From Con Artist Kid to Nanny

I am a full time nanny for the second summer in a row. And as summer jobs go, it’s pretty good. I get paid and don’t have to, you know, give any money back to anyone (cough cough); I get to go to the pool sometimes; and I get to snack on carbs all day with the little kids. My own babysitters from when I was a kid might be surprised that I have made it this far in this particular field of work.

Let me set a background. I’m an experienced babysitter. I started babysitting my little brother, who is five years younger than me, once my mom realized that she could get away with not paying a camp about $450 bucks a week to hand us crayons and make us color against our will, and instead pay me $5 bucks an hour to entertain my little brother and I would be none the wiser about the slave labor I was doing. I was about 12 or 13 and I couldn’t drive, so I was to remain in the house and make use of the things we had while being sure not to touch the stove, the oven, the thermostat, the laundry machine, the telephone, the doors, any glass, or the snacks. Needless to say, we ate micro waved noodles (still a favorite between the two of us) on the regular.

Luckily, my brother is a good kid. We did all your typical activities – stare at a ball and see how many games you can come up with (including but not limited to, bouncing it off your brother’s head into a wall), cut lots of nameless shapes out of paper and leave the scraps on the floor in mom’s room, and attempt to tie-dye paper towels by coloring on them with marker and washing them in the sink. This yielded in a faded color paper towel that we then let sit on the counter in reverence until my mom threw it away. So as you can see, we made careful practice to only produce useful stuff.

But I have babysat some other not so great children. There was the girl who forced me to give her raggedy feet a massage after I rubbed her stegosaurus spine with lotion. She would absolutely not be able to go to sleep if I stopped and would come downstairs every five minutes and interrupt the fun sneezing game I was playing with her three cats to make me continue the massages until her dad came home, I was underpaid, and left weeping. (The same girl made me go to Chuckie Cheese with her on two different occasions and I don’t think I have ever been unhappier in my entire young adult life. Chuckie Cheese is a cesspool of child farts and sticky fingers, a place where you can win useless crap worth $0.95 – after spending $45 on tokens – to get stuck in your child’s nose; a hell thought up to punish people like me – aka, people who like to breathe fresh air).

Other children include the crybaby (self explanatory, but I’m warning you to not put too much marshmallow fluff on her sandwich because it’s too much HAPPINESS); the girl whose mother copped out and made me try and clean out the kid’s room knowing full well that her child would hold on to every single solitary stuffed animal she had, even if she didn’t know what animal it resembled; and of course there was the fateful day at the lemonade stand that I will not recount because it makes me want to throw plastic chairs at small animals which is not a feeling I would like to experience again. At these houses, I ate extra ice cream after the kids went to bed as a form of payment I felt my right to take. Moms, if the ice cream container is almost licked clean, that’s how you know if your kid was bad. (Here’s a trick nannies – if they have multiple different types of ice cream that you like, skim off the top of each; they’ll never notice!)

I nanny two girls, 9 hours a day, 5 days a week in a house with no air conditioning (hence why sometimes I try to convince them to play the “let’s be dead” game that allows me to lie on the floor with my eyes closed, trying to repel the heat by focusing really hard. This results in them trying to reenact a death and falling onto my stomach, almost puncturing a hole where I store all my carbs from the day). The girls are great – two very active, lively, imaginative girls who don’t have their faces glued to iPads or PSPs or the TV. We do great things together, like make CIA forts out of cardboard boxes (including a cell phone and a computer) and send the spies on missions around the house. We frequent the library, play “spa” (I always seem to be giving massages), and we always fight about the fact that I cannot buy them pizza everyday.

There are times when I wish I could march out of the house, put on some real clothes, and talk to someone my own age. My sentence complexity has floundered; my ability to comprehend anything past “Me want pasta” has dwindled. So to protect my deterioration, I have had to put some rules into place – for instance, one of my favorites: The No Repeats Rule. Last summer, I made the mistake of playing a song on my phone so then they knew that the little black brick made music. And in a pathetic effort to get these girls to like me during the first week, I allowed them to replay Adele’s “Someone Like You” as many times as they wanted, thinking that it would be ok to just let them mouth the words and dance as long as I got paid to do it. I did not realize that this would lead to the imminent demise of my sanity. Now, to keep me from having to listen to too much Katy Perry whining about feeling like a plastic bag, I only let each song be played once a day. Choose wisely.

Perhaps the biggest joy in being a nanny (no, it’s not beating the ten year old at chess and trying to conceal how hard it was for you to win) is when I recognize myself in the girls. There is nothing sweeter in life than catching a girl trying to sneak an extra piece of candy simply by hearing the soft clink of the lid as it’s being lifted off the bowl (if you wait until it’s clinking back down, you’re way too late and a schmuck at that, so they deserve the candy at that point), and stopping them dead in their tracks. I was the queen at sneaking extra cookies from the pantry; I knew exactly how wide to open it right before it creaked, how to stick my fore- and middle fingers in the Oreo container (whoever made that plastic the LOUDEST PLASTIC THERE IS, go die), and extract two Oreos without a babysitter hearing me. Only my mom was able to nab me.

I was also the bargaining queen, or the queen at throwing a fit and trying to keep anyone from going anywhere until I got what I want. But since I was so successful at these tactics, unless with my mother, I am now able to thwart them like a pro. Half the time, I tell the girls, “I was just like you, and so I know exactly what you are trying to do. You are trying to bargain with me so you can get more of something you want and this bargaining will distract me while you sneak something else in that you want. That’s not going to happen.” They stare at me in wide-eyed admiration (I think that’s what it is), and then nod.

I have yet to see a child pull a long con like I did, though. Although I could always sneak something by a babysitter, or thought I could until they told my mom and she just sat my ass on the step for a while after they left, there was one time that I successfully duped my mother. I’m completely proud of this; do not be lead to believe otherwise.

As the responsible doctor she is, my mom started feeding us vitamins early. They were little vermin; they tasted like sour grapes and were shaped like animal droppings, not the animals they were supposed to be (you couldn’t tell a bear from an elephant from a giraffe. Pathetic). I loathed them, especially how they tasted before I brushed my teeth, then mixing with the tang and punch of the toothpaste, and the horrible pink color they made my spit. So I decided to take action.

I began telling my mother that I was going to brush my teeth then take the vitamins on my way out the door to the bus for school. I suffered for a few days, doing it for real, just to convince her, and then I started in on my con. I would go brush my teeth, and while the water was running, fold the vitamins into a tissue and throw them in the garbage. Everyday I waltzed out the door a triumphant schoolgirl, and everyday I walked back into the house from school and saw that my dog had eaten the garbage again. Well, I thought, the dog is healthy and I am still scot-free.

Sometimes, my mom would find a vitamin in the garbage, so for a few days I stuck the vitamins into my drawers of my desk and nightstand. I found them years later, congealed on the sides, still as wretched as when they were fresh out of the bottle. But at least they were not congealed on my teeth or my stomach or my breath and that is what truly mattered.

I pulled this off for two years. As an eight year old, I didn’t realize how much money I was actually costing my mother by doing this. So for that I feel kinda bad. But I am still right proud of my ability to execute this, right under her nose, and to this day I don’t take my vitamins.

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