I could write my own version of the “Nanny Diaries” without breaking a sweat or exaggerating a single experience, so I think I will, right here, right now, for my new little blog. Buckle in.
I started nannying when I was in high school. My first real job was for a family in North Raleigh with two boys and one girl ages 12, 9 and 5. I will never forget first entering the big, open home and quietly following Mrs. S while she strode from the kitchen to the laundry room through the living room to the bedroom, calling out instructions while simultaneously dressing for her tennis lesson “at the club.”
I shadowed her through the bedroom, half-listening as she recited the many times and locations when and where her children would need pickup and delivery. The bed was strewn with dog-eared self-help books with titles like “Controlling Your Uncontrollable Child” and “Teenage Killers: Early Signs From Childhood.” (Okay, maybe that last one was an exaggeration.)
The kids were shut up in their rooms, and Mrs. S used a wall intercom to address the entire residence. “Shelbyyyy!”
A hairy shitzu came pounding down the stairs and slid to a stop at his master’s feet. “He eats once in the morning and once in the evenings. His meals come in fresh, pre-prepared tins. He doesn’t like to eat the same flavor twice in a row. Heat for 30 seconds, stir, let cool for 30 seconds, then serve with a wooden spoon into his food dish. Be sure not to mix up his food dish with his water dish. We don’t allow him to drink tap, so please keep his bowl filled with spring water from the bottles in the garage.”
She made to exit for her lesson, prompting me to ask, “…What do the kids eat?”
Her over-the-shoulder response, verbatim, was “just heat them up some chicken nuggets from the freezer.”
I worked for this family for a year. On more than one occasion I was threatened with a kitchen knife by the nine-year-old after asking him to shut down the computer, and whenever any of the children were asked to do something unreasonable like go to bed or stop punching their brother, they would lunge for the phone and call their father to complain about my tyranny, regardless of whether he was out golfing with business partners or at a black-tie affair downtown two hours past their bedtime.
I took another nannying position in North Hills during college for two teenage girls who were old enough to look out for themselves, but not old enough to drive themselves to the mall, so that’s where I came in. The girls’ parents were both divorced and remarried, so we would spend one week at mom and stepdad’s, then the next week at dad’s and stepmom’s.
I enjoyed working with Mom, though her new husband was a little prickly and collected rugs. Dad and Wendy were a different story. Wendy (Cyberbullies: feel free to contact me for this woman’s full name) once asked me to stay overnight with the girls at their home for three days and two nights while she and Mr. J traveled. Once they returned, she handed me $100 and shooed me away when I shyly reminded her that I had worked from 6am-8am every morning and 3-10pm every evening for three days- her payment made me worth $3.50 an hour, using my own gas money, not counting time spent sleeping or sitting in carpool traffic.
That gig ended when Wendy and Mr. J called me into the sunroom after nannying one day.
“We know what’s been going on,” Mr. J said gravely. I suddenly got nervous; the two girls were having issues adjusting to Wendy’s presence in their life, and they had decided to write her a letter expressing their feelings toward her. Instead of stopping the letter, I helped them edit it and change phrases like “I absolutely hate you” to more constructive criticism like “I dislike certain qualities you possess.” I worried that the parents had caught wind of the letter and blamed me for stirring up a mutiny.
I politely asked that they be more specific as to what exactly they knew was going on. Wendy looked awkwardly over at her husband and stammered, “We know that things are disappearing from the house.”
Now I felt REALLY bad. I would spend time at their home from the moment I finished class until dinner- sometimes I got hungry and would grab Goldfish and cookies from the pantry while the girls were doing homework. I quickly apologized- “Do you mean food? I’m really sorry, I didn’t think it was a big deal- I can bring my own snacks from now on.”
Wendy looked shocked. Frustrated, she looked again to her husband for support. “Please don’t make this difficult. I’m not talking about food. We are missing items from our home and we know that you are the one taking them.”
Clueless, I asked, “What items?”
“Paintings. Silver serving platters. Valuable antique porcelain animals.”
At this point I breathed a sigh of relief. Of course I wasn’t stealing paintings and silver from these people and I quickly explained as much, smiling and ready to forgive the accusation as a harmless mistake.
But of course they wouldn’t have it. “We have photos of you stealing them. Just admit that you’re taking them. You have until tomorrow to return everything or we will get the police and your parents involved.”
At this point I think it’s pertinent to mention that this house was in the middle of a major remodeling project both inside and out. I had been sharing the space with (and hiding the girls from) countless contractors, construction workers, plumbers, electricians and interior decorators for weeks. And yet, it was me, 19-year-old conservative babysitter Kacey, they fingered for the crime.
“You have photos of me stealing these things?”
“No, you don’t. I know because I haven’t stolen anything from you.”
Flustered stammering. “Well, we have photos of the items where they belong, and then the next day they’re gone, and you were here during that time, and the maid said it wasn’t her- we know you’re a broke college student- just stop playing games and admit it or we’re calling the police!”
Long story short, I called the girls’ mother and quit, offering to watch the girls for one more week at her home. When I picked up them up on Monday, a dark cloud hung in the car as I fumed at the very sight of them and basically bit their heads off when they tried to ask what was wrong. “You know what’s wrong,” I snapped. “Your dad and Wendy accused me of stealing things from your house. And now I’m quitting and you won’t see me again after this week. Do you think I would do something like that? Is that the kind of character I have?” “No,” they said in tiny robot voices. The younger one piped up, “Wendy talked about it all weekend, at restaurants, to anyone who would listen,” which made me angrier.
Wendy called me the day after the accusation to inquire if I was ready to confess, to which I replied with something very calm and clever like, “Go ahead and call the police! They will clear my name! You owe me a big apology!”
I never did find out if they caught the real thief, and it bothers me to think that they might still believe it was me. The police never showed at my door and I never heard from the family again, though I lived in fear for months that I would be slapped with a court order at any moment. I fantasized about suing them for slander and about God punishing Wendy for her unfounded accusation when she arrived in Heaven (I couldn’t bring myself to imagine her burning in Hell, just an extremely disappointed head-shake from Jesus as she passed through the gates). I’ve thought about messaging one of the girls on Facebook to see if they ever caught the person but I’ve decided against it on a hundred separate occasions. Wendy is the one person on Earth who I dread/dream about bumping into at the grocery store. I’ll have something witty and biting to say that will make her regret accusing blonde, innocent, teenage Kacey of stealing her tacky “Southern chic” paintings and creepy animal statuettes.
Needless to say, that put an end to my babysitting days for good. I actually got a call about a nannying job a few weeks later, and I dramatically declined citing “bad experiences in my past.”