There are some days in my line of work that are messy and complicated; they’re things nobody tells you about when you start nannying. (I imagine you could substitute the word “parenting” for “nannying” here and the same would be true, but as I am not a parent, I cannot make this claim with any kind of validity. Furthermore, I think parenting is a feat of warriors and I wouldn’t dare try to pretend that I deserve this distinction without having earned it). There are the amazing moments you get to be there for, the first waves, the first steps, the laughter and the sunny park days. Then there are rainy days, teething days and stuffy noses, diarrhea blowouts, and random phases of spontaneous tantrums that make you absolutely mental. There are the days when you’re brought to your knees because it doesn’t seem possible that twenty pounds of human can give you such tremendous joy that floods your insides like warm lava so quickly you feel like you might burst. There are days when that same twenty-pound being makes you want to cry and quit and start eating your hair – sometimes within seconds of the aforementioned joy flood. It’s transcendental.
But along with becoming a fun part of the family, immersed in how other peoples’ households function, you also become a stabilizing member during times of family tension and trauma, like a tourist accidentally visiting a foreign country during a time of a major catastrophe. It seems vaguely similar to a Red Cross volunteer visiting a foreign country after a natural disaster or devastating civil war. The important difference is, it’s so much less noble because I’m there by accident. Sometimes we’re there to help pick up the remnants of what was once a fully functioning community, sometimes we escort the women and children out of the line of fire while peace is restored, and sometimes we just have to be there – to be in it with them, drop off canned goods and a semblance of structure when and where we can.
I promise you I’m not a hero. I don’t do amazing things like the men and women who travel to distant lands to help others in need. But sometimes it’s nice to know that I get to step up and play a human role because my job doesn’t limit me to an employer-employee relationship. Secretly, I think that this exact phenomenon is precisely why I can’t quite seem to pull myself out of nannying jobs, despite the fact that I have a college degree from a prestigious university and nearly everyone in my life has encouraged me to stop “babysitting” and get a “real job.” Trust me, I’ve tried. Something in my gut keeps me here.
Yesterday, I took the girls (13 and 14 years old) out for the day and then to dinner at their favorite Thai restaurant so their parents could spend the day and evening with their grandfather during his final moments. I drove them to the house to say goodbye and waited in the car. I was literally just an escort to one of those moments they’ll remember forever. Days like these I carry heavily, sometimes longer than I should. Days like these are the ones I play on the big screen in my head before I fall asleep, the ones that wake me in the middle of the night, insisting that I write about them. I want to know these moments better; I want to be able to give a name and a definition to these seconds that I’m invited to be a witness to. I want to distance myself from them with critical analysis to give them order, clarity, and structure. The world and the human experience make sense to me through these lenses- words and phrases to put big emotions in petri dishes and under microscopes. It makes me comfortable to think that I can try to preserve their sanctity somehow.
Writing for my own therapy feels true to me, but it sometimes feels a little selfish to box them away as my own because they are not mine. They’re yours too. Maybe I was physically present for this one, but they are symptoms of the human condition and I believe that it is our responsibility as human beings to help others make it through. In my mind, that usually means telling the truth and showing up for your people.
Today, I am beyond grateful because the job I have and the world that I live in allow me the privilege of doing both. I was asked to bear witness to someone else’s deeply painful moment, to show up exactly as I was and to do my best with it. And here I have my little space, which may only ever be read by my grandpa (Hi, GPa!) where I get to tell my unapologetic truth.