The most frustrating thing about being a nanny is how little I can really change. I see patterns of behavior that careen past disrespect and rub shoulders with bullying in the older boys, but any progress I make is instantly gone when I’m off for the day.
The most I can do is consistently enforce the rules. These rules are:
Don’t hit people.
Talk to people with respect and not that weird sullen snippy muttering you do all the time, yes, I can still hear you calling your brother an idiot and that’s not okay, I mean it.
Or, if Mr. and Mrs. Parent are home, these rules are:
No rules, but we’ll tell them to stop but not actually do anything about it because we don’t want the children to feel bad about themselves. Yes we do, it’s bad behavior.
I don’t know if you can tell, but I’ve had a stressful day. I have seen the future, and it is loud, crude, and violent.
And when I’ve had a stressful day, I like to light a candle or two to create a more peaceful atmosphere in my living space.
One of the problems with nannying (of which there are many) is that you can’t call in sick unless your spleen is actively outside of your body. A mere stomach bug or a fever is not an excuse, because if you back out at the last minute your employers will panic and run around in circles until you agree to haul yourself and your separated spleen in anyway.
I’ve not been that sick, but I’ve been the sort of sick that saps you of energy and makes it even more difficult to stop three to six boys from killing each other with couch pillow zippers.
It’s been especially rough because my employers have been working later, to make up for taking Thanksgiving off. Last night my day ended at 8:30, and only after I excused myself from the rooms of half-asleep children to have a massive and untimely coughing fit. It’s been a joy.
Fortunately, I have a fail-safe way of rapidly de-stressing in the evening before I go to bed at nine so I can get eight hours of sleep, and that is: To resemble, as much as possible, a retired single sixty year old woman.
It starts with a bath.
A bubble bath, with tea, and a book, and candles, and a plant to read aloud to.
I like to soak in this while I listen to the sounds of chaos outside my room. When I finally am done with work, there’s nothing more satisfying than listening to other people handle what I was handling not ten minutes before.
When I can snag Wi-Fi I like to play some soft classical (or Christmas) music, but my voice has been completely gone since Thanksgiving and I’m becoming bitter that I can’t belt out “YOU’RE A MEAN ONE, MISTER GRINCH” without sounding like I’m on my third pack of cigarettes.
I feel like the whole goal of the evening is to be as warm and comfortable as possible, because once I’m out of the warm and comfortable bath it’s straight to the warm and comfortable bed. The Jean of tomorrow gets to do the dishes.
Yes, those are pillows made to look like books, and everyone should have them.
I’m coming to the conclusion that this simple bathrobe is the greatest thing I have ever purchased. I haven’t read the tag, but I would wager it’s composed of something like “60% hair of the gods, 30% summer night air, 10% that feeling when you have nowhere to go and can watch the rain fall with a cup of tea in hand”. I sleep in it every night. My other pajamas are neglected and I can’t make myself care.
So the electric blanket is on, the computer is set up, more tea is on the beside table, and I have “Les Cinq Légends” which is Rise of the Guardians in French. There’s something very soothing about watching things in French for an extended period of time, even though all I know in French is essentially “oui”, “non,” and “pomme de terre.”
That’s it, really. I heartily recommend doing this after a long day to anyone.
It especially helps if you’ve just done something productive before, like making your bed to pretend it always looks this good.
I’m coming to the conclusion that children are always a little bit sick.
Taking care of three to six of them means that I, as a nanny, face the same problem as teachers, daycarians, and parents: Namely, that I will be sick much more frequently than the rest of my adult friends. Because children are always a little bit sick.
They may not act sick. They may be vaulting the furniture or burrowing in leaf piles or slowly but meticulously sending their parents to the madhouse the way they always do. But if you listen closely, you can hear the sniffling, and if you’re doing their laundry you will find snail trails on their shirt sleeves.
When they actually appear sick, it’s merely a flair-up, and in just a few short weeks they will revert to being subtle about their sickness. But make no mistake, illness is always there, and it’s always ready to reinfect the other siblings and you and the dog.
Ever wanted to experience the taste of Satan in your hour of sickness? Well now you can! Now in every grape-flavored children’s medicine.
So on Tuesday one of the youngest boys stayed home due to fever, and on Wednesday one of the middle boys stayed home with a stomach bug, and on Thursday said middle boy went back to school but came back again in the middle of the day because he was so sick all he could do was lie around playing on the iPad, and then today the oldest boy supposedly caught the same stomach bug that renders you incapable of anything but iPad, and then the original sick younger child came home again with Pink Eye and an ear infection.
