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My Nanny Years

A lifetime ago (literally about twelve years ago), I moved from my hometown of Miami, Florida to Seattle, Washington to start a new life. I was born and raised in Miami and wanted nothing more throughout my childhood and teen years to leave and make something of myself somewhere far away. As much as I would like to return one day to visit with my children and husband, show them all of my old stomping grounds from my formative years, I have no desire to stay for any period longer than a vacation. My number one problem with Florida: the heat. I detest feeling hot and summers go on all year.

I didn’t leave Miami exclusively for the heat. I had a laundry list of reasons that motivated me to start over somewhere far, somewhere as seemingly different as I could go. So the summer of 2009, I packed up my car with all of my earthly possessions and zig-zagged my way across the country in the most convoluted and scenic route possible, visiting friends and relations along the way and eventually arriving at my friend’s house in Seattle, Washington to stay in her basement while I figured out my plans.

I believed before I left and during my travels that finding a new job would be easy. Seattle was home to numerous companies including Google, Amazon, and the Gates Foundation. I spent the next several years applying to job after job in these and countless other companies, unsure of my career trajectory, but knowing that at least for the time being, education was out of the question (there was a hiring freeze for teachers at the time, and either way, I wanted to do something different for a while). What I realize now that none of those career paths panned out because they weren’t the right path for me.

What I did find was a job at a nearby gym. I worked at the front desk, the kids’ club, and eventually, teaching classes like yoga and kid yoga. Through my friend and the gym, I met numerous families with small children. Even though I never considered nannying to be a possibility, I had numerous opportunities to nanny for these families, which I gratefully did. I was humbled by being underemployed and open to any possibility.

When I think back to my nannying years, I realize today that it gave me the greatest job training I could ever need for my future: mommy training. From as young as newborns to as old as late elementary, I took care of numerous children. I learned how to tend to newborn babies and baby basics 101 like changing diapers, bathing, bottle-feeding, rocking, and soothing. I learned how to diffuse a tantrum, how to feed picky eaters, how to mediate sibling arguments, how to let go of reality and embrace the imaginative worlds of pretend play. I learned how to build relationships with children of all ages. I learned how to communicate with children who had not yet learned to talk and reason with those who were just beginning to learn how to think beyond themselves. More than anything, I learned how to savor the beauty of childhood.

It’s not always sunshine and roses. Believe me, there are some days as a mama that I’m tired and crave time to myself, like an uninterrupted shower or the opportunity to go and practice yoga without my kids trying to climb on me during asanas. I don’t always want to listen to the Frozen soundtracks or attempt to mimic the voice of Winnie the Pooh when Hazel hands me the stuffed bear. With Maggie, I would love to not have to be on constant alert in case my wannabe American Ninja Warrior is attempting something dangerous (well, normal for a normal kid but terrifyingly dangerous for an epileptic kid, like climbing). Every time we watch nature shows and I see cubs climbing over a semi-comatose mother (bear, lion, pick-your-animal), I think to myself, “Yup, I feel you, Mama.”

I read in one of the kids’ Hello Highlights that when animal cubs, including humans, climb all over their parents, it is an instinctual indication of unconditional love and acceptance. Today, I savor the beauty of childhood with my children. I pretend to drink tea with Hazel, dolls, and stuffed animals. I run back and forth in games of tag with rules that I don’t quite get but Maggie does and that’s what matters. I learned the fundamentals in childcare through nannying, and those years gave me tools and tricks to manage my life today. I learned how to shed the rigidity of adulthood and play with abandon. My nanny years were the greatest training I could’ve possibly experienced to prepare for parenting my children today.


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