They say most of her followers are moms.
When Yara, our longtime babysitter, qualified for Season 5 of Top Nanny, she texted me right away. As I read her note out over dinner, Mo and the kids cheered. They whooped. Our laptops, phone chargers, and composition books sat jumbled on one end of the dining table. We’d pushed them aside to make room for kababs and chicken tikka still in their two-day-old takeout containers, the onions gone limp and sulfurous. Neither Mo nor I had traveled for work the week of Yara’s auditions, so we could split school and club drop-offs. The kids missed Yara’s grilled cheese sandwiches and bitched about the spice level in the kababs, which I’ll admit I’d ordered medium instead of mild because when else would I get a chance to train them on spicy food?
The real kicker came with Yara’s follow up text. BTW it’s going to be your kids with me on the show, right?? Like it just has to be!!!
The kids yelled, “Please, please, please?”
Of course, Mo and I said yes. Yes, Yara could be paired with our kids for Season 5. After all, she’d shepherded Amad through his first lost tooth, and now Tina through her first period. More importantly (though we’d never say this out loud because we like to keep our kids grounded), wasn’t this how stars were made? Mo and I didn’t end up in this neighborhood in this city in this country by ignoring open doors; once our feet were in, what were a few crushed toes? Sure, Yara would be the contestant. But it took just a couple of episodes of Season 1 for viewers to realize that it was the kids who made the nannies.
Take Marina from Season 1. The twelve-year-old, not the nanny. (About Marina-the-nanny, what could they have been thinking letting her on the show without a driver’s license so she had to take her toddler around on public transportation? Is it any wonder she lost the child in Midtown in the very first episode?) Marina-the-kid set the bar for charges with her finely tuned sense for when to let her nanny shine and when to bring her to tears. If you ask me, all that drama with the kid’s older sister being hospitalized with an eating disorder in her failed attempts to outshine her little sister are not the show’s fault. What fifteen-year-old needs a nanny? Back in Pakistan, she’d be the nanny.
Marina-the-kid was such a hit, viewers flooded social media with demands that she return in Season 2. The producers caved. I told Mo it would be impossible to replicate her exact chemistry with a new nanny. And boy, was I right. The kid ended up in a rivalry with her own nanny, and the pair got kicked out after a catfight at the spa birthday party episode. The fact is, though, that the kid now has one hundred thousand followers on TikTok. She does hot takes on girl-on-girl jealousy. They say most of her followers are moms.
Now Mo and I would never coach our kids, but we’ve spoken privately about how this girl’s trajectory might be a savvy strategy for our own Tina. The season won’t start filming for another two months, and she’s aging out of the show with every hour that goes by.
The night of Yara’s acceptance, Mo and I let the kids take their phones to bed so they wouldn’t show up in our room on a rare weeknight together. Over a bottle of pinot, we were convinced that our little one, Amad, has the potential to last through Season 8. The record so far for any kid is two seasons. Everyone said Khloe, who won Season 3 and 4 with that French nanny, had another season in her. But, friends, burnout is real. Not for our Amad though, who’s kept up with his soccer club despite a repeat broken ankle and two concussions, all of them from postgame disagreements with his teammates.
Honestly, Khloe was a strategic error on the producers’ part. They should have picked either the piano/ice-skating or the competitive dance for the nanny to handle, not both—TV isn’t real life. The nanny went on late-night shows afterwards, talking up her new parenting book, and how, unlike over here, French kids take naps after school and play in the woods until dinner. (Mo snorted and reminded me that’s what we did in Pakistan too, but who’d buy a book about that?) By the way, Khloe is more than fine. With a little therapy after Season 4 (which, thank goodness for open-minded parenting in this country), she already has her own clothing line for preteens with her signature duck-lips logo. Imagine if Amad had his own logo on sneakers. (Though, he better come up with something hotter than the rainbows he’s been drawing since he was five.)
The kids don’t know that when Yara agreed to stay on, unlike their prior nannies, we bumped up her pay by 50 percent, and have done so again every six months since then. Soon, she dropped all her other part-time jobs, and then even gave up college (which I was against, but Mo told me to stop with my desi mindset). This last year, she managed to afford both a personal trainer and a stylist for her Top Nanny auditions. Of course, she got in! If we hadn’t done this for them, how would Tina and Amad ever have gotten their shot at TV? Now it’s up to them. We can’t be there episode to episode, raising Yara’s pay every time they connive against her. Our babies are going to have to make it to the finish line on their own. We’ll be cheering our little virtuosos on as they cavort across our 120-inch home theater screen, determinedly hands off like the French parents in that book. Given the decades of media consulting experience between us, perhaps Mo and I do know a thing or two about upping show ratings—but the kids need never find out.