And somehow, miraculously, I have not picked up any of these ailments. Pardon me, I have to go knock on wood, spin around counterclockwise three times, toss salt over my shoulder, and spit.
I’ve not escaped completely, mind. The children being too “sick” to do much of anything, I’ve had to sit through approximately the whole Pokémon series as available on Netflix. Twice. And not having grown up with Pokémon or you know television in any form, I’m not nostalgic but merely disturbed at the endless hideous creatures the world of Pokémon produces on the regular. Are these the animals of the Pokémon universe? Why are some of them more like humans than animals, and shouldn’t they have more equal rights with humans? Do any of the character’s voices ever get any less grating?
At least watching shows on Netflix means that I don’t have to see any more commercials for… whatever these are. They’re worse than Furbies, but not as bad as some of the Pokémon I’ve seen today.
But at one point today, before sick younger boy went to the doctor’s to have his potential (now confirmed) Pink Eye examined, we sent him to the bathroom. All was well for around forty seconds, and then there was a loud ringing crash, a thunk, a pause… and then hysterical crying.
Investigation into the issue produced one very upset boy and a towel rack that had fallen off the wall. He wasn’t hurt, but the very end of the towel rack- a separate piece- had slid gracefully into the toilet bowl and rested at the bottom. And this was very distressing.
Fortunately, when you take care of three to six boys very little is gross anymore. So I plunged my hand into the toilet, retrieved the towel rack piece, and started washing it off in the sink. The boy was still crying; I think he thought I would yell at him.
And… it was kind of funny.
So I started laughing. Then he started laughing. And we just laughed. The towel rack went back on the wall cleaner than before, he rewashed his hands, and life went on.
This is probably why I’m here as a nanny, because somebody in this very large household has to be able to laugh at things.
The fifth day we were back in The Magic Kingdom, and for the last time. I felt this was a good thing, because The Family was beyond stressed and careening closer to manic and they all really just needed to go home and have a lie-down.
At one point the bigger boys wanted to go on Splash Mountain again, and the littler boys weren’t feeling up to it, so I took a gaggle of boys and we left Mr. and Mrs. Parent with the older ones. We were going pin trading.
For those who don’t know (as I didn’t until the very last day there), pin trading is where you get a lanyard and a bunch of Disney pins and trade them throughout the day with the Cast Members in the park. This will cost you a mere $150 – $500 if you want to have any more than one pin at a time. The trading is free, of course, but you have to start with a pin and that can cost you $10, $12, or your first born child.
Nevertheless, I thought I’d at least make a start by buying a lanyard and one or two pins, in preparation for future visits. Instead, I made the mistake of buying the treasure hunt kit, which gives you a map and clues to solve around the park in exchange for pins (these still cost money every time).
The boys and I solved two of these clues and earned (paid for) two pins, but it quickly became apparent that we would never finish because we moved like a herd of injured buffalo in the park (slowly), so I stopped at just two. In fact, it feels right this way. Nothing illustrates this trip better to me than managing to complete only two of six things.
So we went on a few more rides instead.
We had a Fast Pass for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, and as we skipped our way past the miserable people who were dealing with a wait time of an hour and a half, we passed Snow White’s cottage, and I never realized how much I wanted to be Snow White before then.
Look at that. Now if I could just kick all seven of these slobs out, it would be perfect.
We also went on the Haunted Mansion again, and I believe I’ve won the older boys over in regards to it, at least until a few years from now when all the rides at Disney World are “stupid” and “for babies”. Right now that’s only most of them.
I tried once again to get a picture of the dancing ghosts. Turns out my camera doesn’t work so well in the dark without the flash moving sideways at five miles an hour. Fancy that.
Towards the end of the day, Mrs. Parent had more shopping to do on Main Street, so the rest of us crowded awkwardly up to the side of the buildings to avoid being plowed over by the crowd of people assembling to watch the parade. And, to my horror, I discovered that The Family had no intentions of staying and watching the parade.
THE PARADE. The one we had missed twice already. The wonderful magical parade where all the Disney characters come out and there’s a lot of dancing and there’s an ACTUAL FIRE-BREATHING MALIFICENT.
I only stopped short of physically getting down on my hands and knees to beg. In the end, they mercifully agreed to stay and watch.
When the parade was finished, I gave all the kids an over-enthusiastic hug. “Wasn’t that amazing?!” I practically shouted in their ears, to which I received replies ranging from a noncommittal “Uh-huh,” to a whining “Moooom can we go now?”
All I’m getting out of this is that Disney World isn’t actually a place for kids.
I was trying to find The Family in this picture. See if you can spot them.
