It's not that I dislike children. I do, in fact, like spending time with children...and then sending them home to their parents, full of sugar and memories of the PG-13 action movies I let them see.
Also, I am constantly amazed that friends of mine who only a few years ago were able to make a meal out of cocktail peanuts have been allowed by Nature to reproduce.
Those friends serve as a warning lesson to me. And so do the children I see on Nanny 911.
Take, for example, this week's family: The Pauls.
As I watched this episode, for the first time, I pay close attention to the Nanny 911 voiceover that precedes the credits. "It's time to call Nanny 911"? Nannies from "all over the globe"?
First of all, Nanny Central is based in England, from what I can tell. The UK's 911 equivalent is 999. They wouldn't know what the hell dialing 911 meant. The staff of Nanny Central probably wonder why these American parents are placing a call for pizza delivery. Secondly, isn't "all over the globe" a bit of a stretch? I haven't met a nanny from outside the United Kingdom.
Living in a State of
Meet Cyndi and Tim Paul of Missouri and their four children: Kimberly (8), Michael (4), Lauren (4) and Bethany (4). Tim is a full-time office manager. Cyndi is a former flight attendant and is currently a stay-at-home mom and obsessive-compulsive neurotic.
The Pauls consider their "Kimmy" perfect and were so happy with her progress that they decided to have one more child. What they ended up with was Michael, Lauren and Bethany, who are obviously fraternal triplets. Frankly, I've always found fraternal multiples a tad creepy. Imagine visiting the doctor and learning that what you thought was a sole child in your womb is actually three children. That's like allowing a friend to use your parents' beach home and finding out he's invited two friends you didn't know, one of whom sort of looks and acts like him (but is the opposite sex).
Bethany throws temper tantrums if things don't go her way. Michael likes to spit and punch. Cyndi feels that Lauren is the most challenging, the most stubborn.
A glimpse of the Pauls' home shows yelling and screaming children running every which way, but one of the worst aspects of this home is the random piles of toys and clothes which seem to be everywhere.
When told not to eat food off the kitchen floor, Michael of course grabs pieces of cake and shoves it in his mouth. With his penchant of spitting and not being very picky about what he puts in his mouth, Michael no doubt has a very good chance of being accepted into a fraternity someday.
Cyndi complains that she's constantly trying to play catch-up and has tried a "dozen" ways of trying to get organized. She struggles with the noise and chaos and feels like a hurricane has been through her home.
Listen, Cyndi, a hurricane has hit my home. I sat home, drank and watched the news. After it was over, I helped patch a roof in the ceiling. But this--this is worse than any hurricane I've ever encountered.
Cyndi claims that things can get so bad around her home that she starts to "zone" out. And when she zones out, she gets a headache. And when she gets a headache, she can't even process what's going on anymore.
Meanwhile, at Nanny Central, Lilian and the other nannies are watching a video of the Pauls.
Now, maybe it's just me, but I've always thought that Nanny Central would be infinitely more exciting if the nannies were summoned to a new case like the X-Men. Or, better yet, like Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Just imagine it: Lilian gets a new video from America, picks up a phone and calls The Nannies on their [cornball English accent] mobile telly-phones.
Nanny Deb could be shown having a cup of tea when her mobile rings...
Nanny Stella could be enjoying a polo match when she gets her call...
Hot Young Nanny Yvonne could be modeling lingerie when her mobile phone rings...
(Sorry, where were we...?)
Lilian, Deb, Stella and Yvonne view the Pauls video and are stunned when they see Michael spitting in the Pauls' home.
"There is absolutely no organization," Yvonne complains. "It's appalling!" Is it appalling or a-paul-ling? Because if Yvonne made a pun--A ha ha ha! Oh, Yvonne, you are beautiful, brilliant and witty. (Insert lovelorn sigh.)
