11/28/08

Building a Babysitter

When my good neighbor-friend moved away last summer, she took with her a warm cozy place for me to visit, a hospitality that always included coffee no matter the time of day, and my babysitters. Since neither of her daughters drive, nor are they interested in learning how, no matter the distance, their new house required me to drive them home after an evening out. So, I stopped going out with my husband. I stopped planning ways to invest in my marriage and started putting the kids to bed earlier. We'd like to think that spending time at home with our husbands after the kids have gone to bed is just as quality as spending time at a restaurant or a movie theater. It's not. Because there's the computer and laundry, a magazine or a phone call that inevitably leads to distractions and non-conversations, and very little eye contact. Which all equals zero time alone, together.
I had gone as far as verbalizing my interest in finding a new babysitter. And that's as far as I got for three months. Shelby whined about being left alone at home and how she didn't want the old sitter to come back. I realized that introducing a new sitter was a little like adopting another child. This person was going to become a part of our lives, of my children's life for (hopefully) a few years of their childhood. This person would learn how my baby likes to fall asleep, what my toddlers' favorite bedtime books are, that my closets are as disorganized as my refrigerator. A babysitter is a part-time family member. And it's a big deal to let them into your life. You can't just have anybody putting your kids to bed. And so, I devised a plan.
After John had mentioned (several times) that he had recently hired a college intern who was interested in babysitting, I decided to call her. She was over 21, owned a reliable vehicle, was friendly and had spent the last three months working for John through harvest. If the tasting room manager trusted her with his newborn three days a week, I guess I could give her a chance.
Once I had scheduled Hannah to babysit the kids, I cooked up a sales pitch to give Shelby. My daughter is intuitive and likes a party, she does not enjoy being left behind. So I told her there was a friend coming over. A big girl friend who had been asking to come to our house and play with her. That this friend really wanted to come over and read books with her, play with her toys and do special things with Shelby. The anticipation was already building. She began asking questions like, how old is she? and what's her name? does she like to wear pink like me? what are we going to do?
The first time Hannah came to babysit, I made sure it was late enough that the baby was asleep. This way, Shelby could have all of Hannah's attention and they could build an uninterrupted relationship. I also left a few new activities for them to do-not a movie. A new activity book, new markers, new playdough and a tidy mat, and a potted bulb. Yes, one of those Christmas pots with the ingredients to grow your very own Hyacinth or Paper White at home. Although this activity only took them a few minutes, it has helped to encourage the relationship even in Hannah's absence. Shelby and I check the bulb every other day, talk about the tiny green sprout that has recently appeared and how Hannah will be here next week again and she'll be so excited to see how the bulb has grown! It's a little reminder of the new part-time member of our family, of the relationship this college girl is growing with my daughters and how it continues to sprout every day.
The last time Hannah came over, both girls were awake and the end of evening report was positive. Even Shelby's morning after report was good. I am so happy to know that the sitter I leave my kids with is as enthusiastic about them as they are about her. That we talk about her almost every day (thanks to the bulb) and Shelby is actually looking forward to an evening when her parents leave her at home with "The Babysitter."

1 comment:

H said...

Hi,
Question for you: Do your girls share a room and if so how and when did you start putting them to bed in there together?
I have a 3 month old and 3 year old. The 3 month old is sleeping in a bassinet in our room, which we wheel into the living room after we go to bed. There is a crib for her in our 3 year old's room. I'm thinking about putting the baby in her crib now, since she is sleeping through the night (omg - pinch me). Any advice?
Thanks,
H
PS thanks for the insight on the babysitter - I need one of those bad!