I’ve never held a baby, so when he hands me this squalling red thing I just stare at it.
“Can you take Braiden?” he says.
The baby has a name. This doesn’t make holding it any less terrifying. But I reach out and say “sure” and next thing I know I’m holding a baby. And mother of all surprises, the baby—Braiden—stops crying. He not only stops crying, he reaches for my hair with fat little fists, tugs on a loose strand, and gurgles happily at me.
I am holding a baby. I grin. The whole way here on the plane I have been preparing for this moment. The moment where my summer plan of nannying falls apart like a stage set collapsing as the people I’m nannying for discover that my only experience of children is having been one once (and technically, legally, I suppose, still being one).
But now I’m holding the baby and it’s not screaming and I haven’t dropped it on its head yet, and I’m thinking as I bounce him up and down that maybe, just maybe, I can get away with it so they don’t throw me out and send me back to England on the next flight.
“See, he loves you,” the dad says. “I’ll be back in just one second.” And he disappears.
I stare after him in a state of mild panic. It’s one thing to hold
a baby and another thing entirely to be left holding the baby.
“Okay, okay, Braiden,” I start to say in a singsong voice that I’ve never in my life used before. “I can do this, I can do this.” I drop my voice back to its normal range. The baby’s face is now scrunching up and going bright red and he’s looking kind of startled. Probably, I think, because his dad has just handed him to a complete stranger and walked off.
“He’s doing a number two.”
I turn around. “Hey,” I say to the little girl with red hair who’s just appeared in the doorway. “You must be . . .”
“Brodie,” she finishes, then points at her brother. “He’s doing a number two.”
I glance back at Braiden, who is now fist-pumping wildly and thrashing his legs against my stomach. “Oh,” I say as the stench hits my nostrils.
Nice. I think of how I am going to describe this moment later to Megan. Pooed on by a baby within minutes of arriving. She’d tell me with a wryly arched eyebrow that one way or another I always get shat on.
“You need a diaper,” Brodie informs me, crossing her hands over her chest and squinting up at me.
“You want to show me where they are?” I ask, thinking that maybe I can also get her to show me how to change it. Because I don’t have a clue. I should have YouTubed all these things before I left, but for one reason or another I didn’t.
Brodie leads me into a bedroom—belonging to her parents, I assume, because there’s a double bed on top of which are a couple of half-unpacked suitcases, a laptop case, a newspaper, and a stack of folders.
Brodie reaches a freckled arm into a changing bag on the floor
and pulls out a stash of diapers, a tub of something that looks alarmingly medical, and some baby wipes. She puts them on the bed and stares at me expectantly.
I clear space, pushing the laptop far, far out of the way and wondering silently if the bed is the right place to do this. The duvet cover is white. It feels like I’m testing fate.
I lay the baby down carefully on top of a plastic mat thing, which Brodie has helpfully laid out for me. Braiden blows a bubble out of the side of his mouth. It’s kind of cute. And then I catch another waft and my eyes water. I do a quick study of his outfit, locate the handily placed buttons, and peel it back. There is poo. There is a lot of poo, oozing like mud out of the sides of his nappy (let’s not call it a diaper), and who knew poo could ever be that consistency? Or that color? I’m stunned. Too stunned to move.
“Do you even know what you’re doing?” Brodie asks, her eyes narrowing at me in a disturbing display of suspicion coming from a four-year-old.
I weigh my answer. “No,” I finally say, glancing quickly at the open door. “But if you help me out on this one, I will do my very best to make it up to you.”
She studies me like a lawyer and then bounces over to me, grinning. “Deal.”
She unsticks the nappy and opens it and we both stagger backward.
“You’re cleaning the poop though,” she says, handing me the wipes.
I wipe and smear, and then I wipe some more. Babies’ thighs have all sorts of crevices, I discover. And the instinct I had over not doing this on a white duvet turns out to have been correct, so I end up trying to wipe up the smears on that, too.
When I’m done, Brodie hands me a clean nappy and shows me how to do it up. I reseal the buttons on the onesie feeling more proud of myself than when I passed my driving test.
“Oh my goodness.”
I spin around. There’s a woman in the doorway and I am guessing from the red hair that she is the mother of the pooing baby and the precocious four-year-old, and therefore my new boss.
“Did Mike leave you to change Braiden’s diaper?” she says. “I am so sorry. And I’m sorry I wasn’t here to welcome you when you arrived. I just had to run to the store. We only just got here ourselves.”
“That’s fine,” I say. “Don’t worry. Brodie here helped me out.” I wink at Brodie and she grins back at me.
“It’s Ren, isn’t it?” she asks, putting her handbag down on the bed and shaking my hand. “It’s so lovely to meet you. I’m Carrie Tripp.”
“Hi,” I say, shaking her hand. “Nice to meet you too.”
“Did my husband at least show you to your room?” she asks.
I shake my head.
“Mike!” Mrs. Tripp yells at the top of her voice. She turns back to the bed and picks up Braiden. Mr. Tripp walks into the room at that point.
“Hey, honey,” he says, seeing his wife. “You met Ren, then? I was just taking a quick call.”
Carrie raises an eyebrow. He gives her an innocent look as if to say, What? And then his wife shakes her head and laughs and I think to myself that I’m going to like these people. I’m going to like being part of their family for the summer. Even if poo-filled nappies are the trade-off.
“Brodie, can you show Ren to her room, please?” Carrie says.
“Sure,” Brodie says and she slips her hand into mine.