Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Monday, July 18, 2005

More about the nanny thing below here. The general opinion of the people commenting, there and at the nanny's blog, is that the woman who wrote the article is naive to expect her employee not to have a life outside of work. That's legitimate enough. I don't really understand the woman's thought process in writing the article. Whether or not it's *fair* to have written it -- I mean, the blog is publicly available, so it's not like she's revealing any secrets, but it just doesn't seem very nice -- vindictive, even -- to write an article painting the nanny in a negative light and not anonymize the details enough to make the blog hard to find, when even at worst the nanny wasn't doing anything so awful. On the other hand, if she wanted to be vindictive and hurt the nanny, exposing a huge audience to the blog and the nanny's writing seems like it cuts the other way. I speak from experience. Having your blog mentioned in the New York Times is a good thing. :)

But the broader issue, I guess, is about the nanny-mother relationship, and where the line is between "employee" and "member of the family." Hopefully one day I'll have kids, and the thought of hiring a nanny to take care of them is kind of nauseating, actually. I mean, I understand why it makes sense for a lot of people, with jobs that keep them out of the house and not wanting to put their kids in day care, not having any relatives who can watch them, and having the means to hire someone... but it's sad. I was a summer camp counselor for a couple of summers, and pretty much all of the kids said they had nannies at home. On visiting day, a lot of the nannies came, and the kids were more excited to see them than they were to see their parents. And it's sad. I mean, if the nannies are good people and the parents aren't, then maybe it's not sad. Maybe it's good. I don't know.

I think I would find it very difficult to feel comfortable with a stranger taking care of my kids. And I can see why the nanny having a life outside of work would bother the mother, legitimately. Someone taking care of kids is more than just an employee. Ideally, she's a role model. Even at camp, I felt like there were a fair number of counselors who, if I was a parent, I'd be a little wary of leaving my children with. The riflery (why were there guns at a camp anyway?) instructor who shot at turtles, for example.... After having been a camp counselor, I honestly don't think I'd ever send a kid to sleepaway camp. Because you never know who's watching them and what's rubbing off on the kid. Also because I would have been *miserable* as a camper at sleepaway camp and I've got to believe that any kid sharing part of my gene pool would be pretty frustrated too. Not that I was a particularly high-maintenance kid (I mean, maybe I was...:), but there was just so much unexplained "you have to do this" at camp that I would have hated it. You had to play soccer, you had to eat the tacos, you had to go swimming, you had to run around in the heat, you had to deal with the annoying bunkmate picking on you, you had to deal with the counselor ignoring you, you couldn't call home, etc.... I could deal as a counselor :), but as a camper I would have either needed to find a counselor who could read my mind a little bit, or been lucky enough to make some friends in the bunk, or else it could be miserable.

I was a good counselor, but I totally played favorites. There were kids I understood more than others. The smart kids, the shy kids, the scared kids. I identified with them more. I was much more willing to sit down and negotiate with some kids than others -- to promise them an extra snack if they'd at least make an attempt to go in the pool, or to pretend I believed that they weren't feeling well and go for a long walk to the nurse's office instead of making them stand against the wall at the seven-year-old co-ed "dance" feeling out of place. Whereas the big kids, the ones who expressed their insecurities by acting out instead of by shutting down, the ones who weren't as bright -- I was much more able to just tell them they had to play kickball and forget about it. It wasn't totally fair, but I almost felt like I needed to "protect" the kids who had that spark, in whom I saw some potential for greatness. Because I could see the very real possibility that you take a smart, sensitive kid and throw him into this situation, where no one's listening, no one's understanding his needs, no one cares -- and he gives up. He decides it's not worth it to be smart and sensitive and good, and instead he should just be a spoiled brat like the rest of them. And he's lost forever. Maybe this isn't really how it happens, but that was how it felt to me. That there were some kids that had something special I could see, and that it was fragile. And I wanted to make sure they knew I saw that in them, and that I at least understood a little bit, and wasn't going to make them play hockey for no reason if they were afraid of the puck, and wasn't going to make them suffer needlessly in a situation they didn't have to be in. Although I realize the argument can be made that what some of these kids needed was exactly the opposite -- that they were at camp to learn to cope, and learn to deal with things outside their comfort zone, and I should have just let them figure it out instead of indulging them and cutting the crust off the peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Or maybe I just liked being the nice counselor and letting the other counselors do the dirty work. :)