Jasmine is currently living and working in La Réunion, a French island just East of Madagascar. Here, she shares stories of life as an au pair.
I wave toilet paper around whilst chasing after a screaming three year old child as she bellows louder than a generator on full power. "NO!" She shouts running about the house with pooey knickers refusing to let me wipe her bottom. Never in my life did I dream of having to beg a child to let me wipe their poo covered butt. I didn't even realise it was a requirement of being a babysitter until I finally figured out what on earth one of the kids I looked after was demanding over and over again in French from the loo. That's one way to learn a new language.
Anyway back to the screaming child in the present. Next she packs a bag with a tea towel, doll and dummy, puts her free hand on her hip and declares that she's leaving. With determination she marches out the front door and down the stairs into the garden and stands facing away from me staring at the wall refusing to talk. Her butt is still not clean.
I am so glad she has an older sibling, seven, who can help me out on this one. "Errrr..." I say "so what does your mum usually do when she's screaming like that?" He saves the day and manages to persuade her to stay still long enough for me to get her clean.
Next, we all bundle into her bed and I attempt the long, slow process of reading a bedtime story in French. "You know you can't really read in French that well?" The 7 year old helpfully points out.
I only babysit these kids one evening a week, the rest of the time I live as an au pair with two girls aged 4 and 7, the youngest of which can throw a tantrum nearly as well as the 3 year old in this story. Although luckily I've never been with them both at the same time so haven't put them to the test of who does it best. And when I'm not occupied with figuring out how to best handle a tantrum you can usually find me singing Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes ten times a day or doing the Hokey Cokey. We spend the time playing at being princesses in castles, dragons, pirates, ghosts and all the animals under the sun. We sing, dance and collapse into fits of giggles at random intervals.
At my daytime job, I work in a primary school either having fun teaching English or telling children off in French trying to get them to be quiet, depending on what kind of class I have.
Sometimes I raise my eyebrows and giggle nervously when I think that I came all the way to the other side of the world to wipe kid's bums and shout at a class of students cartwheeling or rolling across the room to stop doing "N'IMPORTE QUOI."
But all in all, these slightly stressful moments are mostly forgotten about in the midst of the fun we have, either at school, with my au pair family or at the kids house I babysit for. They are all capable of making me laugh in a way that no adult could, of warming my heart with the kind of outlook only kids have the imagination for and of cheering me up when they didn't even know I was down. Every day I am reminded of what it was like to be a child and how to empathise with the unique ups and downs that they face growing up in today's world.
I might say something different next week when the Easter holidays are over and I'm thrown back to the lion cubs at school but for now, given the chance, I wouldn't trade it for anything.Suggest a correction