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Choosing The Right Babysitter
When I was eighteen and had just graduated from high school I was approached by a lady at our church to babysit full time for her over the summer. She had twin five year old daughters and an eighteen month old baby boy. She wanted to go back to work and needed someone to help her as she got started. Since I was not really sure what I was going to do with the rest of my life yet I accepted. Most of my friends were either going to work or going off to college but I was just not sure.
Anyway, just so you know, I was the middle child of three and we were all born within two years of each other. I was not in a family where there were young children for me to take care of or to practice changing nappies on. I had only babysat a few times before and those times were not really good memories for me since one family had five kids who were determined to kill me and the other family had a child that reminded me of the movie Toy Story, you remember the neighbour boy who mutilated toys named Sid? It did not leave me with good feelings about children but the pay was good so I was in.
As I look back on the two plus months that I spent babysitting these children I shake my head and wonder what in the world was going through that lady’s mind to hire me to sit with her precious little ones. I know it was a simpler time then and it was a small town but was she basing hiring me on the fact that I attended church or that my mother was a Sunday school teacher? I know that if it were my children and in this day and age someone would certainly have to have much better credentials than that!
I remember when I started this job, the twin girls would do their best to confuse me on who was who, especially when it came time to clean up a mess or something. It did not take me too long to figure out which was which as one of the girls had a much softer look and was more timid in her tomfoolery than the other. The baby boy did not give me too much trouble except that when I was not right on top of him his favourite past time was to crawl into the fireplace and cover himself with ashes. That was great fun.
Their garden bordered a ditch which became a cement river when it was raining. I would let the girls go out in the back yard to play with only a fence between them and sure death and did not think a thing about it. I was really clueless when it came to children and a bit of a spoiled brat myself. I recall one day the mother calling me up and telling me that there was a tornado warning and were the girls inside. It was the first I had noticed that it had started to rain and the wind was picking up. As a parent myself, my heart hurts when I think about the lack of thought that was put into watching these precious children. By God’s great grace they all survived their time with me.
I spent a lot of time on the phone then too and we did not even have cell phones, can you imagine what I would be like today with a cell phone and texting? I am sharing this story with you parents who may be considering hiring a babysitter but not so you will be afraid to leave your babies at any time and never go out! I know most of you are not as naïve as the parents I babysat for and these are different times we live in. But even if you live in a small town where the teenagers are ultra responsible human beings, and everyone knows everyone, there is still a lot of research to be done.
Just because you know the mum and dad of a teenager does not guarantee you anything. Just because the teenager goes to church, this is no promise that they are responsible. Even if they are straight A students it does not mean that they know how to take care of your babies. You need to find out what experience they have had, sit and talk to them and see how mature they are, ask around about their character, and if at all possible get references. I know that sometimes they may not have references because they are just starting to babysit but their character should be checked out with someone other than a parent or sibling that knows them well.
I am not saying that these straight A kids, these church going young people with wonderful parents are not great kids, but they may not be great babysitting material. When you have not been around little brothers and sisters or babysat for young children then you do not know what to do when put into a babysitting position. It is not a natural thing you are born with, just like some of us as new parents were clueless; they are even more clueless because they did not even go through the pregnancy and the birthing experience. That, in itself, is a life changing experience that will mature you rather rapidly. And they do not have the love for your children that you do.
Either way, if you have little sweet angels that you want to protect or you have a couple of children that turn into little monsters when you are not around it is important to do some research. Check with other people they have sat with before, check with teachers, or neighbours.
Other suggestions I have heard are to have the teenager over to meet your kids while you are there and have them play with the kids for thirty or so minutes. Tell them you want the kids to get to know them so that when you call they will not have a stranger coming in. You can see how they interact with the children then. And if you do decide to hire them I would keep the first outing a short one. Hire them to watch them for a couple of hours for a short meeting or a dinner or lunch date.
Something else you can do if they do not have references is to check their Facebook page. If they have posts of crazy parties or mean posts of any kind this is a clue that they are not right for your kids. If you decide to leave your children with them keep alert and watch the signs. Is your house a mess when you get home? Is your child uncomfortable when you mention the sitter’s name? Can the sitter tell you what time your kids went to bed or what they did while you were gone? If you have suspicions about something heed those feelings and do not take a chance.
Paul and his wife Julie both spend quite a bit of time coming up with ideas, blogging, and researching all things related to childcare. Their website “www.babysittingjobs.com” holds a wealth of information for those looking for babysitters.