A Male Nanny
The woman next to me in the bread café on 67th Street wants to know how much my baby weighs. Idon't tell her that he's not my baby because I'm tired of explaining. Instead, I look at Sam's year-oldbody. I have never been good at guessing weight, but I know Sam feels awfully heavy when I carryhim around the city all day.
“Forty pounds,” I tell her, none too confidently.
“Forty,” she says. “I don't think so. Try somewhere around twenty.”
Sam twists in my arms and I look at my watch. Ann, his mom, is due back from her hairappointment any minute. In the meantime, I bounce Sam, sip my coffee and wait.
“Honestly,” the woman says to her friend, “what kind of parent doesn't know how much his childweighs?”
I want to tell her that I'm Sam's nanny, but I don't because I'm a guy — a “nanny”, you might say.
Whenever someone learns that I'm taking care of Sam, they turn on me — telling me not to bounce himtoo much or he'll throw up, demanding that I give him another bottle of milk.
I have two younger sisters. I was a summer camp counselor for five years. I had a girlfriend withyoung nephews. I read the books What to Expect the First Year and What to Expect the Toddler (刚学会走路的小孩 ) Years. My experience with kids is probably just as good as, if not better than, any highschool girl who watches kids. Still, I'm not the one thing almost everyone thinks I should be for this job— a woman.
When I look up, Ann is walking through the door. She kisses Sam, then looks at me. “How was he?”
“Fine,” I tell her. “How much does he weigh?”
“Twenty-three pounds. Why?”
“No reason.” I say.
I'm sitting on a bench at the playground, eating a chicken salad next to four woman nannies, all twicemy age. Sam is now a year and a half old, big enough to cross the playground's bouncy bridge himself. Iwatch him and the other children jump up and down.
“I didn't get paid until last Thursday,” one woman says. She takes a bite of her sandwich. “Olivertried to cheat me on the extra hours I worked.” Everyone nods, sympathetically.
“You guys get extra pay?” I ask.
“After 40 hours a week,” someone says. “Don't you pay your nanny that way?” one of them asks me.
“No,” I tell them. “I AM the nanny.”
They stare at me with suspicion.
Is it really that big of a deal? Women are soldiers, truck drivers, and construction workers. Whycan't a man be a nanny? I began watching Sam as a favor to Ann when I was in graduate school. BeforeI knew it, though, I slipped into the nanny position almost full time. It's a job I like, and it helped payfor school. But why does everyone have a problem with it?
Insulted, I throw my lunch into the trash barrel and let Sam lead me to the swings. I tell him to holdtight, and back and forth he goes.
“How old is he?” the woman at the next swing wants to know. She has a French accent and looks tohave much energy to be a new mother.
“About 17 months.” I say. “And I'm 324 months.”
She gives me a wary (谨慎的) smile. Her baby is in the bucket swing, big brown eyes and wild curlyhair.
“She looks like you,” I tell her.
“Thanks,” she says. “He has your blue eyes.”
“Oh, no. He's not mine. I'm his nanny.”
She keeps pushing her baby. “A male nanny,” she says. “How unique.”
We look at the children, and I feel better. Across the playground, a girl falls off the bottom of theslide and bursts into tears. One of the nannies I lunched with rushes over and picks her up and brushesdirt from her knees.
“Do you think she's all right?” I ask.
“She's fine,” the French woman says. “Kids fall all the time.”
But then Sam lets go of the swing. He flies into the air and lands face down in the dirt.
“Sam!” I scream. I pick him up and wipe the dirt from his face. He looks like he is going to cry butlaughs instead.
“You know,” the woman says. “If you're going to take care of him, you really should be more careful.

Sam is almost 2 now. I've decided to go to his mother with my problem. One day while we are ridingthe subway, I ask, “What are the reasons you picked me to watch Sam?”
“What kind of question is that?” Ann says.
“I'm just wondering.”
“Because he loves you,” she says. “You make him laugh. You sing songs with him. You've read hisfavorite book to him a thousand times.”
“But I don't know how much he weighs. And I never can keep track of how many months old he is.”
“So what?” she says. “I trust you. Besides, you guys are great friends.”
The train comes to a stop and Ann gets off. “Have fun, you guys,” she calls back. Next to us, an oldwoman asks “What's his name?” “Sam.” I start to tell her that I'm his nanny, but then I rememberwhat Ann just said.