Embarking on the journey of parenthood has proven to be unexpectedly challenging for both my husband and me. Accustomed to diligent work and more-frequent-than-not success, we naively anticipated that raising children would follow a similar trajectory. However, reality hit hard, particularly with our eldest, a 5-year-old who is neurodivergent. Supporting him and maintaining equilibrium in the family has presented one of the most formidable challenges I’ve faced.
Recognizing the need for assistance after the arrival of our second child, we started to explore the au pair program. While our love for both boys runs deep, there’s a sober acknowledgment that some children can be more demanding in terms of care. We experienced the heart wrenching departure of two au pairs who found the task too demanding, while two others persevered for over a year. Yet even they were visibly worn down by the relentless demands of our energetic boys.
Enter Cristian, a game-changer. From the moment he arrived, a subtle transformation occurred in our family’s dynamic. Whether it’s his composed nature, shared love for sports (a passion he particularly shares with our eldest), or the evident joy he takes in being with our boys, something clicked. For the first time, it just felt right.
TEAMWORK becomes the linchpin in any family dynamic, and with Cristian, it seamlessly became second nature. The unpredictability of our kids erupting into fights, often escalating to flying fists and kicking legs, keeps us on our toes. Despite our best efforts to employ gentle parenting techniques, it doesn’t always come naturally for my husband and me. But for Cristian, it does.
Just this morning, as our oldest resisted going to school once again, the tension escalated. With the clock ticking, Cristian and I found ourselves in the living room, attempting to coax our reluctant child. Sensing the impending struggle, I locked eyes with Cristian, silently asking for guidance. He nodded subtly, signaling, “Let me take over.” Approaching our son in a calm yet confident manner, Cristian gently lifted him into his arms, whispering words that eased the tension. Braxton settled into his embrace, and out the door they went. I sighed in gratitude, once again thanking the universe for Cristian’s invaluable presence.
SUPPORT proves indispensable in a family with two working parents and two spirited, strong-willed boys. Parenthood, despite my confidence in various aspects of life, has a way of making me second-guess everything! In a somewhat unusual twist, I often find myself looking up to Cristian, a young man in his 20s with no children of his own, for the calm and measured way he navigates the challenges posed by our boys. His approach is not only effective but also disarms potential tantrums. Cristian has earned our boys’ trust (as well as ours), to the point where they often mistake him for us. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been called “Cristian” by our kids. My husband and I both think it’s hilarious and love how easily he became part of the inner circle!
Cristian is there not only for the kids but also to support ME when needed. On a particularly challenging day, I broke down in tears in front of Cristian, questioning my capabilities as a mother. Tearfully, I asked, “Am I a good mom?” His immediate response was reassuring, “I think you are a great mom. You and Jeff are so calm and loving with the kids, and it is so different than what I see in Ecuador.” Those words of encouragement resonated deeply because, in our family, an au pair is more than an observer; they are a cherished part of the family who witnesses it all—the good, the bad, and the ugly.
INTEGRITY, the act of doing the right thing when nobody is watching, is a core value in our family. Most parents only witness how au pairs treat their children when they are present. However, I’ve been fortunate to witness Cristian’s unwavering care for our oldest when he didn’t know anyone else was watching. A month ago, I received an unsolicited text from a friend who witnessed Cristian at school drop-off. The message encapsulated the essence of what makes Cristian exceptional: “OMG, I saw Cristian dropping off Brax this morning, and he is so sweet with them. I bet it feels good to have someone around that the boys love so much and that clearly cares so immensely for them. I was like (cry face). Like, Cristian could absolutely have been Brax’s parent with the amount of care and love he clearly has for him.” Talk about a melted mama heart!
LOVE is undeniably what children need at the end of the day. Parents instinctively know this, but do we say it often enough? Right from the start, Cristian introduced a simple yet powerful practice by regularly asking the boys a heartfelt question: “Guys, you know what? I love you.” The last photo of the series captures an incredibly touching moment the first time Brax responded, finishing the phrase initiated by Cristian with a heartfelt “I love you.”
This nomination is an opportunity to share with Cristian the profound impact he has had on our family. His consistent love, care, support, and integrity, even when he thinks no one is watching, exemplify why I #LoveMyAuPair and believe he deserves this award.