Friday, November 11, 2011

A sad understanding

On Kelly's first day of Kindergarten, my Mom cried at the bus stop, and then got in her car and followed the bus all the way to the school, a whole 1.3 miles down the road.

I never understood why my Mom would feel sad when it was the 1st day of school again, or why she would be as upset as the rest of us when Christmas vaca was shorter than usual. I honestly thought she was just doing it to help us feel better. She hated that line in the Christmas song, "And Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again." When we would ask her if she was excited for that, she would get this annoyed look on her face and say, "Of course not. I love being around my kids."

I didn't get it. I really cannot express enough how much this idea eluded me. Didn't she want a break? Wasn't she bitter that she had to spend all day every day taking care of us? If I were a mom, I would think, I would want every vacation that I could get. In the latest Cheaper by the Dozen the mom's dreams are coming true. She's a famous author, and she's doing a book signing tour. And yet, she can't sleep. She calls down to the hotel front desk and is like, "Can I get twelve pillows up here?" Because she misses her twelve kids that much.

Today is the lil guy's first day at Daycare, and I officially "get it." I mean sure, he hasn't left yet and yes, I pick him up around 11, but I still miss him so much already.

Maybe if he was a horrible child who bit and screamed and threw fits, I would welcome this day with open arms and balloons. But as it is, he is not, and I could not sleep.

I set my alarm for 9:46am, because I felt that for sure they would be gone by then. But no. I woke up at 6:57, 7:23, 7:45, 8:46.... finally at 9:03 I could not force my wide-awake self to lie in bed any longer.

There is not a lot that can distract me at the moment. I am feeling honestly and truly sad right now. Even though I have only been his nanny for three and a half months, the lil guy is basically my best friend. I love spending time with him. I love finding things I think he would enjoy doing. I love playing games with him. I love feeding him vitamins. The most mundane tasks are always better when I am with my lil guy.

When I first began this job, the old nanny, Tressa, got really teary the last day. She said that she didn't realize she would miss him this much. I patted her arm in a consoling manner and thought to myself, "Well this is weird." At that point, if I'm being honest, I didn't see anything that special about the lil guy. He was just another kid and I was babysitting him for the next four or so months. And for awhile, this was how I felt.

I hated mornings, because he would always cry when I would come out because he knew I was taking him away from his parents. I vowed we would never visit a Smithsonian because I was terrified of the metro, of getting lost, and (my pride kicked in) of looking too "tourist-y." I was constantly exhausted, and the first few weeks I went to bed before eight every night. Walks seemed to take forever, and minutes felt like years. My feet always hurt, and the moment we stepped back in the house I raced to my pig slippers to provide them some sort of relief. Nap time was the best time of the day. I hated Gymboree, because that meant that I had to use the metro at least once a week. We were constantly at the zoo, because that was the one place I knew and the lil guy could spend forever there. I was dead-set on spending all day, every day at the zoo and this one park.

I honestly had no idea of what to do with this child. I didn't know how to have a conversation with a 21 month old who didn't know any other words besides "bus" and "yes," so I began to teach the lil guy words. One of our favorite places to watch the buses had all these stairs, so I began holding his hand, and we would walk up and down, and every single time we went up I would say, "up!" and every single stair we went down, I would say, "down!" One of the best days was when the lil guy began to say them with me.

And I think that is when it all came together for me. The lil guy would still cry in the mornings, but I knew he would stop as soon as we got to the elevator. I loved our walks, and would always be surprised when I would check my clock and see that we had been out for over an hour. We would play games and he liked when I read to him. I met other nannies and made friends. The lil guy would smile and laugh and say new words. I began to miss my lil guy over the weekends and would constantly talk about him. Sometimes even nap time would seem like too long and I would want him to wake up so we could go have more fun. And then one day, I was ready to brave the Smithsonians.

The night before we went out and the morning of I studied the metro map and then Google maps collectively for at least three hours. Now I know how to get to the Air and Space Museum, the Museum of Natural History, and the American History Museum. I understand better how to use the street signs to help me. I love the metro system.

Most of all, I love my lil guy. I didn't think I would get so attached, but he has taken over a permanent spot of my heart. He is such a wonderful, smart, sweet, clever, funny kid. He has the prettiest blue eyes I have ever seen, and the funniest expressions.

I remember one time I was taking him home from a doctor appointment and it was raining a bit. I had his dumb stroller, so there was no covering and I myself was just wearing a hoodie for protection. The lil guy peevishly pointed to his wet hair and I, not wanting the lil guy to get upset because he was getting rained on, said with as much energy as I could muster, "Look, lil guy! Rain is coming down! Isn't it fun to walk in the rain?!" My enthusiasm was met with a bewildered stare. He clearly thought I was short a few when I began belting, "If allll the raindrops were gooey gumps and gumdrops oh what a world this would be! Standing outside with my mouth open wide going AH-AH-oh-AH-AH-oh-AH-AH-oh-AH!"

Another time I decided we were going to go on this wooded trail in the back of our apartment. I excitedly talked about all the squirrels and trees and birds we would see as I zipped up his jacket and made sure he had on his closed-toe shoes. When we arrived at the head of the trail, the lil guy looked at it, and then looked up at me with a face that clearly said, "You're nuts, Nicole. Why would you ever want to go in there?" Oh but we were going. "Come on lil guy! There are stairs!" I exclaimed joyfully. That was enough to convince him for a very short while. A very very short while. In a manner of minutes I was carrying him determinedly onward, but I was not Super Nanny at this time and my muscles gave out when we were only a couple hundred feet (and one big hill) in. We could still see the head of the trail, a fact that delighted the lil guy as much as it saddened me.

I love my lil guy. He has taught me so much. He is patient and sweet and the best sharer and cute as a button and kind. I would be the happiest girl in the world if my future children were like him. I plan on naming one of my sons after him, just like how my mom named Sarah after the Sara she nannied for.

I came into this job with the firm belief that four months was not enough time to get attached. I was sure that my last day would be a huge relief for me. The initial appeal of this job was that I would be living in DC, something I had always wanted to do.

That was it. I never expected to make nanny friends, in fact I didn't want to at first. I never expected to love my job and look forward to Monday. I never saw myself thinking about what the baby would want- I always thought it would be about what I felt up to. In a way, it is, but I am more willing to go out of my comfort zone for the lil guy than for anyone else, and by a huge margin. I am constantly looking out for things that I think he would love and preparing to go out and do it. I never thought that I could feel so protective over a child who was not my own or not a member of my family. The other nannies bewildered me. They were always playing with their kids and giving them hugs and kisses and looking like they were having the time of their lives. I never thought I would love my lil guy. I wasn't even sure if I would remotely like him.

Everything about this experience has been different from what I expected. I didn't think I would get this job, but I got it. I didn't think I would like living in a city, but I love it. I didn't think nap time could ever be too long, but sometimes it is. I didn't think I would ever just know off the top of my head how to get places, but I do. I didn't think I would be good enough at the metro to give people directions, but I am. I didn't think my suite would ever feel like home, but it does.

And finally, I didn't think I could ever feel so much love and concern for the lil guy. Not in the remotest sense. But I do, and in 21 days I will be sadder than I am today, because December 2, 2011, is my last day of work.

And I have the best job in the world.

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