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A Love Letter To Our Nanny

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The hours work well for me. I don’t like working late.

I’ve been looking for other work and found nothing, so I thought I would try this.

Would you consider reimbursing me for the commute?

If my wife Brandy and I had posted a classified advertisement looking for someone to guard our treasure chest filled with gold, none of the above statements would have impressed us. So the fact that we looking for someone to care for our two young children—the value of whom far outweighs a trunkful of bullion—made our search even more deflating. The other line we heard during those phone interviews was I’m good with my nieces and nephews. That’s like saying I’d be a good attorney because I like to put on a suit before I argue.

A great nanny is the Japanese crested ibis: an endangered species. My theory is that children are such a normal, everyday part of life that being a childcare provider doesn’t seem like a big deal. I was a kid once. I know kids. I outweigh them by 100 pounds. How hard could it be? The problem is a nanny isn’t a lifeguard: Success isn’t measured by survival. Brandy and I were looking for someone to act as our proxy. A nanny is a second string quarterback. When Mom or Dad is out of commission, the nanny is there to be the best version of you they can be. My family is lucky because we had that nanny, and I was reminded of just how blessed we were last Thursday. I was sitting in a hotel room in New York City, staring at a TV beaming images of swirling police lights and a woman strapped to a passing gurney. 

It was the kind of story that makes you double check the front door lock, look in their bedroom door one last time, and believe the things we are told we are in op-ed columns and Facebook status updates. The Krim family of New York City lost two of their children last week. According to the police report, their nanny, Yoselyn Ortega, is accused of taking the children’s lives, and then attempting unsuccessfully to take her own. Today, brightly colored flowers pile up outside the Krims’ Upper West Side apartment building.

Having a nanny is such an intimate thing, such an enormous risk. You meet them, you interview them, and five days later, they’re in your bed watching Wall-E, and driving your children around in your car. Combine that with the childcare stories that regularly populate the news (the toddler fight club is a recent example), and parents are becoming increasingly weary of outside help. A recent Red Cross poll found that in the past 24 months, 55 percent of parents decided to stay home because they couldn't find a babysitter. And when parents do go out, 8 in 10 look to adult relatives to watch their children. Nearly half (48 percent) have relied on adult friends. I get it. Brandy and I have fired a couple nannies, including one that was secretly eating out of our refrigerator.

Then we found Darcy. There was no umbrella, carpet bag, or chirpy sing-alongs to convince our boys to take their ibuprofen, but she was still magical. A post-collegiate new to Florida, Darcy mirrored Jackson and Tanner's own sense of wonder and adventure. She doted on them, but not too much. She laughed at their antics, but not all of them. Her voice never got loud, or cracked with stress. The three of them had their own inside jokes. In a very real way, they were her kids too. She was a second string quarterback who couldn’t throw the deep ball like Brandy, but sure as hell could run the offense.

But like all nanny stories, ours came to an end. Brandy started a new career path, as did I, and the boys reached school age. Our family morphed into Andy in Toy Story 3, all grown up, at a place in life where he didn’t need Woody anymore. Darcy moved on to another family. We’ve found a couple reliable babysitters, but they aren’t Darcy. It turns out she is a four-leaf clover stapled to Halley’s Comet floating in a big glass of Chateau d'Yquem. A rarity among rarities.

Nanny is a job that doesn't require a high school diploma, college degree, certifications or accreditations. The only prerequisite is a big heart, unfailing energy and the best of intentions, three things you won’t find on a resume. It’s only after you invite them into your home, and put them in charge of your most precious cargo, that you can know if you’ve made the right decision.

Don’t dwell on the horror that took place on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, even though we’re subconsciously being led to. (When you Google “nanny,” there are 97.1 million search results, but a pixelated photo of Yoselyn Ortega is one of the first things you see.) Instead, think about Darcy, the best nanny ever made. There is a Darcy out there for your family too. But keep in mind: Identifying her won’t be easy. She won’t arrive in formal Victorian garb. There will be no jolly orchestral movements to cue her entrance. The only way to find her is by being patient, taking a chance, and believing we’re not the things they say we are.