Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Babysitter's Here...

This past weekend, Leanne and I left Olive with a babysitter for the first time. Well, we left her with a babysitter who is not family or friend and who was not providing the service pro-bono, either through some sort of duty through blood or through a friendly favor.

We actually hired a babysitter.

I’m not going to lie, I was a apprehensive going in, and as the moment approached when we handed responsibility of our daughter over to a perfect stranger – even for just a few hours – that apprehension grew.

We had great confidence in our babysitter. She was recommended by a friend and seemed very nice over the phone. Also, we really needed a night out and we really needed to find a babysitter who we wouldn’t feel beholden to, you know, since we would actually pay this one. We needed a babysitter who could watch Olive on a Saturday night and we wouldn’t feel like we were ruining a friend’s weekend or spoiling someone’s plans. The time had come when a trusted babysitter who we could have on call, and one that would grow to know Olive, is an arrow that we needed in our parenting quiver.

I spent the afternoon methodically laying out the implements of a successful dinnertime feeding. Spoon. Cheerios. Washcloth. Bib. Jar of Olive’s favorite vegetable/fruit combination (she is a sucker for apple/sweet potato).

I place a few disposable diapers on her changing table (yes, we still use cloth diapers, but we decided to go with ease here). I made sure Olive’s toys were out and available. Leanne wrote up an impressively comprehensive list of instructions for the evening (example: “6:15 – Put Olive in high chair…”) and I tried not to sweat through my shirt with nervousness.

The babysitter arrived. I felt awkward. I didn’t know this person from anyone on the street and I was inviting her into my home to take care of my first born so I could go out and have cocktails with friends.

But oh, those cocktails would taste good. I think I can get over this. Just think about the whiskey…

It helped that, by all accounts, our babysitter seemed like a fine, upstanding, wildly overachieving young woman. She attends a mildly prestigious local university, has a demanding major with a double minor, and plays three varsity sports. When I was in college I had enough trouble trying to juggle classes, binge drinking, and what is wildly known as the least demanding major going: English.

It also helped that when Olive first saw the babysitter, she flashed her a huge approving smile. Still we spent the next 40 minutes going over everything we could think someone might need to know if they were going to watch our child for five hours or five days. Phone numbers. Location of food stuffs, trash cans and light switches. Operation of television. Preferred toys and play spots. Take out menus. How to comfort child if crying occurs before feeding, after feeding, before bed. What happens if she doesn’t fall asleep.

About 30 minutes into this, even Olive was looking at us as if to say: “Am I really that hard to work with?”

Eventually, the babysitter, acknowledging for the 17th time that she had everything under control, sat down with Olive and started playing with her. Olive glanced up, and then back down at a bucket of plastic blocks. The babysitter looked up and said “Goodbye, guys. Have a great time.”

But I didn’t tell you how to flush the toilet yet. What about basic first aid?

But we really did need to go. We were meeting 14 people for a birthday dinner and we were picking up the birthday girl. It really would have been bad if she was late because I needed to show our babysitter the various features of Olive’s exer-saucer.

We each leaned down to give Olive a kiss, took a deep breath, and walked out the door.

Surprisingly, we were comfortable. Olive is a good kid and we had confidence our babysitter was too. We leave Olive at daycare regularly and have flown across the country on vacation. But this was different. Olive knows her daycare provider and so do we. When we went on vacation we left her with her grandparents – as close to a subsitute parent as possible. There was something transactional about this. Watch my baby and I’ll give you money and we never have to see each other again.

Soon enough though, we settled down. We had a baby-less night out (at least until 10:00 PM) in front of us and we needed to take advantage of it. They don’t come around too often. By the time we arrived at the restaurant we were a little more at ease. We placed our cell phones on the table at the ready, but they never buzzed or rang. By 8:00 PM we were laughing and eating and talking about – gasp – adult things. By 9:00 PM Leanne was trying make time slow down with her mind so that she we would have time to get an after dinner drink at a bar. (Alas, the check came slowly and we settled for stopping at Dunkin Donuts on the way home and spiking it with Baileys.)

We got home and within two minutes our friendly babysitter – who explained how everything had gone smoothly -- had collected her wages and left. Leanne and I snuck upstairs to peak at our sleeping baby. Everything was as if we had spent the night there at home. Babies are resilient little buggers and need just a few staples – food and love. For a few hours, and a few bucks, someone new had provided that for Olive.

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