Thursday, February 24, 2011

Leaving Kids Behind

So I've started reading this blog written by a (former) nanny because it gives me something to do while my little guy naps and because her writing makes me laugh.  I'm still wading through the archives though, and reading old posts about how much she misses the girls she used to nanny for has made me so nostalgic about all the kids I've left behind since I started babysitting/nannying.  I've probably taken care of more than twenty kids in my time, but there are two families I will never forget.  The first was a family for whom I worked for two consecutive summers, the first after I graduated high school and the next after my first year of college.

It was idyllic in some ways - Cape Cod, beaches, four sweet darling boys all within three years of age - and maddeningly frustrating in other ways - parents who didn't "approve" of discipline, being on 24-hour-call, feeling out of place in an area so much ritzier than any I'd ever been or belonged in.  But I loved those boys so fiercely that I would have taken a bullet for any one of them.  They were tough kids to take care of, there's no denying it.  The oldest, L. was three years old one summer and four the next, and he could push limits better than any child I've ever seen.  My interactions with him consisted mainly of defusing meltdowns and calmly leaving places with him screaming in tow because he refused, after three warnings, to follow the rules I set down.  W., the sweet, good-natured one of the four, was two years old and then three the following year and he was possibly the easiest little one I've ever cared for.  Not picky about food, no trouble going to sleep, loved to laugh, doled out hugs with no reservations, and told me repeatedly, even after two days of knowing him, "I wove you so much, Caywin!"  But the clincher?  The twins.  My babies.  Eight months old, and then almost two years old the next year.  With them I got a crash course in baby-raising - changing diapers with one hand, reading to two kids at once, singing bedtime songs in Spanish (their non-summer nannies were Spanish speakers so I tried to encourage their bilingual language learning as much as I could).  I would wake up with them in the night and feed them each a bottle at the same time, laid out on the floor side by side.  I would take them to the park the second summer, chasing them over and over again, just to hear them giggle with delight.  Each summer that I left (especially the second, knowing it was the last time I'd see them) I felt like my heart was breaking.  I cried so hard on the airplane ride home that the flight attendants came to sit next to me with tissues and bottles of water.  Almost four years later, the pain of leaving them has effectively left me.  I think of them often, smiling at the memories, but knowing that they are loved and cared for (though perhaps not in the way I would choose).

The sadness that still nags me is that of leaving the family I cared for during my senior year of college.  Three times a week, for four or five hours at a time, I would take care of two darling girls, S. and J.  S. was six and J. was 15 months when I started.  We bonded from the first day I showed up and I looked forward to seeing them every time.  S. was incredibly precocious and would beg me to play mancala with her over and over again, just so she could beat me and howl with delight.  She told me I should open my own quesadilla shop (with the delightfully original name of Caitlin's Quesadillas) because I made her favorite dinner so well.  What can I say, I'm quite the whiz with tortillas and cheese.  J. and I would spend one day a week together, just us.  We'd read Doctor Suess over and over and she'd fall asleep on my chest, the only place she would reliably nap for more than fifteen minutes.  They called me Cakey because J. couldn't say Caitlin, and when I showed up at their house, they would run to me for hugs and cuddles.  The day I last saw them, I came home to my half-packed room, already anxious about leaving my beloved school and immediately retreated to my best friend's room and started sobbing.  "What happened??" she asked, imagining the worst.  "My girls," was all I could say.  "I miss them already."

What will I do when I leave my little man?  I've already seen his first rollover, his first crawl, heard his first attempts at words, caught him as he toppled after first standing up, and taught him how to feed himself.  We practice words like "diaper" and "ducky" and he'll crawl to me, giggling, one arm waving wildly in a request to be picked up.  I sign to him, tell him "No," when he bangs on his high chair or pulls open drawers that are off-limits.  I rock him till he's sleepy and rub his back until he falls asleep in his crib.  He nuzzles into my chest when he first wakes up in the morning and he goes limp in my arms as I put him to bed at night.  I don't want to think about leaving such a precious kid in a little over a year, but I know that I will.  Someday, I tell myself, I will have a baby that I won't ever have to leave.  My own.

1 comment:

The Nanny said...

Oh, sweet girl, I know exactly how this is :( We do love our babies like they're our own. And it's so very hard to say goodbye. But like you said, some day we'll have babies that we don't have to give back :)