It's summertime in Minnesota (a miracle in itself this year) and like it or not, one of my summertime mom duties is to take my son and his friends to a public pool. Public pools have changed a lot since my day when there was nothing more than a pool and a diving board, and, if you went to the more affluent communities, a high dive. Today's public pool isn't complete without a tube slide and a body slide, and in the more affluent communities a zip line. Oh, I don't like the overcrowding or the chlorine and urine smells, but it's one of those things You Just Have to Do. I do like the fact that my son is now a proficient swimmer and he can run about the place autonomously with his pack of Lord of the Flies buddies (I'm joking, they're all very nice boys).
The sun poses a problem; my family's collective pallor is Addams Family white; we spend a small fortune on sunscreen. Oh, I used to be of the lay-on-the-mylar- towel-coated-in-baby-oil type of teen, and believe me, it shows in the form of brown spots that are not cute like freckles. And I'm not wild about throwing my fluorescent flesh out in the open air for public consumption for reasons having to do with pooching, puckering, and dimpling. Getting older at the public pool sucks.
With my newfound independence from watching my child like a hawk at the public pool, I was really looking forward to a little reading time. But next to me was an eleven-year-old boy with scarlet cheeks of hot embarrassment with his forehead in his hands. Poor fella I was thinking to myself because he was clearly too old to have a strange pasty mom ask if he was okay. Then she walked up and stood over him; this college age hot nanny with bronze skin, skeins of dark wavy hair, a pierced navel, and a string bikini. Her bangs were cut at an angle framing her flawless face that was punctuated by icy blue eyes. She was perfection.
"And don't move a muscle until I say you can," she hissed at this child with cool detachment. She is the reason that some kids grow up to be bullies and creeps I was thinking to myself aware that I might be guilty of envying her supple youth.
Clearly the kid had a lump in his throat and the redness of his cheeks developed a white circle in the middle. A sign of humilation. All he could do in self-defense was rake the heel of his foot down the stretched plastic loops that held his lounge chair together.
"That's it," she said with unchecked rage. She then went on to yank two very young children very hard by their wrists and throw them into the fray.
"We're leaving," she announced glaring at the mortified boy.
"But we just got here," one child wailed.
"Tough," she said with a mocking sing-song voice, "Your brother decided to ruin pool privileges for everyone."
The younger kids started to cry while the nanny crammed towels and sunscreen into her oversized beach bag.
"I'm sorry," the older boy whispered trying not to reveal the fact that he was on the verge of tears. "I didn't know I was supposed to ask permission to go on the slide. My mom and dad let me do it all the time."
Uh oh, that did it. She kicked the side of his beach chair and narrowed her eyes. "Get up. You're spending the whole day inside no TV, no video games."
This clearly scared the crap out of all of her charges because they all surrendered to her unnecessary cruelty and put on their t-shirts in unison.
I couldn't stand it another minute; really I couldn't.
"Um, excuse me?" I said unable to hold back.
She stopped mid bag stuff and looked me up and down with narrowed eyes that clearly noted my various flaws. After sizing me up, she smirked off of one side of her mouth with an expression that said "What could you possibly have to say to me old woman?"
"I'm pretty sure that their parents aren't paying you to be a monster to their kids," I stated, now fearing that I had worsened their collective fate.
I'm not sure what I thought this would achieve as she ignored me while rounding up her victims and stomping off with huffy claps on the pavement made by her Adidas flipflops.
With a lump in my stomach, I no longer felt like reading so I got up to walk around on the concrete slabs edging the main attraction. I took in moms, dads, kids, nannies, cell phones, People magazines, lots of cocoanut scented laughter. My son and his pals were standing in a long line laughing and talking too loud while trying to balance a three-person innertube. I waved to them and they responded by making goofy contortionist faces.
Feeling again like the world was right, I returned to my chair. A new nanny, a nanny of kids I knew and loved, plopped down next to me. I'd been introduced to her a week earlier at baseball camp drop-off.
"Hi Carrie," I said with a smile.
"Oh hi," she said plopping into the vacated chair next to me.
She then proceeded to pull out her cell and commence into a frenzy of mad texting. I ignored her and thought nothing of it, though I noted that I might want to learn how to text before my son is a teen.
Fifteen minutes lapsed and I notice that the first-grader in her charge had wandered out too deep.
"Uh, Oscar isn't a good enough swimmer to be off on his own in the deep end," I noted out loud.
Annoyed, she looked up from her phone and sighed and said impatiently, "I know, I've had him out here a couple of times already."
Making sure he wasn't going under, I said, "Well, two more steps and he might be in trouble."
"I told Josh to keep an eye on him," she tossed off without stopping her texting spree.
"Uh, Josh is in line at the tube slide," I announced.
"Damn him!" she said not exactly under her breath.
I snapped. "You know what? Josh is on summer vacation. School is hard for these boys, he should be able to have fun with his friends. I believe you are being paid to keep an eye on Oscar who is seconds away from drowning." I then leaped from my chair, jumped in the pool, and reeled an unfazed Oscar in to safer waters.
Hey all you nannies out there, I've been watching you. I'm the nanny narc and if I see you being disproportionately unkind or uncaring, I'm afraid I'm going to have to turn you in.
If you hate kids, I'd suggest another line of work. If you resent the fact that you have to work to earn spending money now that you're old enough to work, don't take it out on the kids. If you can't tear yourself away from the drama of your social life – I don't know, I had the same problem.
When I was your age (I can't believe I'm beginning a sentence with this phrase), I was left in charge of my siblings. They referred to me as The Meanest Babysitter in the World. But hey, they were siblings; that's to be expected right? There were lots of inner familial tensions that needed to be worked out in unsavory, borderline violent ways in our parents' absence. But we were in the privacy of our own house, and nobody got too hurt. Okay, so rabbit pellets aren't Cocoa Puffs. I got grounded for my cruelties
Later that evening at the baseball diamond, I broached the subject to my friend Jocelyn, Carrie's employer.
"New nanny's a dud," I said, kind of joking, kind of not.
Jocelyn looked on the verge of tears at my breezy assessment, her jaw set hard, her voice lowering, "What did she do. I need to know this stuff."
I recounted the day's events, aware of Jocelyn's pained and stressed expression. I even left out the part where Carrie left for what she said would be half an hour to switch cars with her mom. Carrie didn't return for an hour and a half, I watched the kids, and by the time she returned my son and I were delirious with sun exposure.
I felt like a jerk. I'm lucky that I don't have to miss out on summer days with my kid. I can write any time of the day or night (assuming I'm disciplined enough to actually do it every day or night). How awful Jocelyn felt upon hearing that the person she entrusted her kids to while she worked at a job she loved was sub par. It's not like I'm some perfect mom, but when I'm cranky or feel like yelling, going out in public with the kids in tow forces me to be civil and appropriately behaved in spite of a foul mood. These nannies didn't care who bore witness to their sloth and cruelty. I've certainly scowled at mean slapping or snarling parents at Target; I know life is filled with multiple stresses. So far I've never confronted a cruel parent for fear that they'll kick my ass.
But look at it this way; these kids are going to be the generation that's supposed to take care of us when we're old. If we treat them with disrespect and ennui, imagine what our twilight years could look like? Wait a minute, it's going to be the bad nannies' generation that will be stuck with the burden of caring for us. I can see it now, hot nanny#1 now middle aged and hating her job at an assisted living condo complex, "I told you to eat your damn pudding. Stop whining; there's not a thing I can do about your bed sores!" We might be screwed.