She stands in the middle of the room, children at her feet. Some are fighting each other for her, the rest are begging to be picked up. A little girl with albinism sees me standing in the doorway and runs over, arms spread wide and high. I bend down and pick her up and within what seems like nanoseconds the toddlers have gathered around my skirt and are clawing at me. The nanny looks over at me with a knowing look. Then I understand.
This memory has stuck with me since the event occurred, because it was then that I really understood why nannies sometimes just stand there, in a room full of needy children. How is she supposed to meet the needs of all of them all of the time? With impossible strength and love, of course. And sometimes bending down and picking one child up increases the chaos just that much too much… so she doesn’t, and she stands there in the middle of the room with kids fighting at her legs.
I cannot judge, I can only pray that this so-very-not-ideal situation will one day be no more.
“I have favorites, yes,” Baijie told me, “but you said that Jie and Xiao aren’t growing well, so I have decided to pay extra attention to them. I guess they need someone. More attention really helps children grow, doesn’t it?”
Zhai Laoshi came to me, “Hannah, what advice do you have for working with Chao? I’ve been trying to help him because he seems more withdrawn than other children. I hope that he’ll be able to catch up! He’s my project this month.”
Mao Aiyi loves to “pick” a baby to adore. She’s a toddler room nanny, but will go to the baby room when she has a free moment and give who she calls, “my baby!” some lovin’.
“Why is Zan so crabby today?” I asked the mama on duty. “Because her mama isn’t here,” the nanny laughingly replied. Zan knowns who her nanny is, she responds differently with this woman, and relaxes because she knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that this woman loves her.
There is sadness, but there is also joy. There is loneliness, but then there are these women – these ayis, who I have watched go above and beyond what they could have gotten away with. Sometimes they hide from the burden of loving orphans, but then other times… and more often than we think, they sacrificially love. It’s never enough. How could it be? There are a dozen of kids for just one mama. But it’s something. Can they love every single child as much as they should be loved? No.
But sometimes they choose to love one, and that makes all the difference.