Esther came to our family in June 2017, when our youngest baby was four months old. Not only she had a baby to care for, but his four older siblings, from teen to toddler. Esther is our 14th au pair, but she stands out. When Esther arrived, she fit right in and if there was something to adjust to, nobody noticed. She liked the food, she didn’t complain about the weather, and when I showed her how to do things at first, it appeared she already knew everything. I never have to leave instructions for Esther – she leaves instructions for me, like the items for the grocery shopping list we are running low on, or relaying messages from my little boy’s preschool teacher.
I am grateful that Esther joined our family at the time she did. With the new fifth baby, both parents in full time jobs and the host mom starting a new job with more responsibilities, caring for a disabled parent, and dealing with all the needs of our older children, our plates were overflowing. Esther was the person we really needed at this time. She was understanding of our need to adjust the schedule at times, and she pitched in like a true family member, playing with the kids while the host mom cooked dinner, noticing if we forgot to take the trash to the curb on the pickup day… Esther is a happy and optimistic person, and her presence in our household makes us all a little better. Esther is quiet, unassuming and modest, but she is attentive and understands people. She always impresses me by giving my kids the best gifts – the ones that match their interest at the time and the ones that hold their attention, because she knows each of them so well. She even gifted clothing to my teenage daughter that the daughter likes and wears; a very big deal for a picky teen, because even as her mom, I was never successful in buying her clothes without her input.
There is one area where Esther’s impact really stands out. She is an incredible teacher to our twenty months old son. Because of Esther, who speaks with him and reads to him all the time, he is speaking in sentences, making jokes, knows an incredible amount of words, including complicated words like “remote”, knows many colors and numbers, can count, dance, and sing along to his favorite songs. Since he was 18 months old, he asks to go to the bathroom and successfully goes on the toilet. Esther wants to be a preschool teacher when she returns to Kenya, and as part of her educational requirement, she has been taking baby and toddler development classes. I think her teachers may be able to learn from her.
It is impossible to describe all the ways that Esther excels in one short essay, but another example of how special she is, is her relationship with our five-year-old son. I nicknamed him “rascal” because he is very stubborn, defiant and mischievous, and very strong willed. With her quiet persistence and love, Esther can make him do what he needs to do and when he needs to do it, often better than anybody else.
Esther doesn’t seem to have a lot in common with us at first – she is from Africa (Kenya), our family is from Europe and Latin America; she is quiet and we are loud; she is Catholic and we are Jewish; she doesn’t have any siblings, and we are a family with five kids; and the only common language we speak is English. But most importantly, we speak the common language of love, respect and understanding. We are eager to learn from each other and are excited to discover new things, and to partner in helping our kids grow, develop and mature. Esther is a very important and influential partner not only in helping our children in everyday life and routine, but in helping them grow as people, and do the right thing.
When Esther leaves us at the end of her second year, we will miss her a lot, and she will be a very hard act to follow.
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“After years of stress and frustration, and many different nannies, we decided to look for an au pair. When Veronika arrived on January 2, 2016 our lives were forever changed. We had no idea that a real life Mary Poppins had just arrived!”
“I can honestly say that bringing her to live with us as our au pair has been the best decision we could possibly have made. She has afforded us so many priceless “intangibles” during her time here that I can’t begin to quantify her contributions to our family.”