Saturday, January 05, 2013

If You Want This Choice Position...

In the springtime when I was 17, I was recruited from out of my (really awful) first waitressing job for a childcare job, looking after a toddler whose family frequented the restaurant where I worked. There is much I'll say another day about how and why that waitressing job was such a bummer, but one thing about it that was a trip for me was that the owners actively encouraged us to be rude to people with children, to make it clear to them that this was "not a family restaurant." These folks with the toddler were the exception, though, on account of the dad was the manager of the rich folks' shopping mall in which the restaurant as located. Anyway, I'd known since relatively early in my own childhood that toddlers are my people, so I woulda been nice to the kid even if it hadn't been officially sanctioned by my whack-ass employers, and one day when the boss was yelling at me, the mom pulled me aside and said to be sure to call her for work if I ever decided to quit being yelled at...

So pretty soon, quit I did, and I went to work a patchwork schedule of three part-time jobs that had me working every day and most evenings, at two restaurants and at the rich folks' home, looking after their toddler, and mostly loving it.

When it was just the kid and me in the house - and it usually was for the first several weeks - we had us a blast. I'd arrive in the mornings and he'd be all finished with breakfast. We'd romp around and play with toys.  At 10 AM, The Monkees came on MTV, which pretty much made my life, and, you know, what I loved, the kid loved. So we'd dance around to that for a while and just crack each other up. Then pretty soon it'd be time for lunch.

It was weird to me, how crappily these rich folks ate. I know classism messes with all of our heads but, yeah, my stereotypes about people with money led me to expect some fancy groceries to be going on in that house. Not so. The kid had the same lunch every day: A hot dog on a slice of wonder bread with a kraft single and no fresh produce in sight. I swear.

After lunch, he'd have a bottle and take a nap in his crib, and I'd take a nap on his bedroom floor, with the phone clutched in my hand so I could answer instantly when his mom called, to say, yes, we're here, we're fine, he ate his lunch, he's having his nap, everything's good. And then zzzzzzz. It was perfect.

When he got up, we'd have some more good times of carrying on and dancing around (toddlers make me live life as a musical, pretty much) until his mom got home, and then I'd be off to my restaurant job, rested and happy.

Until... It all took a turn towards bummertown when the older siblings - I wanna say they were 7 and 9 - got out of school for the summer. The mom said they liked me so much from our brief encounters that they begged to be with me instead of being sent to camp. Who knows whether or not there was truth to that. What I know for sure is that they messed up my whole routine and made my job, well, a chore.

They didn't want to watch The Monkees, for one thing. It interfered with their favorite show, Thundercats. When I tried to convince them to just give the kooky charm of fake boy bands a try, they totally told on me and their mom gave me a prim "No MTV!" talking to and that settled that. Also, they for sure were not taking any naps, and in fact, instead of taking naps, were nearly always coming up with some total pain in my ass thing to do.

I mean, people say toddlers get into everything, blah blah blah. Well, not if you have the gift of song and dance, my friends! And if the toddler chasing really gets rough, you can always just scoop them up! But that 7 year old, man. No scooping him up. He lived to call his sister names and do the unexpected, like putting a half gallon of ice cream into the microwave or his bicycle into the swimming pool. His older sister was all about dramatically freaking out about whatever annoying stuff he got up to, and also informing me that I was "so weird."

In fairness, I did have one fun time with the older sister. One afternoon she was having some bad friend drama and I managed to give her some kind of status points by faking an English accent over the phone to these girls who were giving her a hard time, backing up the tale she'd told them about having an English nanny. They totally bought it! For that day, at least.

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