Sunday, March 2, 2014

It Takes A Village

Our soon to be Madame President once re-penned a proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” I think that statement still rings true for every working parent out there. In a time where kids no longer go to school and come home and play stick ball in the neighborhood, todays activities become more and more time consuming and require extreme dedication – not only for the child, but for the parents of such said kid. ‘It takes a village…” also acknowledges that it takes more than one person to teach a child the ways of life; and more than two parents, which in today’s society is far from norm.  Our youth come upon many different experiences and circumstances during their life and often times, are influenced by the many people that surround them. These people show them, through their own actions, the difference between right and wrong.

Going back to my initial statement around time-management, when Kensi was a mere tot, it was easy. Okay, somewhat easy. Oh, alright… it was a juggling act.  Chris and I would be traveling for work, and we really only had three options: A) take her with us, B) ensure one of us rearranged our calendars to meet her needs, or C) rely on our "village".

For many of the occasions when we knew we were both going to out, we simply chose option A. This way Kensi could see the world and experience new sights and sounds. She got used to traveling on plane, trains and automobiles and enjoyed the room service and indoor pools of many hotels. This was a great option when I was traveling for events, not so much for meetings and conferences. We’d fly in a city on a Friday night, go to an event on a Saturday, hop on a plane that evening, and then to another event on Sunday morning and then back home. Was this the easiest option? Well, no. The advantage was being able to go through the TSA family lane at the airports. We came home with many-a-bruises from lugging her car seat on my back with her inside of it.  I know those Native American mommas used to carry their babies in a papoose across country without complaining, but they never had to tote that as well as a diaper bag, carry-on luggage and a laptop. Pocahontas made it look so easy.

You need to surround yourself with a support system that can assist you in your time of need (as well as in other moments when you haven’t actually realized you’re in need but they can sense that you are and step in anyway). Chris and I have been extremely lucky to have that type of system in place. “Aunties” and “Uncles”, then real aunties and uncles, cousins and friends, all who have enlisted -not drafted- in the Irwin-Dudek village (I’ll get to the “drafted” part in a minute). These caring individuals have made a sizeable impact on K-Grace’s life. Not only have they been a source for us to go to when we’ve needed assistance, but they have played an integral role in molding her to be the princess that she is today. Royal prep is no easy task, but these Village People (minus the Indian who is still carrying the papoose) have made it possible for us to continue with our careers so we can best provide for HRH.
When we moved out of the Pocono’s Kensi’s schedule then came into play. Being closer to more resources meant she took advantage of more. Soccer, dance, swimming, gymnastics; she was enrolled in these activities all prior to the age of 5. With her school in walking distance, it became easy for the daily routine – getting her to and from school. When you add these layers on, in addition to play-dates in the park with her circle of friends, complex arrangements needs to be made. We first started with an occasional sitter; one that could pick her up from school when we knew we couldn’t get there in time. We found a great online resource that did all of the background checks and had client feedback from other parents that had used them. After intense rounds of screening and putting them to the test, we found a couple that we could really rely on. Everyone that we found was able to get the job done, but then three months into the new place and the new school and additional activities were popping up on her calendar. Kensi’s dance card was starting to get full so we decided to get a Manny (yes, we ended up getting a male nanny) that came once a week on Wednesdays; our families busiest day. That nanny lasted for several months until he was able to secure a full-time opportunity. Then came Mr. Kyle, who was part of the US Navy’s Special Ops force in Afghanistan. Back from his tour, and attending grad school, Mr. Kyle took side jobs as security for celebrities and their children, as well as our lil diva. Chris and I felt totally comfortable with Mr. Kyle protecting our most precious possession. Whether it was reading her to sleep or walking the streets of the concrete jungle with her, we knew she was safer with him than she was with us.
Part of me wanted to take a trip with her (and him, of course) to Tijuana just so he could escort us around in a black Escalade, fully packing. He was the Denzel Washington to her Dakota Fanning in Man on Fire. Unfortunately, that has had to come to an end, not because of Mr. Kyle or anything that he did, but the fact that he’s in school he has a very set schedule of when he can guard her  - I mean watch her – and her schedule is becoming even more complex.
We’ve come to the conclusion that we needed to looked to full-time help, and decided to go the au pair route. Between the cost of Mr. Kyle, our housekeeper Rosario, and the occasion Mr./Miss sitter that we’ve needed to call upon, we realized that we could not only cut cost by consolidating roles, but we could provide Kensi with more opportunities that we’re currently able to. Having someone that can pick her up from school (not after-care) gives her two additional hours in the day to try something else. It also allows her to learn a new culture and hopefully create an additional bound with someone from another country so when she goes and visits there when she’s older, she has an extended family to reach out to.

