Yep. Not what you want to have to tell the parents of the 4 month old in your care on your first day as their nanny.
Now, before I tell you the whole horrifying story, you can relax your Macaulay Culkin style stance of shock. Let me assuage your fears. I am fine, no psychological damage at all. Thank you for your concern, I’m truly touched 😉 And the baby, well he’s just fine as well.
In fact, he was fine the whole time. But – I did, I must admit, accidentally lock 4 month old M in his room, alone, on my first day as his nanny.
To be fair, all I did was shut the door. I didn’t actually lock it. I’d put him to sleep, smugly satisfied I’d passed the first test of the day by settling him easily and swiftly. He was tucked firmly into his cot, flat on his back, arms spread above his head and hands clenched in a peaceful sleepy double fist pump (“yes! I am going to rock this nap!”). I shut the door and went about my business.
Some time later, around halfway though the nap, he needed some resettling. But when I went to open the door it just, wouldn’t. M was only making baby bird peeps and my intention had been to quietly soothe him for a moment in the dark, discouraging him from waking up properly. So from the other side of the door, I tried to jiggle and manipulate the doorknob with calm quiet. After a minute or two I tried the subtle approach to letting the parents know what was going on: a text message queries casually: Is there a trick to M’s door?
Ah, yes, there is. It’s not just me, that door is broken. Because the parents, therefore, never fully close it they had forgotten to mention it. No worries! Phew, crisis averted. I’ll just follow the door opening instructions. Jiggle, push up and down and around.
Drat. This does not work. At this point the tenor of the whole situation changes. I now begin to think seriously I will not be able to open the door. Either baby will leap out of cot and impale himself on spike that has grown out of floor, or I will be fired for incompetence. And lets face it; both options suck. Quietness is forgotten and I start jiggling and pushing in every combination imaginable with all the ferocity of a mother lifting a car off her baby. After all, my pseudo baby (baby to whom I am a pseudo parent?) is under the metaphorical car of inaccessibility and if sheer will can open this door then it will be done.
In short order M is screaming, scared by the commotion and bewildered by lack of attention. That’s the line. I have to admit to parents, I’ve locked your baby in a room by himself and I can’t get him out. Fortunately they both work nearby and promise to come home. They reassure me – this is not my fault, they are sure it must be terrible for me, and help is on the way. They’re right, it’s no one’s fault and it does feel terrible and I’m glad help is imminent. Yet, none of this is actually reassuring.
I continue to try to force this doorknob into submission But, cuts and scrapes to my hands from the effort suggest to me that I’m fighting a losing battle. I know the baby is safe. He’s upset, but safe. Still, the helplessness of knowing that if he were not safe, I could do nothing, is surprisingly overwhelming. The dog and I end up crouched outside the door, both pawing at it in futile misery, listening to M howl and scream.
I kept thinking, please, please let them not come home and …. Jiggle Jiggle, Push up, Push down, Push around – “Why, this door opens easily (you ineffectual, overpaid, ninny of a nanny)!” Please let this be a genuinely stuck door and not merely my failure to do the simplest of tasks – turn a doorknob. Of course I want access to the baby, but he really is safe. So at this point what I’m hoping for is that the door is sealed shut to all, but then swiftly broken into to or dismantled. In other words: the best outcome for me now is that the parents come home, cannot open the door and the dad has to throw himself against it a few times to break into the room.
Which is exactly what happened. M recovered speedily, being a naturally happy baby who took the whole thing in his stride.
In the end, everyone survived unscathed and the only real casualty was my ego.
A friend asked what I learned from this. I guess it’s this… Parents, think hard what your nanny or others in your home may need to know. Try to imagine you’ve never been in the house before and never met your child, this might help you to avoid taking things for granted. Nannies or parents, if a similar thing happens to you: try to listen to your head. If the baby is safe then focus on problem solving and try not to feel overwhelmed.
Even in emotionally charged situations, never let yourself end up crouched on the floor sharing the empathy of a dog.
Do you have a similar horror story to share?