Oh 2020! How this year has been an inconceivable challenge for many families. Our story is so similar to so many others, but of course very personal to us. A couple months into the pandemic, where we were trying to balance both Mom and Dad working mostly from home with no childcare services for our 4-year-old daughter Kennedy and 2-year-old son Kendrick, we were delighted to welcome our first Au Pair, Angie, into our home.
We were impressed with Angie from the start.
In addition to our family being enriched by someone from a different culture, she has just given us so much more. She is so good and patient with the kids, has a great work ethic, is very driven, and is incredibly creative and crafty so there is always something new for the kids to do. I wasn't sure how much independence I could expect from an Au Pair with regards to things like our kids' schedules, preparing meals, and learning; however, I was pleasantly surprised with how much Angie took charge.
When she first arrived, we discussed these things and from there Angie was off. I greatly appreciated her getting the kids back on a regular schedule, instead of just "here, take this iPad while Mom and Dad are in meetings". I could see a big change in the kids when they were regularly getting outside, exploring nature, and when they knew what to expect every day. Knowing Angie could handle everything for the kids from day to day was a HUGE mental load off of me and the relief was pretty immediate.
When my mother-in-law, our beloved "Nona", was diagnosed with cancer shortly after Angie arrived, we were faced with a new challenge. While "Nona" did not live in our home we visited with each other regularly and we were now looking at a 6-month treatment plan for Nona who would now have a compromised immune system during a pandemic. This caused our family to isolate even further, and Angie never complained, but just did what our family needed.
While I was lagging behind trying to figure out a homeschool pre-K program for my daughter, I also became consumed with researching different cancer treatment options. Angie saw everything going on, and immediately incorporated more formal "schooling" and learning time into our daughter Kennedy's schedule. She came up with and shared all these ideas she had found through her own research to help me and there wasn't anything I needed to change. I am eternally grateful to her for this help with the worry I was feeling that my daughter's schooling might suffer, and with the mental anguish and concern of focusing on the health of our other family members.
Angie is the Ultimate Au Pair. She has come into our lives at the right time and has been exactly what we needed and more than I could have imagined. We have learned so much from her and are very spoiled to have an Au Pair like Angie.
Angie is so creative and puts together different opportunities for all of us to learn! My basement is filled with arts and crafts showing different animals with their English and Spanish words (which also helps the adults learn too!). Each picture is made with different materials (i.e., paint, glitter, cotton balls etc.) which keeps the kids engaged and learning. She also plays a hide and seek game with my daughter where she hides pictures around the room for my daughter to find with the Spanish words! I will never forget my amazement when my 2-year-old son, out of the blue, went around his whole face naming his eyes, nose, mouth, etc., but in Spanish! I was blown away how quickly he learned with such a great teacher (and so was his pediatrician). I wish I could share so many more ways Angie has introduced us to Colombian Culture. The food she has introduced that my kids love (rice, and plantains), and also video calls with her family where we can communicate in English and Spanish!
When Angie first came to us, we were right in the beginning of the pandemic. My 4-year-old daughter was still very much struggling with how everything changed and missed going to school and seeing her teacher and friends. She was prone to getting deeply upset over very small issues (and she is 4 years old). One day Angie was reading Kennedy her favorite book, and with her accent, she was saying the name of the character in the book differently, causing Kennedy to have a meltdown. However, we were able to use this as an amazing learning experience for Kennedy. We were able to teach her about how people may speak, look, or think differently than we do, but that is a really good thing and there is so much we can learn from others that are different. I believe my little 4-year-old girl really understood this and took it to heart, and to this day, she will talk about how being "different is beautiful".
I am amazed how much this experience has built tolerance and embracing different cultures for our children, as this is something that is so important to learn early.
With Angie being our first Au Pair, I was not sure how my kids would react (coupled with the sadness of isolation and loss of the previous babysitter they had been with their whole lives). But after only a couple days, my daughter started drawing pictures of Angie with our family and I knew in that moment that everything was going to work out. When my husband's mother was having surgery to treat her cancer, I was putting together some videos of love and encouragement sent from her close friends and family. I asked Angie if she had a message she wanted to share, and she immediately started writing out what she wanted to say. When I recorded her video, she had such a powerful and uplifting message for my Mother-in-law, that tears started streaming down my face.