy day at work at approximately the same time, and greet their exhausted children with hugs and kisses. “What did you do today?” Mommy inquires. The children are quiet for a moment…maybe they forgot. Perhaps they will talk about the cookies…the kites, puppets, or waterfall kickball.
“We had a busy day.” I interject hopefully.
But just as my hope reaches its peak, the eldest answers without looking up from her coloring book. “Nanny wouldn’t let us play in your room today because you forgot to clean up the Easter Bunny poop that was under your bed. How come I have to clean up my room and you don’t?” Both parent’s look at her, then to me, completely confused. Then…God help me…she continues, “Clancy thought it was a hot dog, but I said it wasn’t because hot dogs don’t make that funny buzzy noise.”
That was the light bulb moment. Both parents looked at one another red-faced, and with open accusation in their eyes which clearly read: “I can’t believe you left it under the bed, you idiot!”
“Why don’t you two go pick up your toys in the playroom while we finish talking to Nanny.” The children’s mother said to the tots.
“I don’t know why we have to clean up.” The elder groused. “We don’t have poop in our playroom.”
“GO!” Shouts Mommy, a little too harshly, causing both of the children to jump.
Alone in the kitchen with the parents, I busy myself picking up crayons. The children’s father seems intently focused on clearing his vest of invisible lint and the mother is vigorously massaging her temples in silence. When I think I will explode from the mortifying awkwardness, I face both parents squarely and say, “I have a great idea. Let’s just…NOT. Everything is okay, although the two of you might want to find a more child-proof hiding spot.”
A teary mother hugs me and apologizes profusely, as a shaky father slaps me on the shoulder and quickly pours himself a double whisky. These employers and I never really discuss this incident further during my placement with them. However, eight months later, I receive a small Christmas package in the mail. It is a beautifully wrapped box, although I cannot imagine why the family didn’t give it to me at work. Inside the box is a toy car whose wheels have been removed and a card which reads: “Thank you for NOT.”
I remain friends with this family, and think of them as every Easter passes, and of the magical Easter Bunny poop. I can’t help but think of them at Christmas as well, when I must resist the yearly urge to send them the gift of one pink hot dog. I’m sure, when they read this post, I will receive a note in the mail which will once again read: “Dear Nanny, Thank you for NOT!”