Okay, I'm back. It has been quite a month, getting used to the new job and the new schedule and dealing with the ever-present and ever-changing needs of KidThree along with getting to know four new children.
A short refresher on the new job: I'm living in The City (as my mother's daughter, I'm compelled to capitalize that--my mother even pronounces the capitals) for four days, caring for four children, then I'm back home in Davis for four days. The children have a schedule of four days with Mom, then four days with Dad, then back to Mom's again. The advantage to the parents of this schedule is that they each get access (eventually) to all parts of the children's week; the advantage to the children is that they aren't away from any one home too terribly long. The disadvantage is, of course, that their lives are so disjointed. Four days isn't quite long enough to settle in in either place; they're always sort of coming or going and just when they've gotten used to one routine, it's time to go live with the other.
I'm working for the dad, living in the days that the children are in his home. The reason for living in is that he travels frequently on business, both locally and around the country. I don't deal with the mother, as the divorce is still brand-new and emotions are still running high. To keep things simple, she has to deal with the dad. This is good for me, as it avoids having to listen to sniping about the one parent from the other, something that is more of an issue with the mother (sniping at and about the father). I'm there for the children and don't deal with the issues between the adults. The parents are young, early and mid-thirties, and the father in particular needed someone older, both for the experience and to avoid jokes about the nanny and him. I'm definitely old enough for both.
There are, as I said, four children. The oldest is a thirteen-year-old girl, then a six-year-old boy, a four-year-old boy, and a two-year-old girl. Yes, they all have the same parents. The gap is apparently because the first pregnancy was a bit early, then the parents did their schooling and got settled in careers, then they resumed having a family. I don't know why the divorce and don't need to know, although of course I've got some pretty good guesses.
The children are wonderful. I met them before accepting the job, as I didn't want to take care of spoiled children. They are all very bright, very sweet, and a lot of fun. A lot of work, too, but enough fun to keep it all good. I'm not sure what to call them--KidOne, KidTwo, etc. are already taken and I don't use real names here. I think I'll call them GirlOne, BoyTwo, BoyThree, and GirlFour. You'll all just have to remember their approximate ages.
GirlOne is a love. She is a wonderfully sweet teenager, not yet in the grip of violent hormones. She is mostly patient and loving with her younger siblings, retreating to her room when she's just had enough. She's in love with the Twilight Saga and is learning baking and such with me in the kitchen. We have a good time in there. Sometimes what we mix up turns out well and other times, not so well. She goofed on her third batch of cookies, forgetting that the ingredients had to be mixed in a certain order and just dumping them all in the bowl at once. One of my kitchen mantras is "the money isn't wasted if you learned something," and she won't ever forget that cookie dough has to be mixed up in a certain way or it just won't work. (The other mantras include "when in doubt, throw it out," and "clean as you go.") GirlOne was able to laugh at me a week later, though, when I thought I heard "one cup of boiling water" instead of the actual "one-third cup of boiling water" and totally messed up the chocolate mousse thing we were trying. We both laughed at that mistake and when I asked her what she learned from it, she chortled, "that Susan needs to listen better!"
I've just started teaching her how to do laundry. She had no idea that clothes should be separated according to color and type, that everything didn't get all jumbled in together. I was explaining to her that putting wet things in the laundry led to mildew and had her sniff a kitchen towel to see what I meant, and she grinned, "oh, my clothes have smelled like that before!" It's too late for most of their clothes now, all are pretty uniformly gray and shrunken, but I hope to get better habits going. It's patently obvious that the children are accustomed to nannies who are in reality household servants, as towels don't get hung up, dirty clothes don't make it into hampers, etc. We're starting slowly, with table manners and such, but I've got a long list of things the children need to learn. (Yes, the father asked me to do this, as he was aware that his children were not really disciplined and wanted that to change.)
