What you need to know:
- I noticed that my son would cry bitterly every morning when I left for work.
- I concluded that he was just struggling with separation anxiety since I was the only parent he lived with.
When my son was a toddler, we had a live-in nanny. She treated him like she was her own, especially in my presence.
But I noticed that my son would cry bitterly every morning when I left for work.
I concluded that he was just struggling with separation anxiety since I was the only parent he lived with. I would sneak out when he was not watching, or distract him with something then disappear before he noticed.
Sometimes I would hear his screams as I drove away.
I figured I would make things easier by waking up and leaving earlier than usual when he was still dead asleep. In less than a week, he too was waking up as early as I did, and any slight movement I made while preparing woke him up.
I did not know was that with each passing day, I was letting him down. His speech was not developed yet, so he could not speak about the things that troubled his innocence. His actions were to get my attention and communicate that the girl I left him with was the devil’s incarnate. It is a weakness that exists in fathers, where we tend to brush off tears and look the other way.
Everything changed one morning when I delayed downstairs and the nanny thought I had left. I heard her shout “Wewe, nitakutandika!” (I will whip you!).
The next thing I heard was my boy breaking down in bitter tears. That was my one-year-old being screamed at like that, by a woman whose tone I had never known could muster that level of harshness.
I tossed my things on the couch and hurtled back upstairs. When my son saw me, he rushed into my arms, sobbing.
That moment broke me. It touched the deepest part of my nerve like a hot rod. I was shattered.
As my son and I remained gripped in an emotional embrace, a wave of rage ran through me. I looked into his eyes and saw months of anguish, a connection only that moment could reveal.
Memories of all the mornings he had tried to hold onto me but I slipped away came flooding back, opening my eyes to just how much I had let him down. I did not protect him when he needed me and left him in the hands of someone who lacked attachment, love and empathy for him.
I called the office that morning and asked for time off to put my house in order. My research revealed that during the day, the nanny would dump my son in the playground and go on rendezvous with her boyfriend, only picking him when I was almost coming back.
He was poorly fed, not cared for, and shouted at whenever he cried. She would then wash him quickly and ice the mischief with fake affection while in my presence to win my trust, and by extension the pay check.
It is a mistake many parents make, and, sadly, some never find the smoking gun. The nimble, jovial, and expressive son I have today would not have existed. It took me almost a year to rebuild trust, confidence, and happiness in him, traits that would have been dimmed forever if that morning did not happen.
Some of the extremely quiet children were not born to be so. Their voices were muzzled somewhere by a not-so-friendly guardian, and the parent, who should have been the source of hope, ignored all the tell-tale signs.
It was a lesson; that parents should learn to read the non-verbal cues from their babies, because while nannies can pretend, children can’t.
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The writer has raised his son alone since he was six months.