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That early, daily wake up call came when I heard a scratchy, sleepy whine over the monitor. “Meeeeeg. Meeeeg. MEEEEEG.” Maybe it was 5:00 A.M., or maybe it was 7:30. Either way, Charlotte’s day had begun, so mine had, too. A diaper change, a new outfit, some bows in her hair, a breakfast of O’s and fruit, and she was off to the races. A little, two-year-old ball of energy, Char was laughing or bawling, running or falling. She was my responsibility, but also my best friend. We did everything together, from grocery shopping, to walks on the beach, to trips to the playground, to reading on the hammock. As the days came to a close, we would wind down together. I’d make her dinner while she played with her babies. We’d have bath time as the day ended and the night set in. When Char was finally in bed, although it often took lots of coaxing, I’d sing her to sleep. She was like my own child for our three months together, and I loved her like I imagine a mother loves a daughter.

Now, don’t get me wrong here, for Char and I had our bad days, too, just like any other pair of best friends. Rough mornings with loud refusals to eat more fruit, rainy afternoons stuck inside for hours trying to stay entertained, disagreements on which coat was appropriate for the weather; these moments were all part of a typical week for us. We had our bad moments for sure.

But there was nothing quite like walking into Charlotte’s room after her afternoon nap and seeing her face light up as soon as she could see me, or lifting her from her crib, feeling her tiny, warm, still sleepy body clinging onto mine with all the power her tiny muscles could muster. There was nothing like hearing her tinkling laugh echo throughout that giant house, and there was absolutely nothing like hearing her spontaneously say, “I love you, Meg,” in the middle of the day.

And here I am now, a college student, with just pictures of what was once my little girl scattered throughout my dorm room. Sure, I’ve seen Char a few times since I moved out from the Southampton abode, but they’ve been fleeting moments, nothing compared to our days spent entirely together.

And she’s different now; she’s being raised by a different woman, and my values are no longer as clearly reflected in her as they once were. I spent so much of my time during those three months shaping Charlotte’s values, trying to keep her as grounded and polite as a two-year-old could be. Please’s and thank you’s were a must. Whining was not tolerated. Ever. We played games, but there was never violence. Fruits and veggies were a priority at meals. Television was limited, and reading was glorified. I put lots of time into making Charlotte who I thought the best version of her could be. But now here I am; I’ve been separated from not only my project, but also from a loved one. It’s a strange form of alienation that nannies feel often. We learn to love a child, and put so much time and effort into them, as if they are our own, only to say goodbye and leave them for the next nanny.

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