Now, this wasn’t an easy decision by any means. Papa is quite selfish, and he doesn’t like sharing, especially the attention of one little angel. With that being said, we realized we can’t be everything and can’t be everywhere. She wants to take cooking classes, which for her age group, starts at 4:15 on Thursdays and because of our schedules, that doesn’t work. Because of her new age group, gymnastics is now at 5:15 on Wednesdays, and it takes us longer than 15 minutes to get there. I don’t even get off the train until 5:30. Soccer is during school (taught there on campus), but she wants to take additional lessons. Swimming is on the weekends in the winter and weekdays during spring and summer.  Chris would prefer her not being in ballet because of the weight and self-image issues this particular form of dance places on a child, and lyrical and jazz are both before the hours of 5pm during the weeknight. Now I know what you’re thinking… dance, soccer, gymnastics, cooking classes, swimming and tutoring lessons all for a 5 year old. I want to state for the record, these are activities that she has chosen, not us – well, except for the tutoring lessons. Those are not an option.  I’m not a pageant-mom pushing my Honey Boo-Boo to do something she doesn’t want to do. While I have cheered her on, I’m not scolding her for not sticking her landing at the gym and making her do hours of practice at home. I’m not counting her calories, nor am I making her do kicking and blocking drills in the hallway of our apartment. I am though making sure her homework is done right and she spends the right amount of time study and practicing her writing skills, so take that tutors!

These are all activities that she chooses to participate in and when she wants to move on to something else, she has that ability. We provide her the means to afford the opportunity, now we just need the means to get her there. That’s where the Au Pair comes in. While initially I didn’t like the idea of an individual living with us (they could be a part of the village, but they don’t need to stay in our hut), it quickly dawned on us that this was the only option for us if we were to continue on this path of never-ending activities being added to her roster. She needed some additional stability, and we needed additional eyes, and hands, and drivers. Our daughter is no dummy; she knows how to work the system. If we have needed help three nights in a row and had to use different resources, she has convinced them all that cereal is an appropriate dinner, fruit roll-ups are okay for dessert, and that an 8:30pm bedtime is optional. No matter how many times we leave a list of do’s and don’ts, no matter how many conversations we have and text messages we send,  she ends up getting what she wants when she wants. Have you ever seen a straight Navy Seal Special Ops wear nail polish, make up and read the three little pigs in character? Oh, we have. It’s not a pretty picture. Funny, yes; pretty, no. We actually had a picture of the situation of Mr. Kyle being made up but when he told us he would kill us if we didn’t delete it. We didn’t want to take our chances so we deleted it quickly… then smashed up the phone to prove to him that we wouldn’t be able to retrieve it.

Chris, Kensington and I interviewed numerous individuals to be our Au Pair and have found, what we believe, is the right one. Meet Rasmus who comes from Denmark and teaches soccer, swimming, loves to cook, and  - from what he’s told us – loves to dance; all of the things Kensington was looking for in an Au Pair. Kensi loves the fact that Rasmus’s job is to play with her and protect her. While we did look into a female Au Pair for Kensi, quite honestly, I wasn’t up for it. No offense to 98% of our fan-base, but I’ve lived with a woman. Actually, I lived with a few of them (in my college years) and it just wasn’t fun. Yes, there are the occasional monthly mood swings, the never-ending boy drama (for those that I didn’t date… well, actually the ones that I did date as well), as well as the disgusting habit of leaving your unmentionables hanging from the shower rod to dry. Nobody wants to see it. Seriously, nobody. Yes, I may hang Kensi’s leotard on the shower rod. I don’t need frilly bra’s and stockings in my bathroom (once I hung up my crown from my award-winning drag-queen days, I vowed never to have these types of garments in my house again. And yes, I’ve already told Kensi these was forbidden in her future, but at the convent she’s going to it in a couple years this shouldn’t be an issue. I don’t know where they hang the habits out to dry, but quite honestly, it’s not my issue to worry about). We liked having Mr. Kyle around… it made us feel uber safe when we knew she was with him. Knowing that if they were walking down the street of NY and something were to happen (yes, it’s safe here… but ‘what if’), we would want someone to throw themselves in front of our daughter. If Kensi gets tired of walking and wants to be carried (as any princess should be)... If a soccer coach gets too competitive and starts screaming at the kids for missing a kick, or fumbling a ball, would Rasmus step in and mediate, you bet his Danish arse he would. That's what he is here to do.

Kensington and Rasmus on Day 1
Stop - LEGO time!
Roller Skating in the hall
Rasmus at Au Pair training... okay,
so he needs to work on his
Arts & Craft skills.
There are advantages to having an extra person in the house, and having that person be a guy, makes us feel a little more comfortable. Yes, having a college kid in our home dealing with other female Au Pairs in the area is an issue, and we have vowed to his mother that we are not allowing him to date nor are we allowing his year in the States be a party for him. Yes, We have welcomed him into our family and will share our U.S. culture with him, but he is here on a duty – to help us mold Kensi into the fine young lady she’s becoming. So, our village has opened the gates and welcomed an outsider with open arms. Lord help us all!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

No offense to 98% of our fan-base, but I’ve lived with a woman. Actually, I lived with a few of them (in my college years) and it just wasn’t fun. Yes, there are the occasional monthly mood swings, the never-ending boy drama (for those that I didn’t date… well, actually the ones that I did date as well), as well as the disgusting habit of leaving your unmentionables hanging from the shower rod to dry.

I hope that you still find living with your daughter to be "fun" once she becomes one of these women that you're so disgusted by.

I've never heard of anyone being grossed out by clean underwear drying on a shower rod, but the fact is, most women's undergarments (especially bras) are made of material that should not be put in a dryer. You can buy drying racks at the Container Store or Bed, Bath, and Beyond if hanging these things in the bathroom disturbs you so.