The table manners lessons are a lot of fun. I keep things short and repetitive and tease the children when they egregiously goof, and give them pop quizzes now and again on what constitutes good manners. One of those quizzes was seriously funny: we got through "chew with your mouth closed," "keep your bottom on your chair," and "no poop or fart talk at the table," then they were stuck. I asked if they could think of another one and after a long pause, BoyTwo (remember him? he's six, seven in a month) happily proclaimed, "don't pee on the seat!" Laughter all around. Wrong room, but also a lesson we're working on.
BoyTwo is trying so hard to be a little man, to shoulder the burdens of this disruption to his family, but the strain gets to him. I'm trying to give him space to be a little boy, while also acknowledging his position as the 'oldest' (of the younger three) and recognizing his efforts there. He is a marvelous little dude, smart, funny, and perceptive.
BoyThree is having a tough time. He is also very sensitive, and so young (four) that he doesn't really understand anything that's happened. He doesn't understand why his parents didn't stay married and didn't really know they were married in the first place (his parents just 'were,' that was all). The enormity and finality of it all is just sinking in and he's having trouble with bedwetting and bad dreams. I am giving him lots and lots of cuddles and reassurances, along with morning baths after a damp episode (telling him, "oh well, peepee happens!").
GirlFour is a handful. She is one of the most beautiful children I've ever seen, very smart and VERY strong-willed. She is used to being the center of attention and never being told 'no.' Her method of dealing with being thwarted is to just open her mouth and shriek, something that has apparently been working well for her. Not anymore. Fortunately for me, she is also a very loving, winsome child and learns quickly. We get about one serious tantrum (screaming fit) per four-day episode, but they're getting a bit shorter each time. She does get the idea that they don't work. After one episode where I deposited her on her father's bed so she could scream away while I read to the boys in another room, she shrieked for quite a bit, then appeared in the doorway of the room the boys and I were in and said, "I stop." She meant it--she stopped crying, came over, snuggled right up with the three of us, and behaved herself. While letting her wail things out, I am careful to explain to GirlOne what I'm doing, as she's old enough to understand. I point out that I've made sure that GirlFour isn't in any pain or danger and isn't frightened, she's just angry, and that I'm letting her get over that anger in a safe place.
***That is all, of course, to avoid having things told to the mother that sound funny and so get CPS called on me. For example, BoyThree has a troublesome cough right now and a history of asthma, so one day I had him over my lap, head down a bit, while I did chest percussion on his back (the thumping to loosen phlegm in the lungs). I explained to GirlOne what I was doing and why (and BoyThree happily told her it felt good and helped) as you could see the problem if GirlOne went home and told her mother that "Susan had [BoyThree] over her lap and was whacking him!"
My perception of nannies in The City was that they were all foreign-born, from Asia and Latin America and Europe, something that has been borne out by observations at the parks and playgrounds we go to. So far, I am the only older, white, U.S.-born nanny I've seen. The children had a little trouble categorizing me because of this. One day at the dinner table, the subject of their nannies came up (their nanny at their mother's house is Mary, from Thailand) and GirlOne quizzed the younger three on the subject. They agreed that Mary was a nanny but when she then asked them what Susan was, they were stuck. After a very long pause and lots of looking back and forth at her brothers,GirlFour triumphantly exlaimed, "a Gwown-Up!" BoyTwo and BoyThree nodded happily in agreement: Susan was a grown-up. It's all the difference in attitude, I think, as well as the nationality. I'm there as their boss, while Mary and all previous nannies have been there as their servants.
All in all, it's working well. It's hard to be away from KidThree and we're having to iron some things out with HelperK, but that is all do-able and we're adapting, and KidTwo is due home from Bogota this week (picture us all ecstatic!), so things will get even better.
That's it for now--I have to go get some work done around here. I'll write more later on other things, but wanted to let Mom and my sisters and friends know how things were going at the new job. I am loving the job, having a blast, and am glad I made this choice instead of staying to do admin things at the local bio-tech firm.