Thursday, November 1, 2012
The Nanny Murders, Again
None of us can banish this tragedy from our minds. Not just because of the murder of innocents, the senselessness of the murder, the trust invested in the nanny who betrayed the children, the mother, the father, and herself. We know how much fatigue we can take before bitchiness, then psychosis, sets in: we know we yell at the kids because we haven't had a good night's sleep. We all know we would never kill, but we hate being reminded that the ghost of hostility toward our own kids ever flitted through our dreams. We can assume that the nanny had a psychotic break--we can assume that when she killed, she thought she was killing a devil, or she thought she was protecting the children from a devil. Or we can assume other things. Scenarios develop every few minutes, each with a degree of plausibility, each unsatisfying, because the explanation will never make up for the crime. Conspiracy theories have appeared on blogs: the CNBC executive father went after the "banksters" who then went after his kids, mind-controlling the nanny, or making her take the blame for some intruder who got away, the theory goes. Sometimes I think the parents were too normal. If like me you've grown up in a home filled with crazy people--the father who thought the light bulbs were bugged, the mother who pretended to herself that she was a naughty little girl and you were her mommy, the brother who saw and spoke with people from space ships that no one else could see or hear--then you hone your observation skills to the point of paranoia. You're always watching. You're always interpreting. You're always ready to conjecture that a change of mood could mean the worst. Your vigilance, your readiness for crisis, erodes your ability to enjoy life, but the habit of ever-focused watching and analysis readies you for the real emergency, incidentally weeding out bad nanny candidates. But if you've grown up in a normal, loving home, perhaps you cannot imagine the worst. Your imagination takes you as far as fatigue and menopausal woes and money troubles, not as far as the violence that can erupt as a result. If you haven't seen it, lived it, you have--in some ways--fewer protections. These murders have had the side effect of reminding me that perhaps I did gain something worth having from growing up in my crazy family. One of our au pairs was unhappy from the beginning of her stay, and two weeks into her tenure--after she'd come home at four in the morning and I'd told her this would not do, she'd said "You're not my mother!" I said, "No, I'm not. I'm my son's mother, and I don't want the person who is taking care of him while I am at work to be exhausted." She laughed. She saw my point. But the problem was that she needed her mother, and instead of being her mother--which she absolutely did not want for me to be, and which I had no wish to become--I was asking her to engage in activities performed by mothers when I was at work. Which continued to make her wish for her mother, or wish (in spite of herself) for me to be some form of her mother. I sent my friends over to protect my son while she was still working for me, and she stomped out. Good riddance! Her predecessor had worked out wonderfully, but that girl always seemed very heads up to me, and we're still friends now that she has three children of her own.