If you’re parents like us, you’ll probably have watched “Nanny 911,” the TV show that trails nannies around as they rescue parents from the dooms of, well, parenthood. We often cringe at what transpires in households of wild children and harried parents, watching the fights, the tantrums, the impoliteness and the ineffectiveness of it all. At times we say, “Hey, that sounds familiar.” Or we listen to the advice and say, “Hey, we should try that.” Today, it seems, is one of those days.
We’re in my parents’ home in Los Angeles, in Brentwood, to be exact. Brentwood Glen, on holiday from Argentina. We’re downstairs, my wife and I with my mother. The eldest girl, six, is insisting on us pouring her a drink that she can’t reach in the refrigerator. Outside the littlest is crawling through a mud puddle in a fresh dress, her finest. Upstairs the four-year-old boy is on his own and we hear a knocking sound, like that of a judge rapping his gavel to call for order in the court. Bang, bang, bang! We send the eldest up to find out what on earth is going on – “Quickly!” – with the promise that she’ll get her drink when she reports back.
She’s back in a shot with her brother in tow. He’s covered head to toe in a white dust.
“He’s playing with a bottle and there’s white stuff everywhere,” the six-year-old says.
“The cornstarch!” I say.
I go to verify and, yes, our room is covered in a white film of cornstarch, on the beds, the desk, the suitcases. The clothes, the books and, well, everything. I run back downstairs to find the broom. Maybe the vacuum cleaner? The three kids are outside and I pause to ask my mother how she ever managed. She must have some words of wisdom after having brought up five children – including three boys, each a year apart.
“Take a deep breath, often, I think,” she says.
My wife isn’t buying it. “I’ve taken so many deep breaths I’m choking on oxygen.”