Wednesday, September 22, 2010

my swelling heart

This week has been a difficult one in my small world of nannying. The first hurdle has been recognising that I love these pampered donuts of girls. I can no longer claim a benign tolerance to them- they've weaseled their ways into my heart like two chubby little arterial clogging tumours. The second has been their ridiculous father who has reduced me to tears with his psychotic nit-pickery. I've gotten into strife this week for inadequate ironing (an ongoing saga), failing to refrigerate avocados, and taking the children to a public toilet. Because (and I quote) 'those places might be ok for you but they're far too filthy for the girls'. I forgot that I was in some kind of lesser species with a higher tolerance to bacteria.

The third has been the realisation that these little girls are teetering on the tentative boundary between being relatively functional humans and neurotic control freaks. They will likely fall starboard into the desperately malcontent ocean their father flounders in. There is nothing I can do about it. I am far from an upstanding role model, being uncouth and ridiculous as I am- but I've found myself trying to impart some kind of ethical thought in them beyond what they've been provided.

There are hopeful moments. We went to the cinemas and there was a teenager sobbing his adolescent guts out in the food court. It was heart wrenching stuff- the kind of tears that shook his whole frame and crushed his face into a wet mess. I went over to him with tissues and asked him if I could call anybody for him. The girls followed behind me, and K tugged at my skirt and stage whispered- 'Why are you talking to him?' I pulled them aside and told them that I thought you should help anyone who might be in trouble when you can, because sometimes people feel sad and need comfort.

A walked over and wrapped her chubby little six year old arms around his neck. 'It's ok.' she said. 'Don't cry.'

Another came at the museum, where I took them to see the Bunjilaka exhibition. It was relatively deserted, most adults hauling children were trapped somewhere between dinosaur bones and the Titanic exhibition. I expected them to caterwaul their boredom, and I was utterly wrong. They delighted in the art and the artefacts, and spent ten minutes in awe over a cloak made out of forty possums and carved with the stories of its owner. The last part of the exhibition reflected on land rights, and I asked them what they thought of what had happened when the settlers came and declared the land Terra Nullius.

The six year old shrugged and said she needed to pee. K furrowed her brow and said- 'I think they should have divided up the land. Like, we have Sydney, you have Melbourne, and then if people wanted to share parts they could. And then everyone could open up their doors and cook dinner for everybody else. And we should share everything- like food, and television, and signals for phones, and the internet. And there should be free houses with beds for poor people with food.'

I stopped and gave her an enormous hug. Jesus, my heart swelled with pride. It must be what parents feel when their coordination-impaired child scores a goal in Saturday morning soccer. She then asked if she could have an ice cream. I said no, and she started to cry and said that she never got anything she wanted. There's hope yet.

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