As a nanny, you will be faced at times with ‘difficult’ children who will initially appear to be impossible to deal with. It’s a frightening position to be in and I remember it well. One of the most clear memories I have is of a seven year old boy named Charlie, the son of a very high flying banker who made certain conditions very clear to me when I started working for him. Because Charlie’s mother was no longer on the scene and had left her only son for greener pastures, this young boy was in need of help, much more than I was trained to provide but his father believed Charlie just needed to be encouraged to be strong, no soft stuff, no hint of a bedtime story or anything that could get in the way of him growing into a ruthless and rather insensitive man, just like his father.
Charlie was everything a nanny has nightmares about – no respect, no understanding of manners or just plain old civility and above all women were, understandably, never to be trusted. I really had my work cut out for me here. A family of five Barbie-loving girls to care for would have seemed like a picnic in the park compared to this situation! But I could not leave this little boy no matter how strong the feeling was to run, and as for running, this was Charlie’s forte.
He found his homework just a tedious nuisance as it wasted valuable time when he could have been training for ‘the marathon’ – the under 9’s 400 metre race that was the highlight of the school sports in September. Charlie had proved to the head of the sports department that he was definitely able to be bumped up to practice with the eight year olds as his ability was excellent. His father had encouraged him in his quest but also made it clear not to become friendly with the other boys who were also training for the race as they were competition and any competition should be viewed as the enemy.
Charlie and I – how can I put this – managed, I think would be the best term. It was never going to be easy, as I always seemed to be encouraging him to be the opposite of what his father wanted and Charlie was happier just being himself. We trusted each other – he trusted me not to let his father know about his friends, in particular Harry who was his training buddy, and I trusted him – with everything.
The sports day arrived. He was eager to get to the track but had told me in the morning that he was scared he wouldn’t win and what would his father do if he were beaten? I explained to him, as I had done many times before, that he only had to do his best. That was all. His best would always be what his father would want from him. I didn’t have the heart to tell him his father would probably want much more from him than his best.
The race started. I was standing on my own near the finish line while I could see Charlie’s father with some of his colleagues, up in the stand. He looked serious and even perhaps a little sad, but I wasn’t sure. Charlie and Harry had been on equal footing from the start, each of them giving the race their best shot, neither of them looking like giving up when Harry stumbled and fell. I watched with the rest of the crowd and Charlie’s dad as Charlie turned and faulted, stumbling as well and sacrificing the winning position to help his friend onto his feet again. There was an enormous, ‘Aaaawwww’ from the crowd as the winner, whoever he was, made it to the finish but the applause began when the two limping boys hobbled across the finish line, one to be hugged by his mother and the other by his nanny. Of course there were tears from both of us, but it had nothing to do with the race. Charlie had done his best – his very best and as his father approached him, pushing his way through the crowd, he reached out for his boy, swinging him into the air – the relief was incredible, all three of us now in tears.
As usual, children grow very quickly and your time as their nanny comes to a close. I left my position when Charlie had just turned ten. His father had remarried a very kind and understanding women who was ‘doing her best’ to be a great mother and friend to Charlie. You never know what impression you will leave with a child and can only hope that by ‘doing YOUR best’, they in turn will do theirs.