Now, if I were the nannies, I would treat this meeting like I treat meetings at work: Shut your mouth and avoid making suggestions unless you want to get stuck with another project. Or, in this case, sent to the Show Me State to work for the Pauls.
Nanny Deb apparently hasn't learned this lesson because Lilian hand-picks Deb to work with the Pauls, leading the other nannies to quip, "Yes, yes!"
Lilian justifies the selection of Nanny Deb by explaining that Deb makes "rules and discipline fun." Whoa, whoa, whoa! Hey now! I'm sorry, did I accidentally slip in my other nanny video, Nanny Knows Breast?
Let me check the label on this thing. [...] No, we're cool.
Day 1: Organization and Order are the Poop
Nanny arrives in Missouri and as she walks down the street toward the Pauls' home, she gives her background. Why Fox can't spring for a taxi so that Nanny can arrive at the Pauls' home with some dignity, I'll never know, but maybe Fox considers the nanny walking toward the home (like The Exorcist) to be dramatic.
Nanny Deb tells the viewers she feels Cyndi ought to give the children more responsibility, and by giving them more responsibility, she can avoid losing her mind. I don't know where Deb's coming from because this idea has apparently never worked for my boss.
When Deb arrives in the Pauls' home, there's much to-do. For some odd reason, Deb stops using her normal speaking voice and sounds like Mrs. Doubtfire when she meets the Pauls.
"We've never had a nanny before!" they tell her.
"You haveN'T?!" Deb chirps.
Like the other nannies before her, Deb spends her first day with the Pauls simply observing what goes on.
Deb wastes no time making her first observation, though: Messy.
She asks to see the children's rooms, and although she shrugs it off in front of the children as if it's no big deal, their rooms are, frankly, disgusting. There are mountains of clothes and toys taller than the children.
But, oh, dear reader: The children's rooms are not the very worst. The very worst is the basement play room. I've seen landfills that aren't this crowded and dirty.
Deb postulates that a disorderly house results in disorderly children.
I don't know about disorderly, but as Cyndi tries to put them down for their naps, one of the girls offers the following nuggets of wisdom: "Poop is the best!" and "Poop-a-kunga!"
"Poop is the best" ought to be the Fox Network motto. After all, how do you explain The OC becoming part of the Fox lineup?
As for inventing the word "poop-a-kunga," this only makes the Paul daughter The Greatest Person in the World, in my opinion.
Deb adds to her criticism of Cyndi: Lost control of her home, lost control of her children. As if to drive home the point, Cyndi brings the children home from the playground and drags one of the girls behind her, who's screaming at the top of her lungs and trying to stomp on Cyndi's feet.
More Deb criticism: If the children say they can't do it for themselves, then Cyndi does it for them.
When Tim comes home, he notices the mess in the living room. Solution? Tim grabs a push broom and literally sweeps up the mess.
When Deb finally sits down with the Pauls to offer her guidance, the first thing she points out is that when the children experience a disorderly environment, they, too, will be disorderly because their minds will wander.
I am scribbling this down furiously. Maybe my messy office at work explains why I can't seem to get anything done, and...and...Wait, what were we talking about?
Nanny continues: Tim's method is "out of sight, out of mind," but since that doesn't work for Cyndi, they'll have to come up with a new way.
"You enable these children too much," Deb tells Cyndi.
Deb concludes their meeting by promising to formulate a new plan and change the Pauls' lifestyle.
Day 2: Three Simple Rules for
Dating My DaughterOrganizing My Life
Nanny Deb starts the day by looking forward to busting out the new rules to Tim and Cyndi but finds Tim rushing off to work and Cyndi already preoccupied with the children.
The first crisis of the day surrounds getting Kimmy to the bus stop. The bus stop, incidentally, is in front of their house. In front of their house! Missing the bus would be nearly impossible, right? Wrong.
