Tuesday, December 18, 2012

a Babysitter

As a teenager, I was a highly coveted babysitter. In general, Mormon girls make the best babysitters.
Because they all grow up in big families, so they either have lots of little brothers and sisters or lots of nieces and nephews.
They don't drink or smoke, so they won't raid your liquor cabinet.
They rarely have steady boyfriends, so they won't have boys coming over or texting them the whole time (because we're encouraged to not date seriously until we're older.)
And because we're generally good and obedient, if you ask your Mormon babysitter to do something specific, she'll do it.
I would chase, wrestle, read with, and pretend with those kids for hours. I would cook them dinners and make sure everyone ate enough. I would put them all to bed, and if the baby needed to be put to bed and then rocked and put to bed again 15 times, I would do it.
Then, when everyone was asleep, I would start power cleaning. I would wash the dishes, fold the clothes, put away all the toys, vacuum the stairs. Once, after doing all the dishes, I went to put away the pots and pans and couldn't fit them into the cupboard. So I took ALL the dishes out of the cupboard and reorganized it. 
Maybe if a sitter reorganized my dishes I would be annoyed, but that Mom started leaving out cleaning supplies for me, and telling me that she'd pay me extra money for every bathroom I cleaned. Once, she even called and said, "I'm taking the kids out, will you come over and clean my whole house for me? I'm too stressed out to do it today."

The best families to babysit were the ones that weren't Mormon. They would come home drunken from their night out, and delighted at the fact that they could go out, that their children were asleep, and their home was spotless, they would pay me excessively. An hour or so after I put one family's children to bed, one of the boys woke up with a nightmare. He was probably as old as Grey and Micah are now, maybe as much as a year older. He snuggled up with me on the couch and was soon asleep again. I was horrified, a few hours later, to be shaken awake by the parents. I was so embarrased! I had never fallen asleep babysitting, even if parents didn't return until almost 2am. I apologized, trying to assure them (although, I guess it was pretty obvious) that I hadn't fallen asleep until all the other kids were in their beds.
The mom said, "Oh Becky, we love you. We don't mind if you're asleep, we always feel so safe knowing that you're here with the kids."
At the time, I was flattered, but also a little... confused. I mean, I was a teenager. If there was a fire or a burglar, or some reason that I would have to keep the kids safe, I would be mostly useless.

Then I had my own kids.
And I did NOT leave them with a sitter. Especially before bedtime. No one, I was positive, except me and my mother and mother-in-law could possibly be trusted or capable of putting my kids to bed. If Travis and I wanted to go out on a date, we only went after our kids were asleep.

But last week, we were invited to a fancy-shamancy, grown-up, caviar and champagne kind of party. We had to go, not just because it sounded awesome, but also because the people hosting are the reason that we got a Christmas bonus. In fact, they're the ones who paid most of our bills this year.
But it started at 6:30 and I sorta freaked out. I didn't know what to do! I called lots of babysitters, and every time someone said that they couldn't do, I 1. panicked, and 2. felt relieved that I didn't have to leave the boys with someone else.

Finally, a few nights before the event, we got a sitter: a 19 year old girl that lives on our street. I was kind of freaking out before she got to our house, trying to get the boys fed and not be too stressed out about leaving them. Plus, trying to put on makeup for the first time in weeks (while two kids were on may lap, trying to yank my eyeliner out of my hands). So when Danielle got to our house, it was slightly chaotic.
She came in and was instantly all business. "What is their bedtime routine? Do they have special diapers for sleeping? Whose toothbrush is whose?" And with every question that she asked, I felt more relieved. She was a grown-up, she knew how to babysit.
I said, "Here's how to turn on Aladdin, they'll definitely want to watch it and I don't care if they do."
"We won't watch any tv," she assured me, and I thought to myself, "Yeah right, girl. You need that tv. Just wait."
Travis and I retreated into our bedroom, so I could criticize his outfit choice to finish getting dressed.  And when we came out a minute later, Danielle was wrestling on the floor with the boys. She was singing a silly song, and the boys didn't even notice or care that we were leaving.
At all.
I almost cried in relief.

I kept my phone in my hand almost all night, just in case Danielle needed something. But she didn't.
And when we came home, our house was spotless. Our dishes were done. Our children were nestled all snug in their beds.
And Danielle was sitting on the couch reading the Bible. I mean, COME ON. I wanted to ask if she was ready for our relationship to move forward. Would she move in with us?
I stopped myself about four times from saying, "I love you," but it might have slipped out as I paid her for her troubles. I wanted to pay her way, way more than was a decent affordable amount, and I wanted to have her babysit again that weekend. (And she did, again with miraculous results.)
And suddenly, I understood what those parents said, when they told me that they felt safe leaving their kids with me.
I felt safe leaving my kids with Danielle, because I knew they were going to play, have fun, and not be scared or worried that I was gone. They weren't going to be given treats, they were going to brush their teeth, and they were going to be snuggled up in their beds with hugs, kisses, bedtime stories and prayers.
It wasn't just that they were going to be alive at the end of the night, it was that they were going to be happy. Just as happy as if I had been home, in fact, maybe happier! Because I am too tired and stressed out to wrestle and no longer know how to keep kids happy all day without tv.

Babysitters are stressful. And I don't totally know what the purpose of this post is, unless it's to say: Hallelujah! We finally found a good one! I think we can go on dates again!
Dates that don't start at 8:30!

You guys. That's a big deal.
And coming home to a clean house and no dirty dishes? That's an even bigger deal.

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Strong Clan said...

Love this post. Love it for so many reasons. This comment is going to be long and I am SOOOO sorry. First, I was baptized at 19. Before that I didn't drink, I was dating an LDS boy, and I ran (a lot). So basically I had no life. I was a good girl, and was made fun of because of it. Boy, did I need to join the church or what??
But, the funny thing is, I truly believe that I was meant to be a member and me learning from others, and from myself how to behave, act, and treat people was just a way for heavenly father to lead me to the church.
What does this have to do with babysitting you ask? Because I was YOU! I would clean the house too, put the kids to bed, and then fall asleep and feel bad about it. No one EVER got mad at me, and I was a highly recommended sitter.
Love the church. Love good babysitters. Love knowing that Heavenly father knows your life and how to help you achieve your dreams and goals. The End.

PS - Yes, I cried reading this blog post. I am not ashamed.

Joanne @ Our ABC Life said...

Yes yes yes!

We live in a small town and finding a babysitter to trust is so hard! Good thing my mother in law lives close by but still I like to have dinner well on its way and a least a kid in bed before leaving!

Loved the post

Kristen and Mike said...

We finally found a babysitter for our kids too! It took us until they were 2.5 years old to allow someone other than our family over to watch them. I was nervous the whole time, but they had a great time and the babysitter actually said that she had fun with them. The house was clean and the kids kept talking about her the next day. I think the change is good when someone else can come in and spend time with the kids. I will be calling her more often and I completely trust her. I appreciated this post so much. :) Merry Christmas!

eastsunvb said...

parents.com/sitter-note :)