December 4, 2014 11:35 am Nanny Trouble
“What are you doing in there, Colin?” Denise barked from the hallway. “That’s my room. Keep out.”
“Oh Denise, I was just looking for you. Sorry.”
“Then call me. Sneaking into my room is wrong. What do you want?”
“I wanted to ask when Mommy’s coming back. I really wasn’t sneaking. I’m hungry.”
Denise was looking at her phone. “If it looks like sneaking, it is. No clue when your mother is coming back. She’s always later than she says. How about giving me a little break? Your baby sister just fell asleep. I wanna text a bit and then call a friend. You shouldn’t be hungry now, anyway.”
Colin quietly left Denise and went into his own sunny room. He looked at the big animal book that his grandparents gave him for his birthday. Colin stared at the picture of a beaver’s lodge. “You made that yourself?” he murmured. He wanted to show it to someone but he knew Denise would be crabby and Nina was sound asleep and only a few months old, anyway. Colin turned the page and saw a turtle in the mud. He knew that turtles dug into the mud to stay warm in the cold weather. “I hope you like the mud, nice turtle,” Colin said softly.
“Colin, you aren’t trying to wake Nina, are you?” Denise hissed angrily.
“No. I’m looking at my animal book.”
“And talking to yourself? That’s so weird. Who does that?”
“Talking to the animals in the book.”
“Well, keep it down. I don’t want that baby to act up.”
Just then the familiar sound of Colin’s mother’s car purred up the driveway. Colin ran down the stairs. “Mommy’s home!”
“Really? Already?” Denise sounded exasperated. “All I wanted to do was text and talk to my friend. Of course, today she’s early.”
Colin opened the back door and smiled at his mother. “Hi, Mommy! I’m so happy you came back fast.”
“Hi sweetheart. I hope you’re hungry. I bought waffles and strawberries and whipped cream.”
“Yummy. Just us?”
Putting down the bag of groceries, Jean Sorensen looked into her little boy’s big dark eyes. “Just us!” She took out a bowl, milk, an egg and flour. Turning back to Colin, she was surprised to see tears filling his eyes.
“Colin, what is it?”
“Mommy, I really don’t like it when you aren’t here.” Just then they heard Nina.
“Let’s go see Nina. Denise can give her a bottle while we do the waffles.”
When they got upstairs, Denise was already holding Nina. “I was here the second she cried. No need to come up. I am on it, always.”
“Thank you Denise. I’ll get her bottle.”
“Got it already. I do know what I’m doing, you know.”
Jean felt the ice in the air. “Denise, I know you do. I had no idea that you were in here or had the bottle.”
“Between your checking up on me and Colin snooping in my room, I’m wondering what’s going on. No big, but just want you to know.”
Colin was gripping his mother’s blue sweater as they went back downstairs. Jean ran Denise’s hostile words through her mind. “What just happened?” she asked herself.
Stirring the ingredients soothed them both. Colin’s sturdy little hands worked hard to get the batter right.
“It’s almost perfect, Mommy.”
Jean patted Colin and poured the batter for their first waffle. Down went the heavy old lid and in a minute a golden waffle was ready. Soon there were several waffles. They tasted as good as they looked.
“I wish Nina could have one,” Colin said with his mouth full of cream.
“I know, so do I. Colin, Let’s make one for Denise.”
“Okay, but not eat it with her, right?”
“Would you ask Denise if she wants one?”
“I guess I can. She’s always so crabby. I don’t think she likes me.”
Jean was concerned. It was obvious things were off with Colin and Denise, but she needed a nanny. She and her husband, Tom both worked. Without a nanny, she would have to quit her job. But she wasn’t crazy about Denise either.
“Denise?” Colin called quietly as he reached the top of the stairs.
“Now what?” Denise was texting on her phone. Nina was back in the crib.
“Would you like a waffle with strawberries and whipped cream?”
Relieved, Colin ran down the stairs. “She doesn’t want any.” Jean sat down next to Colin who was wringing his little hands.
“Mommy, I love school but when Denise picks me up I feel sad. I only want you and Daddy. I don’t like Denise.”
Holding his hands now, Jean said, “Can you tell me why?”
“She gets mad for nothing. She never smiles and she doesn’t like us. I don’t think she likes anything. She doesn’t play. She is not happy enough for us.”
Jean hugged Colin to her. “I’ll give Denise the rest of the day to do what she wants. Do you want to come with me to tell her?”
Jean went up the stairs quickly. Nina was kicking in the crib, her diaper unchanged. Denise was in her room on the phone.
“The mother’s okay. The father’s clueless and the boy is a wimp and a pain. I might give them notice. It’s so boring here.”
Jean couldn’t believe her ears. Knocking gently Jean said, “Denise? Please hang up.”
“JoJo, I’ll text you later. The Mrs. is knocking. What now, Mrs. S?”
Jean took a deep breath. “Things are not going the way we hoped. We’ll pay you for the next two weeks but I’d like you to leave tomorrow.”
Denise looked shocked. “What happened?”
“Denise, you should consider a new type of work. As a nanny, you have an important place in the children’s lives. Young children can’t bear negativity and crabbiness. Colin’s totally upset and I can’t allow that to continue. I’ll take you to JoJo’s or the train tomorrow morning.”
“Sounds like a plan. I can’t stand this job anyway.”
Nina began to whimper and Jean went to her baby.
“Hello my little girl,”Jean said adoringly. She knew how fortunate she was to have her two dear children. She would look for a new, cheerful nanny, and until she found one, Jean realized she could take a leave of absence from her job. She couldn’t stand the idea of her little children being sad or ignored one minute longer.
Six months later, the Sorensens got a holiday card from Denise. She was back home, working in the claims department of a small insurance company. She sounded happy and said her job was going well. Denise even wrote that she hoped Santa would bring more animal books for Colin.
Jean was glad Denise had found a job she liked. She and Tom were managing surprisingly well, and Jean was thrilled to be with Colin and Nina. While she still planned to go back to work soon, Jean knew she would have to find just the right person to take care of the children. And she was not in a hurry.
Anne Martine Cook has 39 years experience teaching nursery school children. We welcome your comments and questions.