So we trundled out of the park for the last time. I couldn’t really linger, but I sure wanted to. In my head I’m already planning a vacation here with a good friend of mine, so that we can actually enjoy ourselves. There are so many things that make it wonderful.
Not the least of which is all the chocolates I collected during my stay at the hotel.
Spoils of war: Anna doll, Mary Poppins Christmas ornament, decorative Pirates of the Caribbean keys (there’s also a POTC necklace floating around here somewhere), various pins and maps and lanyards, as much tea as I could get through airport security.
Our fourth day, Thursday, was Epcot day. We piled all the ever-bickering kids into a ferry from the Boardwalk, and were deposited into the UK rather than coming in straight by the large Epcot golf ball. I’m sure it has a real name, but I’m not going to look it up.
I became very excited when I saw that Mary Poppins makes appearances in UK Epcot, but strangely no one else was very enthused about meeting the legendary nanny, so we moved on and I dragged my feet until I had to swoop in and stop one of the older boys from turning one of the others into a punching bag.
I’ll meet you someday, Mary Poppins.
We didn’t really have Fast Passes for much that day, except for the fireworks show at the end, but Mr. Parent apparently had a good idea of where we were going and directed us accordingly towards “The Land.” I had never been to Epcot (does Disneyland have an Epcot equivalent? I can’t remember), so I followed blindly in The Family’s wake.
We attempted to stand in line for Soarin’ Around the World, which is a hang-gliding simulator that apparently everybody in Epcot is trying to experience at once, but we gave up when it was agreed that Mrs. Parent and at least two boys would throw up on the ride due to motion sickness. Instead, we made for the decidedly less busy “Living with the Land” ride, which is a gentle boat ride through sets of the earth and a real greenhouse.
It featured this scene, which made me feel like I was on the set of a episode of Star Trek: The Original Series. All alien planets look like this.
What we did have a Fast Pass for was a Finding Nemo ride I cannot quite recall the name of, and it was generally all right. I was quite ambivalent to it, which must have been how the entirety of The Family was feeling for most of the vacation.
The end of the ride left us in the aquarium I did not know Epcot had, much to my delight. I love aquariums and I could have spent all day there. Except for, you know, the job.
Instead, we moved the bickering party to lunch, and then to the grand Walt Disney golf ball.
The inside of the golf ball is a ride that takes you through history, from Neanderthals to the Modern Day (of 1960-something). When you first get into your car you are presented with a little touch screen that prompts you to select your language. Figuring it would display subtitles in French, I so intelligently thought to select that despite my only passing knowledge of the language.
Naturally, the entire tour was given to me in French and I have essentially no idea what was being said. I choose to believe it let me enjoy the visuals more.
Ah, here we are in the Modern Age of science and mini-skirts.
At the end of the ride, the screen before you lights up again and lets you “choose your future” out of a number of options on the screen. What you select combines at the end to give you your simulated Jetsons-style future. I knew just enough French to select the things I wanted most out of life.
These things were a treehouse. I also had a garden somewhere. I guess it was on the ground, away from the trees. This seems impractical.
The likeness is uncanny.
Epcot really is a beautiful testament to what humanity has done. (The ambitious, motivated people at any rate. Strangely, they make no time for my kind, the lazy sloths of the world.)
After this, we dragged the already exhausted children back to the hotel for a bath and to put them in long sleeves, and then took them out again because no one really needs sleep to experience the 9:00 Epcot fireworks and light show.
I took no pictures of this. There was no point, really. You can find better pictures online, and it wouldn’t have translated well anyway. I rarely get swept up in things, but this was utterly, wonderfully spectacular. After an inspiriational Epcot day, nothing made me feel more like I could get out and do anything than finishing it off with a light show of such magnitude. (Naturally, this motivation faded the moment I realized I had to get several extremely over-tired children back to the hotel.)
Thoroughly exhausted myself, when we were back on hotel property I extracted myself from The Family (after 10:00 PM I usually feel I can excuse myself from nannying by way of looking as though I might faint), and wandered around the Boardwalk for a little while in an attempt to regain a little sanity.
As I wandered through the gift shop, a doll caught my eye.
For those of you who don’t know (hi Mom and Dad), this is Anna from the movie Frozen. I’m not a terribly big fan of Frozen. It’s a good movie, sure. I’ve seen it a couple times. The only thing that ever really stuck with me, however, is that Anna has natural red hair and blue eyes, and in having those she looks the most like me out of all the Disney princesses.
Of course, Frozen came out long after the age where I could have properly enjoyed this. When I was little, I desperately wanted a doll that looked like me, because I was Every Little Girl Ever™. I found a redheaded Barbie in a thrift store once and I treasured that thing for years.
