Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Munich Part 4: The Incident, Second Half

Gotta write these quick!

One Tuesday I came home from my German class (sidenote: I adored my German class.  I'm pretty sure it's the only thing that kept me sane while I was in Munich) to five children instead of three.  Okay... that's cool... I can handle a playdate as long as the mother was around too.  Until she wasn't.  As I caught her running out the door with the twins to a birthday party, I was told to watch the three six-year olds closely, not to leave them alone.  I didn't even know their names, if they had eaten, or if they would be picked up while I was there alone, and by whom.  I asked feebly when she would be returning; she just got in the car and drove away.

The rainy afternoon started innocently enough: they didn't want to play with me, but I had to keep an eye on them, so they spent a lot of time hiding around the house together while I pretended not to see them.  This eventually evolved into a game of hide and seek with me involved (yay! inclusion!) and we eventually settled down into the living room.

I tried to organize them into playing games, the visiting children (also twins, boy and girl) were very sweet and obedient and tried everything I offered.  We colored, played board games, and made paper airplanes and origami.  My own ward was disinterested in anything we were doing, and wanted to go outside to play.  He had been a brat all day to me, and I told him that since it was raining, we would be staying indoors that afternoon.  He ignored me, got his rainboots on, and went straight outside.  It's hard to wrangle three six-year olds into one room, even harder to deal with one who was being disobedient in front of his friends.  I told the other two not to follow his lead, and that I would be calling his father for his actions.  They watched me solemnly and warned their friend to be good, that the au pair had the phone in hand.  He ignored them.

I called the father, a reasonable man that everyone else in the family feared (this was another interesting dynamic that I had observed and said a lot about them, but that is another story).  I apologized profusely, I didn't want him to ever think I couldn't control a six year old.  He told me to put the kid on the phone, I held it up to his ear and the child said nothing.  I took the phone back, apologizing again.  I felt like a pile of poop.  I couldn't do anything right, his children had no respect for me.  I went back inside, he followed.  That was the end of that.

A snack and a couple hours later, the only real resident of the house was still being a jerk.  To me, to his friends, I don't know what was wrong, but I tried to stay positive and kept wondering when the mother would come home.  Then it happened.  The event I have been leading up to this throughout this whole story.

I was looking at a book and I look up to see this six year old waving a drawn three inch pocket knife in my face.  This was a knife I had confiscated earlier from his bed while I made it, I had decided it was too dangerous for him, and I gave it to his mother.  How he got it back I don't know.  I can only assume she returned it to him.  I was sitting and this thing was at eye level, less than two feet from my face.  He was thrusting it at me just beyond reach, but enough to scare the absolute shit out of me.  I put my hand up slowly to defend myself, and he continued.  I told him to stop, that what he was doing was dangerous, and to give me the knife.  I was terrified.  I had seen this kid do six year old things- ride a bike clumsily, fall down, and have undeveloped hand-eye coordination.  Not to mention him intentionally injuring me before.  I don't know how I got up and got the knife from him, but it involved a quiet calmness instilled by my fear.  I took it away and walked out of the room.

I told him I was calling his mother.  He threatened to do it first.  He took the phone while I looked for the only phone number I had- the father's number.
He mimed calling his mother.
"Mom?  Bekka hit me."

I was done there. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Munich Part 3: The Incident Part I

And now...back to the highly anticipated story of...Munich.  This week- The Incident.
This particular part of the story has been very difficult to write and talk about.  I think you'll understand why.

The kids has already expressed their violent tendencies directly and indirectly to me by this point.  I will not detail them all here, but I will give an example to set the context.  The youngest, when I forbade him from climbing an eight foot ladder over the fence, had to be taken by the hand back to his mother.  Obviously pissed, he slapped and scratched my arm to the point where I could see blood.  When we reached his mother, who was conversing with the father of a sweet young girl who had come to play, she brushed me off and pretended not to notice her son's- I'll say it- evil tendencies.  This was obviously a common theme in the house.

Some days later, I was teaching the eight year old daughter piano, and the youngest insisted on hitting his sister and distracting us both.  I put my hand on him, I'll admit it, but not in a violent way in any shape or form.  I merely held him at arms length while the girl finished her song.  Not long after, the mother came upstairs and raged at me in German (so her children understood as well) that I had pushed her son.  She threatened to throw me out of the house if I ever laid hands on any of her children again.  I assured her that I would never do such a thing, it would never be allowed in my house either, and I was honestly frightened.  Maybe this is why the old au pair got thrown out?  Maybe she hit the kids?  Or maybe the youngest lied to his mother like he had just done about me? He knew he could manipulate her into doing whatever he wanted.  This was truly frightening.

After one week of working 47 hours (reminder- the legal limit is 30 per week), I was fed up.  I had talked to the mother before about the importance of keeping a contract, and she simply wasn't respecting it.  It would be different if I felt like a member of the family, if I loved the children, or was treated literally any better, but I wasn't.  I was doing more housework every day than being with the children, and I never did anything good enough.  Literally every day there would be a new criticism.  I decided that I needed to get out of there.  I just didn't know how yet.

