Mike Rinder’s Treatment of His Children—A Nanny’s Take

Chris spent more than five years taking care of the Rinder children: “You could say that Mike was unique—a uniquely bad parent.”

Chris, the Rinder children’s nanny, with Benjamin in 1983
Chris, the Rinder children’s nanny, with Benjamin in 1983


I was the nanny for Taryn Rinder, starting in 1981 in Clearwater, Florida. When Benjamin Rinder was born in 1983, after the family had moved to California, I was the nanny for both children until the beginning of 1986.

I saw Taryn’s and Ben’s mother, Cathy Rinder, at least once every day. She always visited with me when she came home from work and we got to know each other very well. Cathy really cared about her children and was very loving.

The most important thing in Cathy’s life was her kids. It always has been. She always checked on them, asked me how they were doing, what they were doing, if I was having any problems with them. Did I need anything? Did I want anything? Did they need anything? Did I need money to get them anything? She was very involved in raising them.

In the five years I took care of Taryn and Benjamin, the number of times Mike Rinder ever came to visit or took interest in his children I could count on one hand.

In the five years I took care of Taryn and Benjamin, the number of times Mike Rinder ever came to visit or took interest in his children I could count on one hand.

Mike never came around, so I never got to know him. I only knew of him—not like I knew Cathy and the kids. I adored Cathy and she was like my sister—still is.

Taryn and Benjamin were the best kids to take care of.

Taryn Rinder at five years old
Taryn at five years old; photo taken by Chris during the Rinder family’s cross-country trip from Florida to California, 1983

Taryn was extremely smart. I taught her to read by sounding out words. She was very inquisitive and wanted to know what every sign (and everything else with writing on it) said. I once told her if she wanted to know, she needed to learn to read. That was all it took before she was reading!

Benjamin would do anything to make anyone laugh. From the time he was old enough to smile in a carrier, he would do things to put a smile on your face. It was such a joy to be able to be a nanny for such great kids.

But Mike didn’t know this as he rarely visited. He once asked me if I was teaching Benjamin the alphabet, as he went to his crib and Benjamin was sounding out a bunch of letters. Not in any order—he was only about eight months old. I had a 12-inch-high colored alphabet on the walls in the nursery and had been teaching him the letters for a while. Benjamin had learned many of the letters before Mike ever heard him say one.

One time, Mike came and took five-year-old Taryn to a party with some of his adult friends. Apparently it was the type of party you don’t bring children to. Shortly after that, my mother was visiting in California and took Taryn and me out for lunch. As we were driving, Taryn, who was sitting in between my mother and I, wanted to tell a funny joke she had heard people laugh at when at the party. She then told us the most disgusting joke you could imagine. It was about oral sex with a handicapped man in a wheelchair or something. Those in the car went dead silent. Taryn had no idea what she was saying. I was so humiliated and embarrassed. My mother gave me a look. I just wanted to die—what could I say? That her father and his friends had most likely taught her that?

Taryn was dismayed. She did not know why we weren’t laughing—everyone at the party with her father had laughed.

There were few times when Mike came to see the kids, so it was a big deal. Taryn would yell, “My daddy is coming! My daddy is coming!” This was a rare occurrence.

On one of these visits, Taryn was using a stapler and accidently stapled her thumb. She started screaming and showing Mike, saying, “Take it out Daddy!” It was quite an ordeal for Taryn as her little thumb was soft and small and she did not expect that. Mike removed it but did not seem too caring. He admonished her for stapling her thumb and sort of chuckled when she was in pain. Mike treated Taryn like she was an idiot for stapling her thumb and, while making fun of her and ridiculing her, told her not to act like a crybaby. Children learn by having a mishap at times that they don’t expect and they need understanding, especially in the middle of the trauma.

When Mike did visit, he was usually cold….​It was sad for me to see, knowing that the kids wanted and needed to be able to get affection from their dad.

When Mike did visit, he was usually cold. When Ben was about nine months old, Mike said he would spend time with Ben and Taryn. Ben was doing funny things to Cathy to make her laugh. When she would laugh, then Ben would laugh. Benjamin then wanted to do it to Mike, but Mike did not want to be bothered and was not interested; he ignored Benjamin and fell asleep. It was sad for me to see, knowing that the kids wanted and needed to be able to get affection from their dad and be able to show him what they could do and abilities they were gaining so he would be proud of them.

I am sure I know Taryn and Ben much better than their father does. They could always talk to me and they could always talk to Cathy. But I could not talk to Mike and I don’t think the kids could either. A couple of times I saw Taryn get mad or frustrated with him when he would come. I am not sure what occurred that she would be so excited about seeing him and then end up angry or disappointed when with him.

When Mike spent time with them, he never acted like he was excited or even glad to see them and instead did quite a bit of nagging. The kids got more attention from the other children’s dads than from their own dad.

You could say that Mike was unique—a uniquely bad parent.