So I sat in the gift shop, staring at this doll. I wandered around a few times, but every time I just came back to looking at the doll again. And eventually, because I have no impulse control, and because I have been taking care of three to six boys for a full year now and never have reason to buy anything girly, I bought the doll.
Seven year old me is ecstatic right now. So is 20 year old me, I admit it.
Even as I write this now, Anne is perched on the empty side of my bed, probably wondering in Toy Story fashion why this crazy woman bought her only to hold her reverently from time to time. But I don’t care. I have a redheaded, blue-eyed, freckled and flushed pale-skinned doll, by Jove.
Wednesday was our “vacation from vacation,” in which we didn’t attend any parks. Instead, we spent time on the boardwalk, swam in the pool, and the kids had more fun than at any other point in the vacation.
To be fair, the Boardwalk is spectacular. Lined with shops, restaurants, and clubs, it’s open all hours of the day and far into the night. Every evening you can walk by a number of interesting street shows along the lines of magic tricks and juggling. It really hit the perfect line between child-friendly and adult.
It was at this point that the kids saw the multiple-person “bicycles” for rent. Costing a mere $24 per half hour, these strange contraptions allowed the whole (normal-sized) family to squeeze in and circle the entire boardwalk.
Amazingly, they allowed all six to nine of us to squeeze onto the device. I had hoped I would be excused from this family event, but they needed someone else who could reach the pedals, and since I (sadly) made the height requirement by two inches, I was instructed to come along.
Florida is actually quite nice in November, but only when it’s cloudy and not humid and you don’t have to live there.
It was not quite as bad as I had feared, although there was a colossal spat about who got to ring the bell, which resulted in us careening down the boardwalk, frantically ringing the bell at each and every passerby to warn them that The Family was there and that we couldn’t slow down because we were too busy trying to separate some squabbling octopuses.
After this ordeal we were all hot and sticky, so we changed and made our way down to the pool. This pool, I should note, was pretty spectacular. It was massive. There was a bar. There was a hot tub. There was a kiddie pool with an attached playground. There was an elaborate twisting water slide.
Naturally, the only picture I took of it was of this lizard, who was admittedly very cute.
We spent all afternoon in the pool. I introduced the younger boys (not yet good swimmers) to the idea of a hot tub, which became their new favorite invention and from which they had to be coaxed regularly so they did not overheat. The older boys, meanwhile, went down the water slide approximately eighty times.
After a few hours of this, everyone was given baths and dressed in nice shirts and slacks, because we had a reservation at “Flying Fish” on the boardwalk. It turns out Flying Fish is far, far fancier than it sounds.
But still fish-themed. These are the chandeliers.
I tried not to take too many pictures; it seemed inappropriate given the circumstances. Fortunately, I didn’t have the opportunity to be tempted to do so, as I immediately went into damage-control mode. I sat with a few of the boys on my end of the table, and devoted everything I had to keeping them seated, facing forwards, not fighting, not yelling, not playing with the wine glasses. We played an outrageous number of games of “I Spy”.
When we were given the menus I sorted out what they wanted first (fish and chips. All of them) before I picked up the menu for myself and realized I was thoroughly out of my depth.
I’m still convinced most of the dish names were in some strange medly of Italian and French, and therefor completely unpronounceable. The descriptions were cryptic at best, promising things like “ancient grains”, “Mascarpone-laced Risotto di Carnaroli with Prosciutto di Parma Cracklins“, and “Red Wine-Cassis Butter Reduction“. In the end, I chose the cheapest dish I could find ($37). It had “salmon” in the name, which I was reasonable sure I could pronounce.
When it arrived, the entire dish was the size of my palm and had some strange pea-sized orange orbs sitting on the top. I surmised that these were a new type of caviar, as when you ate them they burst in your mouth with a sudden fishy taste.
I scraped them off and hid them under the sauce, and thought about the fact that I could be eating 37 McChickens for that price.
I put all of my nanny school training into eating dinner correctly, foggily recalling my 800 page etiquette book and the extensive chapters on dining, but I needn’t have bothered because absolutely no one else in the restaurant was bothering to do the same.
I ordered the only desert that sounded human, and it was… well, it was a fancy restaurant desert.
No wonder the service in this place was so slow.
All things considered, it really was a good thing that the portion sizes were so small, because I could have eaten eight of whatever strange, chocolatey thing they gave me.
Two hours and seven trips to the bathroom later, The Family and I stumbled back to our rooms, thoroughly exhausted by our vacation from vacation. After a while of listening to the chaos in the room next to me, I went for a walk on the Boardwalk by myself. It’s really not so bad when you can choose where to go and what to do on your own.
