Every few days I update my blog with humorous anecdotes about my life as a mother of two young children living in London, England. The end of each post is peppered with funny quotations from my kids covering everything from their views on why zombies make good thieves to whether they think the Queen wears jewels on her bathing cap. But as I sat down to write an entry this morning, I found myself unable to find the humour in my daily life.
Try as I might, I cannot stop thinking about the Krim family whose children were recently killed by their nanny on New York’s Upper West Side. I made the mistake of reading an article about the tragedy before going to bed last night and slept horribly, plagued by nightmares about my own children’s safety and a heavy heart full of sadness for the Krims. Each time I woke, I climbed the stairs to my kids’ rooms to calm myself with the sound of their little breaths and the smell of their freshly washed hair. I reveled in the feel of their warm cheeks on mine as they slept peacefully, blissfully unaware that such horrific things are even possible in this world. Guilt flooded through me as I basked in my relief at having them safe in their beds while I returned to mine. Poor Marina Krim remained in her nightmare as I finally drifted off to sleep.
When they were babies, I often rushed to my children’s rooms to check that they were breathing, terrified that something had happened while I dozed off. I held them extra tightly when going downstairs, fearful of slipping and dropping them. I even cut Cheerios in half so they wouldn’t choke on them. Today, they are older, but I still check my children once a night and refuse to let them ride a scooter or bicycle without a helmet. There are dozens (my seven-year-old daughter would say hundreds) of things that I won’t let them do out of fear for their safety. Like ride in the front seat of the car, go around a corner where I can’t see them or bike on the road during heavy traffic. While they may curse me for these rules, I try to make up for my paranoia by being more lenient with other things such as running barefoot through the park, eating ice cream before dinner or allowing them to help me cook dinner. And each night I say a prayer of thanks that they have survived the day unscathed, bar a few scrapes and bruises or damaged egos. For the thought that I would never be able to look into their bright eyes that are filled with wonder and excitement, feel their soft, tickly hair on my face or hear their giggles emerge from another room… I don’t even know how to finish that sentence.
As a mom, I think it’s impossible not to put yourself in Marina Krim’s shoes, if only for one horrible second. Living mere blocks from her family’s building just two years ago, I, too, had a part-time nanny. With our own family back in Canada and a husband who worked long hours and travelled constantly, we hired Miriam three days a week to help me spend quality time with each child individually, work on my articles and get out of the apartment for a much-needed break.
Before moving to New York, I swore I’d never have help as I didn’t feel that I could trust a stranger to be alone with my children. An emergency while I was pregnant with my son forced me to hire someone to watch my daughter when I went to the doctor. A friend I had met in Central Park gave me the number of her babysitter. Out of desperation, I hired her without even doing a background check. It was then that I got to know Miriam and, soon after, to trust her. In the three years that she worked for us, Miriam became part of our family and one of my closest friends. My children still beg for her to come for play dates with us in London, sleep close to a picture of her in their rooms and ask when we can move back to New York so they can see her every day. Their first concern when I told them about the damage Hurricane Sandy left in New York was for Miriam’s safety.
I know that there are many more Miriams out there. Other wonderful (well, maybe not AS wonderful) nannies who help to shape our children’s lives, memories and personalities. I feel lucky to have been so blessed to have found such a wonderful friend — someone who loves my children as much as I do and someone who I trust implicitly with their safety. Luckily for all of us, these fantastic nannies far outweigh the heinous ones. And tonight, as I tuck my little ones into their beds, I will thank God for Miriam and grieve for the Krims as I give my kids the biggest, squeeziest hug I can.