We’re dragging our feet, I know.
Our twin girls are closing in on two years old, and we have still never left them with a babysitter that wasn’t a relative or friend. People who know about these things tell us that it’s of paramount importance to secure a babysitter we can trust and with whom we have a dispassionate financial arrangement that precludes any resentment of the type felt by put-upon friends and family, so that we can sneak out for the occasional date night.
I don’t know if we have some subconscious fear or reluctance to allow a virtual stranger to watch our kids, or if we’re just too lazy to do the legwork to find one. We’ve gotten a few leads on babysitters from our friends with kids, but so far we haven’t followed up. We don’t even know what we’re supposed to do to determine if the potential babysitter is trustworthy.
Meanwhile, our kids have become very entrenched in their routines, and I’m afraid that the prospect of training a babysitter to minister to their requirements is getting more remote as the girls develop more complex rituals surrounding the events of their days.
I was thinking about this earlier today, and mentally composing a list of instructions that I would leave for a babysitter if we ever found one. If I were a babysitter and someone approached me with a list like the one I imagined, I would demand a hundred dollars just to read it, and then ten dollars extra for performing each of the tasks delineated.
The thing is, for a date night, the babysitter has to deal with some of the most difficult child-wrangling of the day: dinner, bathtime, and bedtime.
That would be a lot to demand of a babysitter we would be employing for the first time. But even if we eliminated feeding and bathing, it would still be a pretty daunting job.
Let’s just say that Dr. Mom and I are going out to dinner at a reasonable hour and need someone to tuck the kids in after we take care of their dinner and bath, and then just sit there and text their boyfriends for the rest of the night. That’s the least we could expect. Anything less than that (i.e., sitting on the couch listening for any stirring from the sleeping babies we had already tucked in before the babysitter arrived), doesn’t really require a human to be there–we could achieve the same effect with a long-range baby monitor.
If we do ever find a babysitter that passes our security screening, this is something like what my list of instructions would look like for his or her first job, just for the stuff that happens during the half hour before the girls go to bed:
- Reading–Occurs seated on the floor in front of the bed, with Butterbean on the left side of your lap, Cobra on right. Current favorites include “Jeremy Draws a Monster,” “The Potty Book, ” and “All Fall Down.” If Cobra says, “sha-la-la-la,” that means she wants to read “All Fall Down.” When reading “All Fall Down,” the girls will expect you to help them climb onto the bed and watch them as they enact the lines of the story, which include singing, running “round and round,” bouncing on the bed, and finally, falling down. They will expect you to fall down at the end as well, and will remind you of this by pushing you and saying, “All down. All down.”
- Brushing teeth–This can sometimes be a struggle. Start out by trying to build enthusiasm for the event. Chant, “Brush teeth! Brush teeth! Everybody brush teeth!” and “Deng zhang” (phonetic spelling of the Vietnamese for “brush teeth”) while marching around the bedroom. Cobra gets the Piglet toothbrush and Butterbean gets the Tigger one. Make up songs about oral hygiene and sing them as you brush their teeth. When teeth are brushed, prompt them to say “cheese” repeatedly while baring their teeth in the mirror. Model this for them.
- Tucking in the stuffed animals–THIS MUST BE DONE EXACTLY AS INSTRUCTED! Place the two Boppy nursing pillows on the floor OUTSIDE the door of the nursery (walk-in closet). Turtle goes in the easternmost Boppy, and Puppy goes in the other one. Butterbean will cover Turtle with a white washcloth (“pi-pi”), and Cobra will cover Puppy in a green burpcloth (“mi-mi”). If Cobra says, “zissel,” that means she wants the red and yellow stuffed lizard to join the slumber party. Position the lizard between Turtle and Puppy, and cover with a pink hand towel. Allow several minutes for the kids to hug, kiss, and step on the stuffed toys, and then move them into their cribs.
- Stretches–Cobra will lead these exercises from her crib, and you need only approximate the poses she demonstrates, and assist both of the kids in achieving deeper stretches when they say, “hep-you,” which means “help.” Your experience as a practitioner of yoga should serve you well here. What? Oh. I learned that from your Facebook profile. Yes, I saw the “Camel Pose” picture. I was impressed. Cobra will let you know she is done stretching by saying “night-night” repeatedly. Butterbean will continue goofing around all night unless you zip her into her sleep sack after her second headstand.
- Lovies–In their respective cribs, you will find exactly one plain blankie, and one blankie with a stuffed animal head on it. Butterbean’s blankie, Stinky Pinky, a.k.a. “pi-pi,” is pinkish and smells like bacteria. Her animal is Elephant (“ephant”). Cobra’s blanket is a silky patchwork called “mi-mi,” (not to be confused with Puppy’s blankie of the same name), and her animal is Froggy (“frawzhie”). If any of these items are missing…well, just make sure nothing happens to any of these items. Drape the plain blankies over the children’s faces, snuggle the animals next to their necks, and bid them all good night.
- Blanket Toss–There’s a very good chance that Butterbean will throw Stinky Pinky into Cobra’s crib, and then wail until it is returned to her. Cobra will not return the thrown blanket, but will only plaintively moan, “night-night.” It’s up to you to return the blankie to it’s rightful owner. Return Stinky Pinky to the crib, place Butterbean into her sleeping position, and comfort her silently for no more than 30 seconds. Repeat as needed. This hardly ever happens more than ten times in a night. Maybe fifteen on the outside.
- Non Blankie-related Sleep Disruptions–Refer to appropriate chapters in Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. You should be familiar with this material from the reading that I assigned you in our last email exchange. In case you forgot your copy, I have left mine on the nightstand, with the relevant passages marked with post-it notes.
- Most importantly of all–HAVE FUN!!
This seems a little complicated for someone who is just getting paid…what? I don’t even know what to pay a babysitter. The two times I babysat as a kid, I think I made $2.75 an hour. Anyway, is it unreasonable to expect a babysitter to comply with the established routine? What would you do if you received a set of instructions like this one? And more importantly, how do you go about finding and breaking in a new babysitter?