Yesterday was one of those fucking days. It actually started the night before when J vomited rather spectacularly. Then, round about one in the morning, Benjamin proceeded to vomit all over his bed, which would not be so bad if that weren’t a mere seven hours before the movers were scheduled to arrive and pack our house up. (Yes, I am aware that people who have someone else packing up their shit for them do not get to complain about moving, but please, read on.)
So, Benjamin was home from school yesterday while J staggered onto a plane for his business trip and Zachary – oh He of the Magnificent Immune System – sauntered off to preschool. Our au pair, Cleo, came along to take Lilah to Gymboree, then promptly threw up in the Gymboree bathroom, which I guess makes it a good thing we’re not going back to that particular one.
The day unraveled from there.
Cleo took a long nap. Given that Benjamin had lost about six hours of sleep the night before, I had him take an afternoon nap. He woke up grumpy, which was not helped by the fact that I had to dump him into Cleo’s arms so I could go pick up Zachary. When I came home, forty-five minutes later, he was still crying for me. I had to carry all thirty-five pounds of him around the house with me while checking to make sure the movers got everything. He finally let me put him down on his bed, only to start screaming again when Cleo came into the room.
Cleo took Lilah and Zachary to the library to get a few books to tide us over, as most of ours were by this time packed up. I took Benjamin with me to rent the car I’ll need when my own car is loaded onto the moving van tomorrow. As we walked, I told him, “When we get home, I’ll leave you with Cleo and take Lilah and Zachary to the grocery to get peanut butter, jam, diaper wipes, and Cheerios.”
“I want to go with you!”
“Benjamin, I need you to stay with Cleo. I am not taking three children with me to the grocery store.”
“But, I don’t want to be with Cleo because she hurts me sometimes.” Suffice it to say I ended up taking three kids to the grocery store.
I know kids say things and misinterpret. But Benjamin is not like that. He has never accused an adult of hurting him. He is very verbal and explained exactly what had happened. When he was crying, Cleo, frustrated or vindictive or whatever, squeezed his arm hard. And maybe that could happen accidentally. Except we believed her when she told us it was accidental three weeks ago when she hurt Zachary.
We had suspected something was off about this girl shortly after she came to stay with us in mid-September. By the time she grabbed Zachary so roughly that she left a mark, we knew that we would be moving in a few weeks. Rather than fire her on the spot, we chose to believe her when she said he had been going crazy and was falling off the stool when she grabbed him.
We chose to believe her because it was convenient to us.
When I caught her on her cell phone, ignoring Lilah for forty-five minutes, we chose to believe it was an isolated incident, in part because the phone records supported that but also in part because it was convenient for us. When, over the past week, she three times lied to us about what she was doing when out with Lilah, we figured that she’d be gone in a few days.
But, then. “I don’t want to be with Cleo because she hurts me sometimes.”
When I came back from the grocery, I emailed the agency that I wanted Cleo out by the next morning. I then told her that the conditions under which she would be allowed to stay the night were that she was to stay in her room, which is detached from the rest of the house. She could come in to use the facilities once the kids were in bed, although she decided not to do that.
I don’t think she was regularly beating the children. I think she got frustrated and crossed a line far too frequently. The scariest part is that she didn’t even know what the kids were talking about, putting on her most innocent fact when I confronted her.
Or maybe the scariest part was that we gave her the benefit of the doubt when she should have been out a month ago.
The next four days are going to be very, very hard. All of our stuff is leaving tomorrow, but we are not flying out till Saturday. We will be in an empty house with borrowed air mattresses. I have borrowed a neighbor’s babysitter for a few hours this afternoon so I can get the boys from school and take Zachary to his final therapy session. The kids are off school on Wednesday, and if I cannot find a babysitter to join us, it will be just me and all three kids at Day Out With Thomas down in OC. So be it.
By Saturday night, we will be with the grandparents in D.C., and in a few weeks the move will be over. We will be in a small rented house in New Jersey. The kids will be in their new schools. And we will not have a new au pair. We will not have a new nanny.