Cyndi can't find Kimmy's shoes, and I haven't seen a shoeless dilemma this dire since Britney Spears needed to use the restroom sans her Adidas. One may think that Mrs. Paul could simply scrounge up another pair of shoes. Surely, there is a mountain of shoes next to the mountain of toys and the mountain of pants. This doesn't occur to Cyndi until the bus is humming down their street. By the time Kimmy has her shoes on and the duo are on the sidewalk, the bus has pulled away.
At the end of the day, Nanny Deb sits down with the Paul Family to break down the law for them. So where did 12 hours go? Who knows? Fox TV people aren't big on segues, apparently.
As Deb starts to explain the "new rules" of the household, one of the girls sticks her finger in her nose and sticks said finger into her mouth. If I were Deb, I would have taken a moment to amend the rules to include "No eating what you find in your nose," but I suppose this doesn't bother Deb like it bothers me.
The rules are:
1. Get organized and stay organized.
2. Stick to a schedule.
3. Everyone's responsible for their own stuff.
After explaining The Way Things Are, Nanny Deb proclaims: "Ready, steady, go!" Um, really? "Ready, steady, go"? Look, babe, maybe that's the way things are done in Wales, but you're in the US of A now. Let's try that again with feeling, and this time, with "Ready, set, go." Unless, of course, you're in the South, then it's simply "Get 'er done."
The first thing that Deb decides to show the children is table manners. Maybe Fox is showing these activities out of order, but I would think these children have issues that require more immediate attention than whether they know which spoon to use with the sorbet, but hey, I ain't a nanny.
It's a fairly short lesson: no elbows on the table, sit nicely, shake out your napkin. Oh, and don't purposely spill your drink on the table. (Where was Nanny Deb the last time I had a business dinner?)
Deb even has Michael asking, "Please, may I be excused?" but for some reason, Cyndi still doesn't seem pleased.
Deb then shares the rules she's created for the children. She has Kimmy recite the following:
1. Make your bed.
2. Get yourself dressed.
3. Pick up your toys.
4. Keep your room tidy.
5. Pick clothes for next day.
That's a pretty tall order for the children since I can't fulfill any of those on weeknights...and I'm almost 31 years old.
As Deb watches them make their beds, she notices that Cyndi looks even more distressed.
Cyndi is concerned that she may not "like" the way the children are performing this chore, while Deb rightly points out that "Cyndi's anxieties are becoming annoying."
Day 3: Does Red Wine or White Accompany Neuroses?
On the morning of the third day Nanny Deb spends with the Pauls, Deb watches to see how the children react to doing for themselves. The answer, in a nutshell, is "no."
Four-year-old Lauren follows Cyndi around, shoving her socks in Cyndi's face and screeching, "Please, mama, please!"
Because Cyndi doesn't know how to handle Lauren's tantrum, Deb steps in and coaches her: "Firm tone! 'I will help you with your socks after you make the bed. If you continue with this behavior, I am not helping you in this household at all.'"
Last week, as he is wont to do, my boss asked me to perform some tasks on a Windows NT server that belongs on the production line of my company. I am not the server guy, and I avoid the production line as much as I possibly can. So like Lauren, I screamed, and then I sat quietly and sniffled: "I don't know anything! I want my mommy to help me!"
Despite Deb's best efforts, Cyndi breaks down and helps Lauren with her socks.
"It's like she wants the children to be dependent on her," Deb observed with disapproval.
Nanny feels that more drastic action is required and decides that Cyndi and Paul should have dinner (on Fox) while the children are left in her care. When Deb breaks the news to Cyndi, Deb notices that Cyndi looks like she's about to suffer an anxiety attack.
"I can't believe she's never left them (the children) alone with a sitter," Deb muses. And, because of Nanny's Welsh accent, I can't be sure if she actually said sitter or sitar. Because if it's sitar, I understand why Cyndi wouldn't leave the children home alone with a sitar: she and Tim may come home to find them decked out in tie-dyed clothes and oversized aviator sunglasses, smoking a water bong and talking about Pink Floyd. (Yeah, yeah, that's dumb, but you try and come up with a couple jokes about this show.)
