Monday, October 24, 2011

My Services Are Worth HOW Much To You...?!

... The answer? $85.






 But wait! Let's back up first and explain all that so that you all understand, because obviously this is a little complicated and a straight-up answer won't help anybody.

Thank you Hyperbole and Half for courage!
So back in May I left my hometown of 20 years to live with my boyfriend, known henceforth for all the internet to read for all of time as the Hedgehog (alternatively when I'm upset with him or he's being stupid he may be called an eejit, don't let this trip you up). Sure, we'd only been dating six months, but I'd known him for two years, and yes I was moving two hours away from all my friends to a place I'd never been before and where I knew no one, but I was doing if for love, dammit! Also... because I had no where else to go and was practically an orphan, but I digress...

It had been nearly six months since I moved here and I still hadn't managed to get a job, this could possibly be because, like with boyfriends before the Hedgehog, I hadn't had one yet. No one really wants to hire someone with no experience, unless you're taking on a girlfriend, so I was kinda up shit-creek without a paddle. Yet, low and behold, the Hedgehog's older sister was getting a job! And how did this effect me, you might ask? Well, she has a 4 year old daughter, henceforth known only as the moniker, the Terror, and you will shortly see why. You see, Hedgehog's sister didn't wanna leave her precious Terror with strangers, and she had no money for daycare, so since the Terror actually liked me, I was her first choice. I fairly liked the Terror, too, and gladly took on the job. This was my first mistake, my second mistake was to obviously not set what my pay rate would be the first day of the job...

Now, there's nothing wrong with the Terror at first glance, she's just like any other 4 year old child...

Innocent...

Adorable...

Creative...

Ceaseless in her relenting search for why...
... She really does do this...

She also throws temper tantrums like a teenager when she's upset and storms off to her room to sulk when she doesn't get her way, given the alternative of thrashing and crying like an unholy beast, I'm surprisingly relieved by this.

What makes it most difficult for me to watch the Terror, however, would have to be the fact that she can't read... Now, some of you might have 4 year olds or know 4 year olds who can't read and you wonder why this is a problem. Well, for the answer, I will once again have to take you back... further... to my childhood.
I was tow-headed!

Aww, wasn't I adorable? I was also a relentless monster in my ceaseless search for why as well, only there was a difference... See, right after I was born, my parents propped me up on their laps and read books aloud to me, all while carefully trailing their fingers under the words. They also sang me my ABC's everyday. How did this help? Well, from my very earliest memories, and I have memories from when I was 1 1/2 that shocked my mother when I was old enough to question them, I could read. Essentially I had learned to speak the English language at the same moments I was learning to read the English language, effectively this meant my grasp of the English language was far above what was normal for a child... Unfortunately for my parents, this meant there was very little ways for them to hide from me...

Hilariously I still couldn't spell my name properly....
... No, no it isn't...

Now, while being able to remember almost everything from 1 1/2 has given me some very odd memories, most of which are still tainted by being a small child and sleeping through a lot of things, like the fact I still can't remember what in hell I was doing in a hospital at 2 when my parents were patiently teaching me how to spell my name while waiting for the doctors, it means that I can still remember how I felt and thought about things. This is a good thing for interacting with small children, but it's a bad thing when you've never know what it's like to not be able to read, and you're dealing with a kid who must absolutely know why and must know why now.

Unfortunately, it's led us to some horrifying conversations... All of these are real, documented, conversations...
Obviously I'm not tow-headed anymore...

Terror: What number is this?
Me: You... you already said that number. You already know that number. We were... you were on what comes after 15.

Not so bad, right? She can't read numbers, she just lost her place on her connect the dots... Well, it gets worse from there...

Terror:  What do you do with this?
Me: You color it.

Terror:  And this?
Me: You... you color that, too.

Now, if you must know one, very important thing, about the Terror, it is this: she loves to color, coloring is her life, it is what she does... Not knowing what to do on a coloring page is kind of unforgivable...

Terror: What do I do here?
Me: You write words that rhyme with star.

... Well, I have this gap between my front teeth that make S sounds sort of hiss a little, so I just thought she misunderstood me and pronounced it carefully for her, holding onto my patience after a day of this, and more, carefully.

Terror: S...sssss...sssssss.
Me: S-t-ar. S-t-ar. Star.


Terror: Ssssstar. Star. Starts with star?
Me: No, rhymes with star. That means sounds the same.

Okay, so she doesn't know how to write and no one's ever told her what rhyming is, so on her first day of kindergarten next year, because like me with my December birthday she with her November birthday is going to have to wait another year, she's going to come home overly delighted and probably annoy her parents to death by trying to rhyme everything with cat... Well, it get's worse...

Terror: What do I here?
Me: You write the name of the animal.
Terror: Oh. I know what animal that is.
Me: What animal is it?
Terror: It's a pig.
Me: It is. Do you see those letters? It spells pig. Point to the first letter.
Terror: *points to g*
Me: No.

... Obviously no one has ever taught her what the word first means, right...?

Terror: *points to i*
Me: No.

Terror: *points to p*
Me: Well yes, hun... but... You see, first means the letter that starts the word, and last means the letter that ends the word.

Terror: Oh.
Me: Do you know what letter that is?
Terror: *confused* No.
Me: It makes the *puh* noise.
Terror: ... Is it pig?
Me: No, the letter that makes the puh noise.
Terror: Is it... is it 4?
Me: No, which letter. You know, like ABCDEFG....
Terror: Z?
Oh, I forgot to mention something. Her parents never sung the ABC's to her, we are talking about a small child that doesn't know her ABC's and gets really confused when I try to teach her the song... Mind you, this is her on a good evening, when she's preoccupied with things other than trying to rip the dog's ears off because she doesn't like that they're pink.

... So I've never known the difficulties of learning to read or write or count, and I find it hard to relate to her, but her general grasp of the spoken language is very poor, too. Talking to her makes me feel awful, because I have to use that "talking down to" voice adults always used with me before they realized I wasn't as stupid as they thought. By the way, the looks on their faces as always hilarious...

... I digress, what I'm saying is that as a small child I always understood what my parents were saying, even when they didn't want me to, so anything short of code or big words I'd yet to learn the meaning to, and they couldn't keep things like birthday presents or surprises from me. For my parents, me knowing too much had made me a Terror to them, but for me, watching a child who knows too little has made her a Terror for me... Kind of funny in a way, don't you think?

Now, I can finally explain what I meant by $85 to you at the beginning of this rant. See, when I agreed to watch the Terror, I had an agreement from her mother I would get paid for my services. After waiting several weeks with no pay, I finally got the Hedgehog's sister to understand I needed my pay, dammit! And this morning when she dropped me off she said it was on the counter. I tried not to dance as I went inside, and instead of rushing to the counter I fed the dogs like I always do first, then finally looked...

I'd been talking to my friends for a while now, they all agreed that for all the work I'd done it was only fair to get paid $20 a day, it was what my father had paid me for doing hard manual labor installing carpet with him all day, it was at the very least what I deserved for keeping the Terror from killing herself and the dogs... Instead, I got what amounted to basically $8.50 a day...

So ask yourself, would you pay the woman who watches your small child, and could teach your small child virtually anything in the vast hours between 8:30 am and 9:00 pm when she's left alone with your kid, only $8.50 a day...?

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