“I think we need a better au pair,” Zachary said.
“We’re not getting another au pair,” I told him. “I will be taking care of you guys all the time. We’ll have a housekeeper who can help out by staying with Lilah during her nap, but I’ll be taking care of you.”
“Will you still be publishing books?” he asked, because bless the kid he actually believes I am a successful writer.
“Yes,” I told him. “I’ll write when I get the time.”
It is late, and I feel nauseous. Perhaps it is because I have not gotten enough sleep lately. Or perhaps I am the next to get this stomach bug. Or maybe it’s because I keep hearing my baby saying to me, “I don’t want to be with Cleo because she hurts me sometimes.”
Yesterday was one of those fucking days.
I am so, so sorry about all of this.
Yes, it’s high time you left LA.
I’m so sorry. Part of the reason we have used all of two babysitters for hire in fifteen years is because we don’t trust anyone. Part of that is paranoia, of course, but part of that is that in my husband’s line of work he has seen horrible babysitter stories. His uncle, who was a police officer for years, had the same policy. It’s inconvenient, mind-numbing and makes you want to cry- but if you can it’s the best way to know your child is being cared for in the way you think s/he could be.
(Which is not to say that people who have to use a babysitter aren’t good parents- I’d just be more nerve-wracked.)
And they will grow up, and you will write.
Hope everyone is better soon.
Oh sweetie, the next few days will be hard. But like labor, the pain will fade. I’m so sorry you had a bad experience with the au pair. But you may find you want some help in the future, you will need to stay sane. It is hard to trust after something like that. Like many, I have eschewed sitters. But I have found a lovely college girl to come once a week, and I find it so important.
Hoping from here out the rest of the move is relatively smooth. hugs!
Leave it behind with those library books. That’s the absolutely best part of the Greek tragedy that it moving- you are lighter, less encumbered. Will it be hard till Saturday? Yes. But you, of all people, can do it. Bonne chance.
What a bad day.
Good riddance to LA.
Oh my. I’m so sorry.
Ultimately, you did hear, and your kids saw you handle this and stop it. Benjamin learned that his words have power.
Good luck with the next few days.
Im sorry about what happened! Hope that everything will be better in New Jersey! Please say hi to the kids from me! I miss them a lot 🙂
Oh, that little sweetheart, asking you if you’ll still be publishing books. That makes me smile.
Things will get better. I think you’ve had your quota for suck for a while.
What an awful ending to the LA chapter of your life. This is one of the main reasons I will never hire someone to come in my home to watch my kids….I believe in traditional day care, or Parents day out, there is relative safety in numbers (though I use neither service) but I wouldnt be comfortable having someone in my home to watch my kids without having some nanny cams. I think watching other people’s children is very hard work, heck my own kids get on my last nerve sometime, but I think that tends to happen quicker when they are not your own.
There are so many times when I think it would be nice to have a few moments to myself, would be nice not to have to wake up Allie to drop off and pick up Drew at daycare, yet I know these years are going to be gone before I know it. My kids will be in full time school in under 5 years, and then I will get the chance to reinvent myself again.
Hope things improve ten fold (at least) when you get to NJ
Oh God. I’m sorry – I’m so, so sorry.
I am so sorry. But you did listen to him. I hope you can remind yourself of that.
Oh, goodness. I am so sorry.
And Zachary gets awesome points for wanting you to continue writing. What a great kid he is.
Oh, Emily. What a nightmare. I felt queasy just reading about it.
I can totally relate. We have no family where we live, and I don’t like to impose on friends, so I used to have a collection of babysitters – local kids who I could make sure had taken first aid and whose parents I knew. Sometimes, though, we’d have to get babysitters that I knew a little less.
One time, I had a babysitter’s older sister watching the children when I was in a play. I had specific nights I was out because the tickets had been sold for the shows (3 weekends basically). This girl was older, had her own car, was in college. I trusted her because her sister was awesome and I was in a pinch.
