As the New Year begins, our family is going through a period of transition and mourning. Did someone close to us pass away, or did something else tragic happen? Thankfully, no and no. It’s just that Max’s part-time nanny, Gloria, found a new family willing to take her on full-time this year, so she sadly had to say goodbye to us recently to embark on that new adventure. Gloria had been a part of our lives since Max was 5 weeks old, watching him at least 3 mornings a week. I would not have thought, before Max was born (and even after he was born) that a nanny moving on due to external circumstances after 6 and a half months would be a great source of trauma and transition for us. Sure, I thought, maybe Max would get upset for a time, but in actuality Max is taking it much better than I am! At eight months old now he continues to crawl all over the place and puts everything he passes along the way into his mouth – as if nothing happened. What a well adjusted kid!
But while Max may be moving on both literally and figuratively, I am having a harder time. Six and a half months is most of Max’s life, as well as most of my life as a parent. That’s a very formative and emotional period to share care-giving duties with someone, and of course I grew attached to Gloria. Stewart and I were very fortunate to have found her. But perhaps more accurately, Gloria was the one to find us. My sister had been sharing Gloria’s time with a friend, but no longer needed her hours when my nephew began pre-school. The timing was perfect because Stewart had recently returned full-time to work, so we picked up my sister’s hours from her.
Not only did we get a nanny, but we got a mentor and a parenting guru as well. From day one I was very comfortable leaving Max with Gloria. During her first days with Max, Stewart was very busy with work, having just returned, and I was just getting used to being alone with Max for most of the day. I couldn’t wait for her to show up on her designated mornings! Gloria, a spry 50-something from Peru, has a look about her that screams “baby maestro.” Stewart and I considered ourselves lucky to have somebody older than us who is very experienced with babies to help show us the ropes. For example, if we discovered some weird markings on Max’s skin some morning, or he exhibited some odd behavior that we hadn’t seen before, we were comforted in knowing that we could ask Gloria for the 411. She was always happy to share her wisdom and to give us suggestions. She also dove in where Stewart and I feared to tread. For example, she told us that she is an expert nail-cutter of infants, and thank goodness for that, because we were terrified to go anywhere near Max’s squirmy, miniscule hands with anything remotely sharp. She also pointed out that the sun hat we had for Max over the summer could use a wider brim, so she simply went out and bought him a new hat that worked better. Max’s favorite security blanket, a blue stuffed dog, was also a gift from Gloria that will remain a fixture for our son well after she has moved on. It is neat to still have these little reminders around the apartment of her helpful presence in our lives when we needed it the most: as a new and anxious family.
I also appreciated the fact that Gloria insisted that Max be very active with her. The vast majority of the time they spent together was out of the apartment amidst New York City. In the summer, she took him to Tompkins Square Park every day and discovered parts of the park that I never knew existed and will be returning to with Max this spring. In the winter she discovered neighborhood libraries that I also didn’t know existed, and now Max and I are regulars.
I joked above that Max has moved right on since Gloria reluctantly said goodbye to us at the end of the year, but that’s just the nature of babies – the truth is that he adored Gloria as much as she demonstrated, on every visit, how much she adored Max. When Gloria would enter the apartment on her mornings with us, Max would stop whatever he was doing on a dime and coo and crawl to her.
I fear that Gloria is an aberration. It is hard when you start off with the best. Where do you go from there? Thankfully Stewart and I have accumulated a lot of parenting miles over the past 8 months and feel much more confident and self-reliant running the show alone. So while we do have a new nanny as of this week, luckily for her the pressure is off. We don’t expect her to be Gloria. So far she has been wonderful in her own right and Max and she are already good buds.
Thankfully, Gloria remains in our lives. Earlier this week she had a day off from her new job, and blessed us with a visit to see Max and to show our new nanny, a friend of hers, places where she can take Max in the neighborhood. It was an incredibly thoughtful gesture, completely unsolicited by us. So I would like to say to Gloria’s new family: you are very lucky to have found Gloria; she is a true professional who will love your child unconditionally and go the extra mile for your family. Appreciate it – we sure have!