You Can’t Always Wipe Who You Want

~ The Working Years, Part 3 ~

I called immediately, drove to their large country home for my interview, and walked out with a new job [as a nanny].The very next week began one of the most interesting experiences of my life…

First, you have to understand that I hadn’t seen much of the world. I was born and raised in the same Southern Baptist Church with Southern Baptist friends who all ate potluck-style fatty foods and watched the same mostly wholesome movies and listened to the same semi-wholesome music; most of our Dads worked, most of our Moms stayed home, and nannies? Two of my friends called their Grandma “Nanny” but nobody paid for a nanny! And so, here, in this interesting house on the outskirts of Louisville, I found myself surprised at every turn.

In this house, Dad stayed home, Mom stayed home, little boy stayed home, and Nanny (a.k.a. me!) stayed home. All of us together. Mom and Dad ran an outdoor adventures business out of the country, conducting their business on long trips away or from their home. And so I learned to take care of this little boy, and, more excruciatingly, to scold this little boy, with his Mom in the room with us. But that was only the beginning of our differences…

This family was completely organic. The little boy’s (we’ll call him “Scout”) favorite foods were organic crackers and hummus, English muffins with soynut butter, and sushi. Yes, sushi. Which, not to gross you out too badly over your morning coffee, resulted in some organic poop. Again, Mom was in the next room, but Nanny got to sit with him in the bathroom while he took care of business and clean him up afterward. (Which, I completely understand is part of the job…but still, gross!). Even his snacks were so different from the snacks I ate growing up. No Funyans, iced Oatmeal cookies or “sodey water” as my Granny called it for Scout – he snacked on dried peas, dried corn, and lots and lots of yogurt. Their pantry was a fascinating place to a meat-and-potatoes girl like myself. I did, however, become addicted to my boss’s delicious BLT’s while working there and was introduced to some surprisingly good foods I had never tried before, like sugar snap peas, edamame, and turkey bacon.

And one day that is particularly sweet in my memory, before one of their long trips abroad, my boss asked if I “would mind” taking home a huge carton of blackberries, blueberries and raspberries that they wouldn’t be able to eat before they left. Oh, please! Mrs. Gore loves fresh berries, and on our strict budget, could never afford to buy any. I reverently carried that treasure home, my heart overflowing. Chris and I felt rich that night – and very blessed – as we feasted on all those berries in their prime of season in our teensy tiny living room. I’ll never forget it.

But perhaps the most intriguing and foreign things about Scout, in my mind, had to do with his upbringing. There are so many little things that stood out to me, none greater than the fact that he had a hispanic baby doll named Jorge who had a stroller and a crib next to his bed. Or that he would order a “warm vanilla milk” from Starbucks when we all went to Target. As I could only occasionally afford a McDonald’s coffee from time to time during that first year of marriage, I couldn’t imagine a 3-year old being regularly treated to Starbucks! He was in swimming lessons, was on a soccer league, went to a music class, had a library membership, and was dabbling in Spanish, all at the tender age of 3, but I learned that his favorite thing, even with his busy schedule and the entire world laid before him, was playing catch in the yard with me. Which, I’ll admit, made me feel pretty good.

He woke up at 7 and went to bed at 7, with no naps in between. This wasn’t necessarily a problem, except that he had a low point every day when he became really tired, and he was not allowed to watch television. Which meant that when Nanny came over for my 7 hour shifts, Nanny and Scout played  for 7 hours, whether Scout was into it or not. 7 hours straight!! Sometimes we were allowed to watch a 30-minute episode of Little Bear, or Backyardigans, or Wonderpets, but only when my little charge was under the weather or if the weather was under the weather.

But that 7 hour stint of playing meant that I would take home a $70 check that night, and I was very, very grateful. I also enjoyed getting out of the city and enjoying the fresh air and acreage their home provided, as well as discovering the amazing books, toys, and movies in Scout’s extensive collection – it was there that I first watched and fell in love with Little Bear, read “Make Way for Ducklings” and “Harold and the Purple Crayon” and met my favorite toy ever, Twilight Turtle – all things that are big fixtures in our home today. And, as difficult as it was to discipline and guide a child who was not my own, I grew to care for this little boy, and he for me – which was a good thing, as we spent a lot…a lot!…of time together. 7 hours at a time!

