I have worked with children for years; children with disabilities more saddening and debilitating than you would care to think about. And yet, none of them can quite compare to what it feels like to work for wealthy young children, whose language you do not speak. I say “wealthy”, because a child who has grown up with a nanny instead of a mommy treats people quite differently; they are not used to hearing the word “no” (or in my case, “non”), and react in quite the frightful manner when they do. And I say “for,” because I am their slave.
Up until a few days ago, “non” was about all I could say. Things have been interesting. Don’t get me wrong, the children are completely adorable and sweet, as long as they’re getting their cookies and watching tv. The moment the word “bath” or “homework” comes around, they turn on me like savages. Never in my life have I heard the word “no” thrown back at me with such hatred. Never in my life has a child begged so relentlessly for five more minutes with the telly, or whined so pitifully when asked to put some gloves on. Let me tell you right now: I do NOT put up with it, and do not care that their parents do.
Now, in normal circumstances, I would reason with them, allowing a chance or two to listen to me before the punishment comes. Yet, when all I know how to say is the equivalent of “Ok…child. Take…bath?” or “Go!” instead of “Ok, time to take a bath. Hey now, don’t give me that look, I’ve asked you three times. Go on!”…it gets interesting. I feel like such a fool when all I can retaliate their apparently rude remarks with is a simple “…non,” accompanying an angry look, or some sort of miming action. I’m sure they think I’m an idiot. The other day, Angele apparently called me a bitch, and I thought she’d said something sweet. It was a tad embarrassing when I innocently announced the incident at dinner later that night. Oh.
The best is when we’re in public, and they simply run away, and the only attempt I can make at calling them back is to helplessly shout their names in my obviously American accent, then shrug when onlookers offer me advice (or insults). The other day I was paying for my gas and glanced out the window to find them running around the gas station, throwing candy and screaming with glee. The look the clerk gave me suggested that I go die and to take the kids with me.
This morning, when I served cereal instead of white bread and Nutella (they greedily wolf down several pieces of the stuff on most mornings), crying and angry pouting broke out. Wow, Jesus. Sorry. I didn’t have the energy to argue with them this morning, as we were running out of time. I had woken up about a half hour late with a decent fever, and decided it was not my morning to win a battle. Fine, Nutella-drenched bread it is.
I swear Florence’s face lit up when I told her that I had a fever; I think she was excited at the opportunity to play nurse. She quickly broke out a little box containing several intriguing medicines of various forms: pills, powders, syringes (ah!), liquids, sprays. Now, I have had experience with the French health system before; they give you all sorts of stuff for the tiniest cold; who knows what any of it does. I watched as she poured out a little mound of off-white powder into a small, rounded dish. Is she going to make me sniff this stuff? She then mixed it with water so it formed a pasty sludge and instructed me to slurp it down. With hesitation (and a distant recollection of the clam incident), I swallowed the aspartame-tainted stuff.
“This will make you feel better.” When I asked her what it was (which I should have done before ingesting it), she simply said “It’s French.” Ha! Ok, well hopefully the French know what they’re doing. Well so far, I’m not high, so I suppose it checks out. Although the way these kids are wearing on me today……