Growing Up Too Soon: A Nanny Reacts to the Dreaded "Whatever" Stage

"Whatever!"

by erica christopher

You never see it coming. It sneaks up on you with no warning at all. It’s scary.

One day you’re playing dress up and dollies with a sweet, innocent, loving little four year old. The next thing you know: boom. They turn on you.

“Whatever!”

Gasp! Excuse me, but who taught this seven-year-old girl that word? She might as well have been swearing for all I cared, because that word was just as ugly. I looked at her in complete and utter shock. I didn’t even know what to say but I felt like yelling, “whatever to you!” even though I knew it would have been counterproductive… right?

I feel like behavior like this, with these soft expletives, is happening earlier and earlier these days. In my day, I still played with Barbies at seven! I didn’t sass my babysitter or want to wear glitter on my eyes. Where the heck did this come from? Apparently first grade is the new middle school. Who knew?

It doesn’t stop at the dreaded “W” word. Oh no. She rolled her eyes at me. Shoot me now because I did not sign up to nanny for a teenager. Nannying is full of unexpected situations and curve balls; you can never really be prepared for everything. But dealing with a sassafras first grader was not even remotely on my radar. I can’t help but thinking this is happening way too soon!

Honestly, I can’t really deal. My charge is in school most of the day (lucky for us both) but I miss when she used to run through the door wanting a hug and telling me every detail about her day. Nowadays she drags her feet through the door, throws her neon backpack in the middle of the hall, and mopes about what’s for dinner. The worst part is that she is the oldest of four girls. Is this what I have to look forward to twice more? Say it ain’t so!

I try to react calmly now that this “whatever” nonsense is almost an everyday occurrence. But man, is that hard to do! One day Ms. Whatever looked me straight in the eye and said “I don’t have to listen to you right now.” Umm. What? Actually you do, missy. I’m the nanny here; I’m in charge. I can’t believe I had to say those words after being around her for almost three years with no trouble. But I said them, “I am in charge!” Can you guess what she did? Yup. She rolled those precious little eyes! Nanny was mad.

Luckily, Ms. Whatever Pants acts the same way around her parents. At least we are all in this dreadful boat together. We are no longer funny. We are no longer her friends. Now we’re embarrassing her. Really? You’re seven, remember? How can a hip twenty-something be embarrassing to a first grader? I’m rad (kids still say “rad”, right?). I’m just as baffled and dumbfounded as her parents. We were not prepared for this.

Okay, maybe I am making it seem worse than it is. All kids have to grow up someday, right? All kids go through a defiant stage, right? All first graders think their parents are annoying… Wait. No. I take it all back. No first grader should be acting this way. This is just a stage. This is just a stage. THIS IS JUST A STAGE!

Phew… Glad I got that one figured out! She’ll be hugging me again in no time. I am not asking your opinion on this one. None of us are ready for the evolution of tween. So it simply won’t happen.

“Tween” is a made-up word anyway, created simply to market Justin Bieber to a younger audience. And because I haven’t heard any “Never Say Never” blaring from her iPad (don’t get me started on kids owning iPads), we’re in the clear. At least for now.

Despite this new dose of big-girl attitude, I love this little early bloomer (is that a thing?) just the same. This is just another hiccup in the bliss that is nannyhood. No sarcasm there, friends; it is all crayons and pigtails or whatever.