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.