“Stop whining…stop whining,” the Filipina nanny is talking softly to the little boy, just two, arching his back in the stroller. Ironically to my English ears her intonation, born of the sing-song half-Chinese half-Spanish of her native tongue, gives the words a tiresome drone, I wish I could make it stop.
He begins to cry in earnest: “I’ve peed my pants!” the sobs catch his throat. Matter of fact and chiding him for not taking an earlier bathroom opportunity, she strips him to the waist and produces new clothes from the bag.
There is something hollow about the experience. I know I am projecting something – as a mother. Remembering back to these moments with my own boys I would also have felt the frustration, but it would have been laced with tiredness, and anger, underpinned with empathy and tenderness for that small crumpled face, the little arms reaching up.
The elder brother is digging with a borrowed spade in some grit, my own boy sifts gravel dangerously close to his companion’s face. There is a moment of camaraderie felt by all small beings who squat in the dirt. Important business: earth to earth, sifting in contemplation.
The nanny rounds up the boys abruptly: “We are on the bus,” she explains, shorthand for a bunch of details too onerous to explain. Another tiny boy, the owner of the spades and sieve, comes forth to reclaim his plastic toys. The older two disband, feet trailing on the ground. The metal latch (that keeps those playing safe) clunks down firmly behind them.