Experience The Nanny Nightmare
As an Erasmus student taking time away from Scotland’s drizzle, my dreams were being thoroughly met by the Spanish sunshine. Wandering the tree lined streets to the odd seminar, munching on no end of bravas and salsaing the night away was a pretty good way to ‘study’ abroad. So there I am all bronzed, relaxed and entirely stuffed with tapas when we then throw a child into the mix, then another and another.
In order to keep this breezy lifestyle I had going on in the Gaudi state I had to earn some euro – well the sangria wasn’t going to pay for itself. With few jobs for foreigners, teaching English as a part time nanny seemed like the best option. I worked for the Costa family, which consisted of a jet-setting mum, twin five year olds, a four year old and an elderly grandma. This ensemble soon made my extra money earner the sole point of hilarity in my Spanish vida.
My tales of public embarrassment, physical abuse (on their end) and marital dilemmas (again, on their end) became staples to my social events.
Trouble from the start
Day one I should have known what the next few months had in store for me. I pick the trio up from school and after a battle to get all to remain by my side in the park opened up a new set of problems. Of course there were the usual fiascos that come with any child care job. You have the tantrums and the screaming but then come the bashful grins and butter-wouldn’t-melt apologies and all is right in the bubble of day care. But then a new wave of behaviour arrived and I was not prepared.
Attack number one: sand in my pants – no longer a metaphoric term but a literal memory. Little Juan decided to christen his new nanny by grabbing a fistful of sand and dropping it down the back of my lets-try-and-be-exotic-floral dress. Straight into the underwear and with nowhere acceptable to err empty out, I had to wriggle and shake my way free of the granules.
Giving in to their cute smiles, the mother’s compliments and the grandma’s sweet treats I hung in there. Perhaps I should have fled when attack two came – being peed on. By pee I do not mean a dribble or a damp patch, I mean the full force of flowing pee coming from Mr Bruno. While giving him his bedtime bath and battling to get at least some of the dirt off, Bruno decided to exact revenge for my scrubbing by emptying the contents of his bladder down my front. When I had to excuse myself from a later social gathering on account of smelling like a urinal it was one excuse I couldn’t have made up.
Despite this slow build of minor attacks on my morale the kids had won me over with their devilish charm and 80 year old grandma Lila was fast becoming my new BFF. I was just going to have to endure.
Menace to society
I may have regretted that decision though when potty behaviour became a more permanent fixture. Attack three was less of a personal attack and more one on society.
One day, while visiting the scene of most of these crimes, the park, Juan decided it was toilet time. I bargained and I pleaded, I bribed and I threatened but nothing would stop the outrageous thing that happened next. He pooped in the park. Like a dog on a walk there was a squat, a push and then there lay a number two. In a public domain with a number of onlookers hastily judging my discipline skills I was stunned. This horror was accelerated when twin number two, Sophia, followed suit and also dropped off her kids in the park.
Over the four months a number of similar antics littered my summer-dazed Barcelona afternoons. Study, sunbathe, be abused by kids was the general routine. I gave myself tanning and tequila as rewards.
For fork’s sake
However, month four terror reigned almighty. As a parting gift little Juan, ringleader of the gang, struck again. He decided to break his usual routine of bite, kick, punch and up the ante with a bit of weaponry. Taking a fork from his spaghetti plate, Juan took on the war of mealtimes with four prongs. Unaware that our daily battles had upgraded to full on warfare, I was not prepared when the prongs of pain entered my behind. Ouch.
So after months of ditching the beach for Spanish bambinos what did I learn? Well, there were the fundamentals of child chasing, negotiating with minors and I became rather good at shielding myself from small punches, and all in another language. I was able to get a taste of authentic Catalan culture and make a bestie for life in good, old Lila but, when mummy Maya called a year later and asked if I’d return the answer needed no thought at all. No.