The second day was improved because everyone managed to sleep in until at least 5:30 AM, and because Mrs. Parent found a Starbucks sneakily hidden away behind an antique facade in the park.
The view from my hotel room at 5:30 in the morning. I guess the lights never turn off.
Right out of the gate we had a Fast Pass for the Jungle Cruise, which the oldest boy swore he would hate and insisted on berating it and snipping at his brother for the majority of the small Fast Pass wait. A great deal of my job at Disney was merely standing between boys to prevent fighting and to try and avoid making everyone else in line as unhappy as we appear to be.
So we went on the Jungle Cruise, and absolutely none of my pictures turned out because my terribly expensive phone cannot take a good picture whilst moving five miles an hour down a river, but that’s all right. The eldest boy secretly enjoyed himself, despite vehemently and preemptively denying it the second his feet his solid ground again.
While we waited for our next Fast Pass time slot (which is, we were coming to realize, the only way you will ever see the inside of most rides during Jersey Week), we ran briefly through the Swiss Family Treehouse, which was very nice and which the boys were largely uninterested in because it was a book they had never heard of and there weren’t enough pirates or roller coasters involved.
I thought it was neat. Look at this! This whole massive tree is completely fake! How cool is that?!
Maybe Disney could hire me to live in this place full time and act the part. They wouldn’t have to pay me. Just pass some food through the door occasionally and I’ll play you some tidbits on the organ.
The Pirates of the Caribbean ride they did appreciate, but once again they failed to drag us on it fifteen times like I did my poor grandfather in 2007, so we got out of there pretty early too. As The Family started to amble away from Adventureland, Captain Jack Sparrow’s Pirate Tutorial started up behind us, and I all but begged to stay and watch at least part of it.
Because it’s Captain Jack Sparrow.
I did a lot of begging at Disney World, primarily because I was the only one really enthused to be there. I tried not to take up a lot of The Family’s time, but I couldn’t resist snapping distant pictures of princesses whenever we passed one.
Look guys, it’s her! It’s Merida! It’s- guys?
Back in 2007, we went on nearly all of the major rides, but the one thing I was looking forward to the most was The Haunted Mansion. For years my darling mother had mentioned how spectacular it was, how enchanted the waltzing ghosts were, how fascinating all the illusions had been. I was a Halloweenie. I was so excited.
Naturally, The Haunted Mansion was closed until October when we arrived. Young Jean probably gave her grandparents a hard time about that. Sorry, Grandma and Grandpa.
So while we were here, I pulled a few of the older boys aside, got down on their level, and made them a deal. “I will stand in line with you for Space Mountain if you will go on The Haunted Mansion with me,” I whispered.
I’m surprised this picture isn’t blurry because I was nearly vibrating with excitement.
They were thrilled at the prospect of Space Mountain again. I was thrilled to finally go on The Haunted Mansion. The parents were accepting. While Mr. and Mrs. Parent took the younger boys off to the Aladdin ride, I ran off with the older boys and bribed them with my phone games to stand in line for forty minutes.
“Guys! Guys! Look at the hearse! Look at the spooky horse frame! Isn’t this cool?!” “Okay.”
I’m not going to describe in detail what happens in the ride (mostly because pictures are impossible to take in there), but it hit me about midway through the ride that this is what I always thought amusement parks should be. Every time I entered another unsatisfying “haunted house” ride or grimaced at the peeling paint on a scuffy spinning teacups attraction, I was picturing something more put together and impressive.
Turns out that’s Walt Disney World- who knew, right?
The Haunted Mansion was thoroughly satisfying. The boys decided it was their second favorite ride, because they enjoyed being able to loudly proclaim how unscary it was. Everyone was happy for a blessed twelve minutes before the vacation stress set in again.
As it grew dark, Mrs. Parent went off to do some shopping on Main Street and Mr. Parent and I waded through the crowds with the boys to find a place to sit.
Good luck trying to get a better picture than this after the parade has just ended (which we missed anyway).
And as we sat outside a little hat shop and the boys had more fun with a provided checkers set than they had had in the rest of the day combined, I sat and watched the crowds grow thinner. The funny thing is, the later it gets in Disney World, the older things feel. After a while of foggy staring, it started to feel like I was watching the 1960s moving around me.
And there was something very peaceful about that.
Disney magic really does exist, which is crazy. No one was joking or making it out to be more than it is. The more time I spent there, even working and surrounded by people who never fully relax, the more I started to sound like an advertisement for the place. I would call my parents up, rant about my day a little, and then finish with, “But Disney World really is enchanting.”