Concise Prose. Enough Said.
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I Could Be Mary Poppins, But I'm Not

By Lydia Boykin

All I have done, for nine months, is continue the existence of one tiny child on this planet.

She's a beautiful girl, and I love her.  She's funny and infuriating and seems to think that eating involves shoving Cheerios up your nose or, barring that, up the nose of the person trying to help feed you.  I tend to her and hold her and try to teach her not to hurt the cats.  I count the seconds until the next nap, then hover anxiously near the baby monitor when she's asleep.  When I'm not with her she's all I have to talk about.

She is not my child.  

I am the live-in nanny.  The soon-to-be-ex-nanny, very soon.  When my year's commitment is up I'm out of here. I think it's going to simultaneously kill me and save my life.

I am going crazy, I think.  My days are too long and exhaust me, but, when my time is up, I can barely stand to give her back.  I sit in my little room and listen to them give in to her tantrums, little fits of screaming that she rarely pulls with me because I sit back and observe them, remarking, "Honey-girl, when has that ever worked on me?"  

I listen to them fight, the father growing quietly nasty the more bottles of wine he drinks, over money sometimes, where it will go, a new car or a new motorcycle or a new Versace suit.  I had to ask my mother to buy me underwear because this week's pay, all $150 of it, had to go to a doctor's bill.  I have no insurance and I make $3.50 an hour plus room and board.  The mother swears they can't afford to pay me more, but I've peeked at the rates for the daycare centers they are considering and some of them cost $300 more than I make a month.  When I let myself think on this, I cry.

I could be Mary Poppins, but I'm not.

Sometimes when they give in to her tantrums and hand her whatever it was she was screaming for all I can think is "Unsafe!  Unsafe!"  I can see how any object will break into a thousand pieces, onto which she will fall and gouge out her pretty, pretty blue eyes.  I imagine that when I walk out that door for the last time ten minutes later she'll be grabbing up handfuls of raw chicken and running out into traffic to play with them.  I've never tried arguing with them about their parenting.  I know this would be an unforgivable thing.

This is the craziest work on the planet, raising other people's children.  You fall in love for money and then have to walk away.

Lydia Boykin has written two plays you won't ever see--Killing Grandpa and The Story of a Girl.  She has mostly written for her own amusement. She has worked a number of dead-end jobs and is considering making her mother delirious with joy by finally going to college.

Photo "Cheerio" courtesy of Ryan O'Connor.

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