Then came the day I was driving the kids home and the babysitter would arrive in an hour so I could go to the theater. “We don’t like “XXX”, she hits us sometimes.”
I just about lost my mind. I couldn’t NOT go to the show, so my husband had to come home from work early. I called this person and told her what my 5 year old son had said, and she started to protest. I interrupted her and said, “This is not a dialogue [words I’ve used over and over since then]. This is ME telling YOU that my children have said you hit them, and I am not interested in anything else you have to say. You’re not welcome here.”
It was devastating. But we survived and they don’t even remember it. Sometimes we make choices as parents because we’re exhausted, or we’re overwhelmed, or it’s just easy. I try hard not to beat myself up over that all the time.
So, welcome to nj, almost 😉
Oh man. I hope the next few days are calm.
Oh, Em. I am so, so sorry. What a terrible end to your less than lovely LA stint. But again, you did listen to your child, and thank heavens, this is nearly over for you all. I totally wish I could be there to help out in person, though.
In case you do need some help from time to time when you move, I have had excellent luck with sittercity.com – they do charge for membership, but we found Badger’s current nanny, whom he absolutely ADORES, as well as a couple of good backup sitters on there. You can review references, many of the caregivers have already submitted to background checks, or you can request to do one on a potential, and parents can submit feedback on caregivers. They also do housekeepers, same type of deal. I found the charges to be reasonable. Might be worth a look.
Well fuck. I’m really sorry.
ouch, ouch, ouch.
Oh man. I’m fucking sorry, Em.
I’m glad nothing worse happened, though that’s certainly terrible enough. I hope the transition and move is easier than expected for you.
I’m so, so sorry. I am sure that the kids are going to be OK. I hope that you can go easy on yourself. And I am thinking good thoughts for you in the next days and weeks.
As if moving wasn’t stressful enough…
I am so sorry. And I am hoping for a fresh start for you all on the other side of the country.
I am so terribly, terribly sorry. Many hugs and good thoughts to you!
Fuck, Emily. So sorry. I’m sure by now you have burnt the place down on your way to the airport.
You are on your way to a better place.
I’m glad she’s out of your lives. What a week you’ve had.
Onward and Upward.
Love to you, and I’ll be sending lots of good energy your way. xo
You listened. You acted. It’s important to remember that.
I hope the move goes well. Best wishes.
oh. wow. I’m so sorry. it could have been worse, I suppose, and it’s good that it wasn’t. but… yikes.
Holy hell. I’m so sorry to hear that. But you did listen to Benjamin. In the long run, that’s what he’ll remember: not that for a few months someone in his life hurt him, but that you, the person around for the duration, paid attention and listened and believed him. Speaking as a (former) kid whose parents believed me, and having seen other kids’ parents blow off their kids’ statements, I always knew my mom had my back. I’m sure there were times she felt bad, but I don’t remember those times; I remember knowing that she had my back.
Good luck with the move. I’ll be praying for you all.
Oh my, yes and YES. Moving sucks even more.
Damn. Well agree with all else – fuck LA. Let your good east coast life begin!
Oooooohhhhh nnnooooo. I’m so sorry. What a horrid day.
I’ve been an au pair myself, and known hundreds. I can say with all confidence that SOMETHING is always wrong either either the au pair or the family. So since you all seem pretty normal, there’s no chance you could get a normal au pair. I’m so sorry you had that happen though.
Yikes! At least he told you she hurt him, and you got rid of her. He’ll remember that, just like I remember my mother firing the sitter that stuffed fish stix covered in ketchup into my face because I refused to eat them back when I was six.
My mother thought she was the greatest and had no one else to watch us while she worked, but after I told her what happened and that she dragged us to her friend’s house to watch soaps all day, she got rid of her immediately.
There have been three times in my son’s eight years where someone babysat him other than my mother. I have major trust issues from my job and an aversion to babysitters after the whole fish stix incident 😉
I hope you’re getting settled in right now!
Well, that is scary!
Why do people become au pairs or nannies in the first place, if they are that irritated by children that they are driven to hurt them?