Sunday, August 11, 2013


A slight deviation from our normal broadcasting, but I just read an EXTREMELY inspiring story about a young man who just finished walking 3,000 miles in less than 90 days with absolutely no money.  This guy relied on the kindness of strangers and his own willpower to achieve his goals across several states IN THE MIDDLE OF SUMMER.

Truly amazing, check it out.  America On Foot
Vote for his story here once per day
Reddit AMA here

Monday, August 5, 2013

Munich Part 2: Rumors

Note:  I wrote a middle part between the first post and this one that isn't quite as tantalizing.  Let me know if there is any interest in reading it and I'll put it up.

Well, by this time, I wasn't too happy with this Munich family.  The kids didn't listen to or respect me, the mother didn't help and often made me feel lazy despite working more than I was legally contracted to, and the father was literally not present most of the time.  I hated it there.  This wasn't normal homesickness, I wasn't pining to be back with my parents (sorry mom and dad!), or to be with my boyfriend.  I simply did not want to be in a place where I was treated like a maid when I was supposed to be a part of the family.  I held my head up, however, and wouldn't let it get to me.  I kept telling myself, "Only x more weeks. You can do this."

Then I started to hear some strange things about the family and their relationship with their children and previous Au Pairs...

First, I had a good au pair friend who took care of two boys of her own, six and eight, just like mine.  The eldest were best friends and had gone to a birthday party together before I had gotten to Germany.  My friend's eyes got wide when I told her who I was working for, and she very gently and diplomatically told me, "Ah.  I've noticed he's very bossy with the other children."  I laughed and affirmed it to be true, he took after his mother.

Second, I heard that another one of my good Spanish au pair friends' mother wouldn't talk to the mother of my household (S).  I knew they were both from Spain, and since it's nice to hang out with other ex-pats, I suggest to my Spanish friend that we get them together.  Strangely, I was met with "Don't mention my name...don't mention my host mother's name to S..."  I thought that was really weird, but didn't press it.

Later, I heard what happened.  I was told by one of my friends that the aforementioned eight year old I cared for had bullied our Spanish friend's ward so badly that he had to change schools.  This was scary stuff.  I had seen this young boy fighting with his siblings and hurting them, but I merely separated them and tried to keep him under control.  This kid had problems.  Evidently it couldn't have been solved civilly either- the mothers were feuding as well.  This caused some alarm, but I kept repeating my mantra.  I could do this.

In an unrelated story, I met a very nice girl on the tram late one Saturday night before I left.  She turned out to be the 18 year old neighbor of the family I was working for.  Our interaction went something like this:
"What family are you working for? I might know them!"
"The x family, do you know them?"
"Oh..." (long pause) "Yeah I know them, I live right next door!  I knew their last au pair, but I don't know if I'm supposed to tell you what happened to her."
(of course I had to know what happened to her!)"You have to tell me!"
"Well, one night we came home and she was crying in the driveway.  She was from Poland and they had thrown her out of the house.  I don't know why they did it, but she said they were so mean to her and not giving her enough to eat."

At this point, I was shocked, but she didn't know anything more to tell me.  I could only wait and try to figure things out myself, but I learned without a doubt what must have happened in the next few days, and why I had to leave when I did, with the police on my side.

Read Part 3 here

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Story of Munich: Part 1, The Beginning

So you may or may not be aware that I am back in the states for a month.  This is not really by choice, but rather the result of a stressful period of time in which I realized I had to come home due to visa complications.  My original plans would have allowed me to stay in Europe to March, travelling from Paris to Munich to Paris to Vienna.  Obviously this did not go as planned.

It has been a few months since the Munich Incident.  I have been avoiding discussing it with most friends and family lately, as it is an extremely long story and one that upsets me a lot.  However, I'm putting it down here at the suggestion of my mother, and in the hopes that it will provide some sort of closure for me.  Here is The Story of Munich, subtitled:  My horrible experience as an Au Pair for the worst family in the world.

I went to Munich to work for a family* with three children, the two eldest, a boy and a girl, were eight year old twins and the youngest son turned six while I was there.  I was all set to work for them for three months, before which I would visit my boyfriend in Paris and after which I would work in Vienna, Austria for six months.  Everything was organized online and I arrived four days after graduating college.

The family seemed nice online, and in person they seemed okay as well.  I was excited to practice my German and live in one of the most well known cities of Europe.  I had my own room and bathroom to myself, that I was supposed to upkeep.  My contract cited working 30 hours per week, a pay of 260 Euros per month, one day off per week, and three evenings.  (All of this information is available in the European Agreement on Au Pair Placement of 24 November 1969, if you care).  None of this was followed.

I had been there a week before I heard that the children had a break from school for two weeks.  I also heard an offhand remark that the whole family would be going to Italy without me.  No problem, I thought, just give me the dates and I can make arrangements to go back to Paris so I won't be alone in a foreign city for a week.  I hadn't met anyone yet and was excited to go see my boyfriend again.  Well, I didn't hear when the family was leaving until about two days before they did, meaning I had to make very last minute (read: expensive) arrangements to get to France.  Still, no problem, I was so excited!

Read part 2 here

*not sure if I will name the guilty party here yet, though they would deserve it.