Michi’s Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day

ImageLast night I felt my husband nudge me and mumble something like, “Michi flushed her key down the toilet.” Figuring I must be dreaming, I grunted at him and went back to sleep.

Turns out, it wasn’t a dream. This morning when I padded downstairs, I found our au pair sitting at the kitchen table, her head in her hands. “I have to tell you something.”

I figured it was the key thing, so I made reassuring motherly noises. “Is it about the key? Craig mentioned it . . .”

“No, not the key.” She pulled out a little sketch of a traffic pattern with two little red ovals dove-tailing. Apparently the reason she had dropped her key down the loo was because she had been distraught from an incident earlier that evening involving a very nice British man whose bumper had a close personal encounter with Michi’s on her way to her au pair’s meeting.

Michi had been having Alexander’s proverbial Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day. Right here in America.

Some days are like that. You’ve had them, and so have I. We can let them rob us of our peace . . . or we can see them as opportunities for growth. To learn how to trust. How to detach. How to let others love us, and experience that love.

“Don’t worry, Michi,” I said, putting my hand on hers. “These things happen. No one was hurt. And it’s only money.”

My husband discovered it’s going to cost $200 to replace the key. Michi laughed, “That’s $200 down the drain!”

Good girl.

A Modest Start: Our German Au Pair Discovers “Plato’s Closet”

platos closet“I need to get some new pants,” Michaela said to me at dinner the other night. “It’s so hot, and I have only this pair,” pointing to the clam diggers she had on. Prior to her arrival I had told her about the “fingertip” rule in our house (that shorts could be no shorter than the tip of the index finger when placed next to the body), and had been ridiculously pleased to see that she had remembered.

“I have just the place — let’s go to Plato’s Closet!” Sarah cheered at this — it is her favorite clothing store, where you can buy brand name clothing, for peanuts (or close to it).

We drove to Exton and walked into the store, and I watched Michaela’s eyes light up as she spotted an Abercrombie and Fitch sweatshirt. For $19. She threw her hands in the air. “I LOVE AMERICA!!!”

Sarah and I busied ourselves as Michaela selected a few pair of shorts and went into the dressing room to change. Sarah found a sequined red top for her class picnic the next day. (My little “glitter girl.”)

The next morning, she had on the shorts. Apparently in her excitement over A&F, the “fingertip rule” had escaped her. For about 2.3 seconds, until Sarah caught a glimpse. “YOU FORGOT THE FINGERTIP RULE! THOSE ARE TOO SHORT!!!”

I took Sarah aside as quickly as I could, not wanting to have this conversation with Michi in front of her. “Sarah, you are right that those shorts were too short, and that we would not have allowed you to wear them. Michi is still getting used to us, and we need to show some patience and kindness. Let’s just love her, and focus on what we like about her, okay?”

The next day, I gently suggested to Michi that, to avoid confusing Sarah about what is expected at our house, she find longer shorts — and that I would pay for them for her. To my relief, she readily agreed.

Sometimes in our interactions with others, we have a choice between forcing our will in a way that makes the other person feel small or ashamed — in a sense, offending their dignity as human beings — or speaking gently, from a place of love. This is true not only of au pairs, but of extended family members, neighbors, other parents. Even other Christians.

Gentleness won’t always work, of course. Sometimes a more forceful, insistent word is needed. But it’s always a good place to start.

Have you ever had to challenge an older teen or college student about their wardrobe? How did you do it — and how was it received?

Introducing Our New “Daughter” Michaela!

michi and sarahNow that we have MOST of the boxes moved into our new home, and are happily ensconced in our new digs, I’m happy to announce the newest development in the Saxton household: our new au pair/honorary daughter, Michaela Enzinger from Germany. This photo was taken the day after she arrived, when the four of us went to a Reading Phillies baseball game with several other EurAuPair arrivals.

Yes, she IS that cute. And Sarah is enchanted!

Michi is an energetic vegetarian, which is bound to be good for ALL of us. Yesterday I came home to a simmering vegetable soup on the stove. Sunday we had vegetarian lasagne (my own creation, which I’ll share tomorrow). Later after Sarah was in bed, we curled up and split a Mike’s Margarita between us, and plotted an adventure for the weekend. While watching Big Bang Theory.

It’s going to be a great year!

Have you ever had an au pair in your family? Tell me about it.