He is beating me with his little fists, and he is screaming, and his neck is drawing back, with his mouth wide open, and the yelling is so loud, it’s hurting my ears. My hands are up, as I sit on the couch, and I catch his little body each time he crashes into me. His eyes are light, and dark, and his blonde hair is sticking up, and also, curled in, and also, sticking straight out. His hands are clean, but the toy hes had in his mouth is not, and it get slobber on me, I try to redirect him, but right now, I am an easy target. He gets up on the couch, stands at his full height, and prepares to body slam me, wrestler style. I catch him, and in a low voice begin to sing. “Amazing grace how sweet the sound,”
He is squirming in my arms, and a distorted version of my name comes out, “Kaleigh! Kaleigh Stop! Stop it, Kaleigh!” In my other arm, the younger baby is looking at the screaming toddler with confusion, and terror. He knows too what happens if Max, the older boy, jumps on me again, and he is preparing, in his baby mind, to let out a loud yell, should that happen. (He really does not like it when it happens) but right this second, he has stopped taking in the deep breath, because he is listening to me. My voice rings through the family room, louder then Max, and yet still soft and gentle. It is strong, and peaceful, and it feels good to sing, even as he continues to hit and try to hurt me.
When Max gets like this, there is nothing that will calm him down better then a song. He knows it, and I know it, and that’s why he wants me to stop. He wants me to let him keep fighting, and yelling and demanding more TV time, but I am steadfast.
“That saved a wretch like me, I once was lost, but now, am free, was blind but now, I see.” I finish the line, Max, is trying to put his hands in my mouth, crying, and begging me to stop. But he’s quieter now, and while his knees are digging into my side, and his elbow is digging into my shoulder, I know he’s calming down. He’s leaning into me, and my back is further pressed into my side. Caden is wary, but his eyes are drying more, and his face is less red, he makes a squinty face, which is his favorite facial expression to make right now.
“Though many toils and troubles and snares, I have already come.” Caden is sitting, and instead of looking at Max, has put his head down. As I sing through the song, I wonder if these kids, who not my own, will remember this song, as I remember it, in the haze of early childhood. I wonder if they will remember me that way. Max calms down fully, and I begin to sing “I’ll be working on the railroad” which is more upbeat, and a song he really likes. He grabs his blanket and puts his head close to me. His hair smells like little human and lavender baby soap, and his skin in warm through the cotton of his long sleeve blue shirt. I look to my right, and see it’s dark out, It’s already so late. No wonder he’s tired.
When you are a nanny, like I am, you have cheat, because you get to do all the things you fantasize about doing with your kids, with someone else’s kids, and there are few things that bring me greater joy then knowing I was the one who cuddled with Max when he was three. For me, the most valuable piece of music as a whole, is how I am able to use it with Max, and all the children I have watched before him, and all those that will come after him. Music is something you remember, and often nannies are seen as replaceable. If you charge to much, or you say the wrong thing, or the kid just plain lies, that’s it, your gone. But this time, this one moment with Max and Caden that I have, which, nobody else does, because they have other moments, matters. It teaches them how to calm down, how to relate, how to feel better. It might not last, and maybe they won’t remember me. But some day, in a distant period of their life, they’ll hear amazing grace, and have a fuzzy memory of someone who loved them singing it to them, and think, “I’m going to do that for my kid, I loved that song.” And through that I live on, and all the work I do, effects long after I will have left.