Today is my 39th birthday, and last night, I received an amazing gift: I was able to sleep through the night and didn’t have to clean up any vomit. That may not seem like much of a present, but after the last few weeks, that’s what I wanted more than anything.
As you may have guessed, things haven’t been going well in the Cutter household. For over two weeks, the Cutlet has been suffering from a stomach illness – or perhaps a series of them – which has caused her to repeatedly wake up in the night to throw up or void her bowels; often at the same time.
The doctors believed it was just a particularly bad virus, but we were starting to become concerned. She lacked energy during the day, she didn’t have much of an appetite, and she was losing weight that she couldn’t afford to lose. We pretty much had to force her to eat and drink, and it got so bad one day that we gave her ice cream simply because that was the only thing she would agree to eat.
The illness has also seemed to strike her brother, as we’ve also had to spend a few nights cleaning up vomit from Cujo’s crib. As a result, there have been very few nights over the past two weeks where Mrs. Cutter and I received an uninterrupted night of sleep.
Dealing with sickness and a lack of sleep is bad enough, but we’ve also had a family crisis in the form of our new au pair.
Her native language is Portugese, and when we interviewed her via Skype, we knew that her English wasn’t perfect, but we thought it was passable. Apparently, it was far less perfect than we thought. She speaks clearly enough, but we’ve realized that her comprehension isn’t very good. Part of the problem is that she’s very good at picking up context clues, knowing when to nod, laugh, and say “yes” without really understanding what we’re saying.
We could have dealt with her being slow to learn the language. We figured that after a few weeks, she’d pick up enough to be proficient. However, we were soon forced to deal with more serious issues that couldn’t be worked around.
Her job duties include picking the twins up from their preschool. She claimed she was an experienced driver, but that was an exaggeration. When we took her driving, she seemed so uncomfortable that we hired a driving instructor to give her a lesson and assessment.
The instructor did not give an encouraging review. He had worked with several au pairs before, and he said that she was one of the least capable drivers he had ever encountered. He said with a little work, she would probably be fine getting to and from school in a regular car, but he wouldn’t recommend having her drive the minivan or take any highways.
Perhaps we could have found a way to manage that situation, but in her first few days, there were a couple of incidents that made us believe that she didn’t have the necessary training and experience to deal with two small children. She’s a nice girl, and she fits in with us personality wise – that was actually what caused us to choose her in the first place -but it was impossible to ignore those other factors. We had no choice but to replace her.
Breaking the news to her may have been the most painful thing I’ve ever had to do. I figured I had another 15 years before I’d have to crush the hopes and dreams of a 21-year-old girl. There were quite a few tears as we told her that she would have to find a new family or return home. The worst part may be that due to the language barrier, we’re not sure if she completely understands why this happened.
That difficult conversation was only the start of our problems. She has two weeks to find a new host family, and she needs to continue to live with us during that time. Unfortunately, since we don’t believe she can capably handle the job, we’ve had to ask the old au pair to continue to work some days, while either Mrs. Cutter or myself have had to work from home on other days.
Now, we have to go through the frustrating process of finding another au pair. In the meantime, we’ve had to ask our parents to help out with the kids. We’re trying to find a replacement as quickly as possible, but after making such a mistake, we’d rather take the time to make the right choice.
As a result of all these problems, Mrs. Cutter and I have had to miss a bunch of work – with more time off to come – and I know my performance has suffered when I have been on the job. And I feel like I’ve been on the cusp of getting sick for quite some time now.
Speaking of my health…want to know how tough things have been? I have some sort of skin condition which has caused welts to break out all over my torso. Yet that hasn’t even been one of my most pressing concerns. Don’t worry, it doesn’t itch too much.
But last night gave me hope that the worst is behind us. As mentioned, the kids made it through the night, and everyone seemed to be in much better health this morning. It may be frustrating to search for a new au pair, but I’m confident we’ve learned from our previous mistakes, and will make the right choice this time around. And we’re fortunate that we have family who is willing to help us out.
I have hope that the worst is behind us and that my fortieth(!) year will start off better than how the thirty-ninth ended. The dark night is over, and dawn is finally here.