This year has given me more gifts than I could possibly count, from the drawings with my name scrawled on the back in washable marker to the chance to drive the boss’ Audi for a day and pretend I’m hot stuff. It’s given me a North Carolina family whom I dearly love, little ones and their parents who have adopted and loved me. It’s been a breath of fresh air, a different set of priorities from my syllabus-dictated existence. I checked in at the six month mark to hit the highlights at that point. As we’re coming up on the end of the adventure, here are my top three life lessons from my nanny days.
[[Shut up, I’m not crying. You’re crying. I have allergies… to feelings.]]
1. Everything is a big deal. Everything. From which socks you wear (or if you wear them) to the order of who climbs in the car first. It all says something about who you are and your place in the world. It says something about how much power you have and how you value yourself and others. It also says something about your blood sugar levels and the amount of sleep you got last night. Kids overreact a lot y’all. They just do. See Reasons My Son is Crying for further information on this. But somewhere in the midst of those meltdowns they’re learning about self-respect. Occasionally when I have hit my limit and just start counting to three out loud and praying no one calls my bluff because I have no idea what actually happens when we get to three and the shoes are still not on, my favorite six year old will cross her arms and insist, “I am in charge of my body.” Y’all, that is HUGE! Sometimes frustrating, but so important that she gets that. She already knows that regardless of what anybody else wants or pressures her to do, her body is her own. Amen sister. But you do still have to wear shoes, love. Hold on to that sass and righteous indignation. Let’s just work together on learning where to aim it. We need people pointing out the big deals we overlook and making a stink about them. Those people are called activists and protesters and leaders and prophets. And I think sometimes they start out by making a big fuss over which sippy cup they use.
2. On the flip side of this coin, though, it’s not that big a deal. Whatever it is, it feels bigger and more permanent than it is. Remember to hold on to your perspective like a life-raft bobbing along the surface of the waves. Try to avoid the temptation to dive too deeply under the valleys or jump too high over the crests. There’s a way to rejoice without capsizing and to grieve without sinking. At least not permanently. I realize that your sister getting “the bigger half” of the granola bar is devastating, but this too shall pass, little one. Seeing the zero-to-threat-level-midnight meltdown happen on a fairly regular basis kind of makes me wonder how often I do something similar in adult world. I tend to think of my joys and sorrows now as being somehow bigger or more “real” than those of childhood, but are they? Some things are absolutely worth flipping over (in a good or bad way), but most things aren’t. A deep breath and a step back would save me more grief than I’d like to admit.
3. Being a nanny has absolutely instilled a proper level of adoration and respect for all of those raising and caring for kids. This year has humbled me and quieted any judgmental little voices in my head about the parents and guardians in my orbit, namely those superficial observances about messy clothes or playing a little too loudly in the checkout line at the grocery store that creep up from time to time. My entire job is these two kids and their schedules, and I still have trouble some days keeping straight which fruit snack each kid will or will not eat this week, whether we need the ballet bag, paino books, or swim suits on a particular day, and don’t even get me started on brushed hair and appropriate footwear. The little guy has been wearing pajamas and beat up rain boots for weeks. I’ve even hidden them from him, and the child is like a bloodhound. He sniffs them out. Honestly, the fact that schools function regularly because enough people are able to get their children bathed, dressed, fed, and in the same place at roughly the same time EVERY SINGLE WEEKDAY is a straight up miracle on par with loaves and fishes. Does the Vatican know about you people? Because my kids are gonna be a hot mess, let me just put that out there right now. I feel like they will basically be the Belcher children–quirky, socially awkward, overly attached to that one weird article of clothing, and hopefully smart and sassy in an endearingly hilarious kind of way. But they will definitely not be on time to anything ever, so go ahead and make your peace with that world. I’ve made my peace with it, too, and let’s just all agree to give each other grace on this little stuff so we can get to supporting each other in the big stuff. Our pastor Connie used to remind us that on the Sundays when the kids stayed during the entire worship service to share Communion with the rest of the congregation, they were learning what it means to share this holy family meal. So when they squirm and whisper and generally embarrass their long-suffering mamas, “What do we do?” she’d ask. “Smile,” the congregation would respond. In solidarity with the guardians doing the best they can, we smile and show that we are thankful for their presence and their love and their little ones. If those things like squirming in church and wearing rain boots to school still bother you, though, please refer to lesson #2.
I’m leaving these kiddos with all of my love and a whole lot of gratitude. What a privilege to spend a year in their world. Stay golden, punkins.