We next see Cyndi getting dressed for dinner. She's wearing a--I kid you not--leopard print polyester blouse. Quick! Somebody call What Not to Wear!
"What do you think about mum and dad going out for the evening?" Deb asks the children. "Good!" they shout in chorus.
The first thing that Deb and the children do is clean the children's rooms.
Meanwhile, at Cardwell's at the Plaza, Cyndi and Tim are enjoying their salads and a small crisis. Cyndi wants to call home, but Tim reassures Cyndi that Deb has everything under control. Look, Deb has probably changed the diaper of the future King of England. And once you've worked under the threat of the executioner's axe if you accidentally stick your charge with a safety pin, cleaning the rooms of a few unruly kids probably looks like a walk in (Regent's) park.
(As for getting beheaded for hurting infant members of the British Royal Family--I made that up. Although I'm sure there's probably still some kind of law on the books.)
When the Pauls come home, the children's rooms are nothing short of amazing. They look like an Organized Living showroom. Why would I know anything about what Organized Living looks like, you may ask? I live with a woman, don't I?
Tim is thrilled at the state of their home. Cyndi looks more anxious than ever, if that's even possible.
Day 4: Buh-bye, Babar
Deb starts the next day by taking the Paul Family out into the yard. She's put out two trash bins: one with this picture and one with this picture . The idea, simply, is for the children to sort through their toys. Toys in good condition they no longer play with are destined for the happy-face bin (and charity); toys that are broken go into the sad-face bin to go where all broken toys go: Tom Hanks and Tim Allen's neighbor's house. (Give that one a moment. There? We ready?) And in case you wonder why I would mock that "nice Tim Allen," I have two words for you: The Krunks. Also, visit his Web site. Go on. Tim's friend is trying to build an anti-gravity generator, and Tim wants to know if you think it's possible. Need I say more?
The children have some mild protests about this, and to that, I say, Come on, get over it. After all...
Did that little girl just say "Babar"? Are they throwing away Babar?!
No!! Not Babar, you bastards, NOT BABAR!! Take me instead!!
Ahem. Excuse me.
Deb decides she's finally had enough of Cyndi's attitude. Deb takes Cyndi aside and tells her that the children take their cues from her, and so long as she shows this much anxiety, the children will also continue to be anxious and tightly-wound.
This seems to get through to Cyndi, who confesses, "I would hate for them to spend their lives feeling what I felt." Oookay. I think Cyndi has some (finger quotes) "issues" that Nanny 911 won't solve inside a week.
When Cyndi reemerges in the yard with her attitude adjustment in place, the children do, indeed, take their cues from her and happily finish cleaning out their toys.
One of the girls places a toy in the bin and exclaims, "In here this goes!" (Thank you, Nanny Yoda.)
From that point on, the Pauls' household seems to undergo a complete transformation. Hm. Maybe...maybe...by cleaning out their house, the Pauls cleaned out their dirty, dirty souls. Yeah. That's...it.
Beds are made, children are dressed and buses aren't missed.
And with all that accomplished, it's time, at last, for Nanny Deb to say goodbye. Deb gathers the Pauls in their living room and announces it's time for her to leave. Michael chirps, "You can stay forever!" Everyone gets a merry chuckle out of that, and Fox no doubt edited out Deb's answer: "Oh, thank you, dear, but Nanny Deb has a nice, big pint glass of shandy waiting for her at the local pub in Battersea."
They all thank another and cry and hug and, man, I haven't seen a middle-class family cry this much since they canceled Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
At last, Nanny Deb takes her leave from the Pauls' home as we learn about
Next Week's Episode: It's the return of Hot Young Nanny Yvonne. (Can you say "Amen," brothers and sisters?)
You'll never know what show I might recap next, but you can always find me at firstname.lastname@example.org