There were hard days, too, the worst being when he would have “playdates”, which I quickly began to suspect are not really for kids, but for Mommys. The Moms would be upstairs having a grand ol’ time, while Nanny was downstairs watching extra kids, who didn’t even seem to notice the others were there and whose extra Mommies didn’t think to give Nanny a tip. In all honesty, I hated playdate day. Which might be why the very word “playdate” makes me cringe today…

And while I’m complaining, I’ll also admit that I didn’t necessarily love perching on a tiny giraffe stool at Scout’s personal child-sized table to eat my lunch everyday, but it was kind of funny, too, and I hated the thought of him eating there alone. At least he didn’t make me sit on the elephant.

Which leads me to another aspect of this job that is worth noting and sharing. I suppose part of my difficulty in finding work in Louisville had to do with my pride – I had a college education, I had previously received most anything I wanted in the world (middle-class permitting), and now, all of a sudden, I was at the bottom of the food chain; and, as a nanny, even found myself sitting at the kids table while the adults ate at the big table, making beds and tidying up for when company came, and, of course, wiping the bottom of a little boy who drank Starbucks while I ate his leftover berries like a luxury-depraved washed-up starlet. Forget “Baby Jane”…whatever happened to Baby Lesley?! So while this was a great job, an answer to prayer for which I was very grateful, I can clearly see in retrospect that the brat in me was at war with the grown-up in me, making these not only “the working years,” but “the humbling years.” I wish now I had been even more grateful for this job and had really poured my heart into serving this family.

After a summer break in Oklahoma (we had the opportunity to join this family in their summer home, but I couldn’t pass up Oklahoma!), we returned to Louisville that fall where I continued to watch Scout. But this time, there was new life growing in my midsection, new life that zapped me of most of my energy, some of my patience and all of my ability to go one hour without eating. It definitely changed the way I nannied. From the start, Scout and I both loved to play “camping”, whether outside or in his giant playroom basement. When we played inside, we would turn on his lantern and Twilight Turtle at our “campsite” before he would run over and turn off the main lights. But now I enjoyed this game for different reasons than I did before – now I could lay my head on my pillow during “bedtime” and get about 30 blissful seconds of sleep before it was “morning.” We would sit up, me a bit begrudgingly, roast pretend marshmallows, and then I would say, “Oh, its getting dark again, Scout! Time for bed!!” and we’d go through the routine again, 30 more seconds to rest my overwhelmingly heavy eyelids. Believe me, that game was the only way I made it through those 7 hour days in the first trimester of my first pregnancy.

But perhaps the changes taking place in me were more obvious than I thought, or maybe it had to do with Scout starting preschool, but one day, my boss just stopped calling. And big phonophobic baby that I was, I never called to see why. I never saw or heard from them again, and six months into my pregnancy, one semester into his PhD, Chris made the weighty decision (another story for another day) to return to Oklahoma. I said goodbye to Kentucky, to Pottery Barn Kids, to being a nanny, and to the heavy burden of being a “career woman.” Our time as newlyweds far away from home was truly a magical and sweet time, which I will describe in more detail in the days to come, but when it came to the working world, we definitely found that Mrs. Gore was not to be counted on to bring home the bacon, not even one slice! But God had been faithful to us, not only providing a great job to get us through, but providing a job that helped me to grow in humility and to begin viewing myself in a more biblical light, as a servant. I slowly but surely lost my sense of entitlement while gaining $70 a day, and the way it went down really wasn’t so bad…0rganic poop and all.

Yes indeed, that amazing Mr. Gore threw my big pregnant belly over his shoulder for the second time and carried me back home to Oklahoma, straight to my Momma and Daddy’s house. And I’ll tell you alllllll about that, tomorrow…or maybe the next day.

2 thoughts on “You Can’t Always Wipe Who You Want

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