Let’s just get one thing clear: kids are crazy.
After five weeks of taking care of a 15-month-old, the idea of ever having children has taken a harsh beating. There are just too many ways those small human beings willingly, if unknowingly, try to hurt themselves. I’m glad I missed the first year of Anabella’s life…though the sleep/eat/change diaper/play routine hasn’t really changed much since then.
The good times
“Hallo attacks” — These happen to Anabella without warning. Most likely to occur on a subway or train. The word “hello” is said loudly, in rapid succession, with the presumed intent of attracting as much attention from her stoic fellow passengers of the Deutsche Bahn and/or SBahn. Attacks can last up to five minutes, until said passengers have managed to ignore her and she tires of attempting to make social contact with such asocial human beings, or until she has won over a feeble-hearted German. Hallo is also commonly said when departing the aforementioned train, as the attacks seem to disregard the changing social context of travel.
Animal abuse — A constant struggle between feline and child, the family cat is often subjected to the grabby hands of his younger ‘sister’. The usual order of things:
1. Anabella is bored. She spots her target, Sir Henry, typically deep in cat-dream-state.
2. Chuckling menacingly, she approaches her target. Sir Henry is unfazed and twitches his tail teasingly.
3. Hands outstretched, she bays a warning “Aiiii”, unfortunately missing the fact that it’s supposed to mean “gently”. (All attempts to teach her the proper way to pet a cat have been futile). Sir Henry remains asleep, though an ear might rotate slightly at the sound of his predator’s voice.
4. She grabs full-force, latching onto fur, and pulls out two tufts of black hair. Sir Henry is roused, twists around quickly and bites or scratches his attacker.
5. Crying ensues, the cat is scolded for defending himself, the concept of “Ai machen” (being gentle) is reiterated.
(Note: with luck, I’m able to intervene before the poor cat loses another chunk of hair…Anabella is damn quick, though, but it’s amusing to watch how she acts around him).
Toddler terrors — Over the past week, she’s learned to walk. I have to admit that it was sort of amazing, seeing this little girl that’s been crawling the whole time I’ve known her push herself up to stand on two feet and go for it. Rather wobbly at first, I think that by the time their next au pair arrives she’ll be a regular Godzilla around the house.
A piece of advice for anyone considering being an au pair — you’ll probably get along with the kid, but before you move to another country, make absolutely sure that you get along with the parents.
They should essentially let you have your own life, i.e. not impose rules on your social comings and goings outside of your work hours (regardless of if you’re a live-in au pair), and should definitely not treat you like a servant when it comes to chores/cooking unless previously agreed on. My luck held out and my host parents have been extremely respectful and accommodating, letting me have guests whenever I want and generally keeping out of my personal life. I had the advantage of actually being able to meet the family before I decided to work for them, but if you can’t visit them personally, at least make sure to skype two or three times to make sure there’s some “family chemistry” you feel positive about being a part of.
In any case, it’s been a good experience and I’ve learned enough from it to feel ready to move on to the next thing…namely, vacation!