Thursday, February 08, 2007

Sunscreen

Put everything that means anything to you in a box. Your money, jewelry. Your credit cards, family photos, grandmother's candlesticks. Your ketubbah, the dress you broke the bank for, birthday cards from your kids. Your pet. Now close it (but don't forget to punch holes in the top if Rover is in there).

Now imagine that you need someone to watch the box for you. And it can't be anyone you know. Sounds insane, right? A stranger off the street holding the things you hold most dear.

Now multiply this infinitely, and you have got the experience of find a caregiver for your child.

I am searching for a nanny. I have never left Chloe with anyone I did not know well, or through a very close contact. But the time has come, to engage a stranger and hand over our own life.

Some don't overthink it at all. They interview, make some calls, and hand over their kid and their keys and a list of to-dos and not-to-dos. I, instead, lie awake at night, thinking of all the crazy people I know, those who have been damaged along the way, those who I would never leave Chloe alone with but at first and second and third meeting seem totally....sane.

The initial phone conversations are the most difficult. My worst tendencies kick in. Are they upbeat? Articulate? Educated? Does their kindness just ooze over the phone? In my profession, giving good phone is critical. As words bounce and stumble between us, my chest tightens. How will my kid understand you if I can't?

And then you come to my door, and it feels like dating. My heart will soar or sink immediately, and I will know right away if you can possibly be "the one". If you are not, I want you to leave, but I need to smile and drag my child in front of you, and pretend to buy into to the exaggerated gestures that you believe proves that I can trust you.

"I believe that most people are inherently good" I always say at these interviews. And its total bullshit. But I spread it on, thick and dripping and sticky as honey, trying to gauge your reaction perhaps. Will you flinch, and show me that your intentions are less than pure? Or maybe I am saying this to make sure that you know that if you mess with my kid, you will be destroying my whole outlook on humanity. None of it matters, really. Because as you sit on my couch and eat or don't eat my cookies, you are the same potential phony that I can be upon first meet. We have all done it, whether interviewing for a job or hunting for a spouse. "My greatest weakness is that I am a perfectionist". "Of course I know Powerpoint". "I have no problem with micro managers". "I just had an STD test". "I totally wouldn't care what my engagement ring looked like". All benign lies really. No one's life is a stake in these situations.

Babysitters for an evening are easier to take. A teenager can watch TV with my kid, eat my icecream and no one is any worse for wear. But a nanny will be with my child for more waking hours than her parents. I am interviewing someone with huge influence, who my child will look up to, will emulate, will learn from, will want to be like if for no reason other than the fact that they are around. And I won't be there to ever know what happened if anything does. I am not just worried about something bad. I am worried about not good enough.

When it is sunny outside, I slather Chloe with SPF 50. My mother thinks I am nuts, and I have my own freckles to prove it. I know Chloe will make her own bad choices, create her own dangers some day. But right now, it's just her parents making the choices, because that's our job. I want her to go through life without burns for as long as possible. But when I open my home, her life, to a stranger who is doing the job that many will consider mine, it feels like playing with fire.

1 Comments:

At 3:25 PM PST, Anonymous gila said...

i just cried reading this. so true...

 

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