Friday, October 24, 2014

Babysitters: A Call to Arms

People with kids hate people without kids. Sorry, but it’s true. You say cruel things like, “We watched the best movie the other night,” and, “Look at my new sweater!”

We like other people with kids, especially as babysitters. You are nonplussed when my daughter tries to convince you that she is allowed to play outside with no pants on. You get us.  But it is that uncomfortable affection; when you are keenly aware that both parties are a tiny bit lame. Like making friends with someone in your chess club. Or at a They Might Be Giants concert.

Then there is a third group. Couples who want, or are planning to have, or just really really like kids. They are the types who actually look at, like, and even comment on the legions and legions of kid pictures that we put up on Facebook (which, if we were honest with ourselves would acknowledge are nearly identical) . They too are great babysitters. They are fresh meat, not all leathery and tired and gamey like parent-meat.

Ah, babysitters. There is a special place in paradise for you. With a chocolate fountain and…I don’t know what people like…fuzzy socks? One of those scooped-out watermelons but full of cocaine? I’m just trying to make everyone happy here.

But let’s be clear: the interview process will be rigorous and harrowing. I AM scrutinizing you. I didn't haul those things around in my guts for ten months each for you to go and drop them on their heads or let them get into the moonshine. Wait, what moonshine?

So, the interview.

Don’t swagger. Don’t act all self-assured.  Don’t say, “I've got this. Don’t worry about a thing. You guys go have a good time.”

Arrogance is ignorance. And ignorance…that shit will get you killed.

Among your charges is a child who once closed herself in the bathroom, stripped naked, and began systematically dumping water down a heating duct into the expensive, expensive furnace below.

Among your charges is a child who took off her own diaper, then peed, then tried to run from the pee and slipped, crashing to the ground, and lay there, writhing and flailing, resembling the hardwood-and-urine version of a snow angel.

Among your charges is a child who silently and in plain sight built an elaborate structure, climbed it, and crashed through a screened window six feet down into the bushes below, practically at the feet of three adults and two dogs with judgy eyes.

I am stopping myself here; but I could go on and on.

The point is, when you arrive at my door to babysit, there should be a sheen of panic-sweat on your forehead. You should be pallid; your voice should be quavering. A damp, wrinkled notecard of emergency numbers should be clutched in your shaking fist; you should be unable to meet my gaze.

Then you are ready.

On the other end of the spectrum, I also will be reassured by seeing any or all of the following:

  • Paperwork documenting your experience wrangling vicious simians
  • You solving a Rubik’s cube reallyreallyfast
  • An up-to-date hypnotist license
  • The blow gun and tranquilizer darts you are willing to use if things get out of hand
  • A resume that includes foreign diplomacy
  • Scars of any kind

Even with these credentials, every fifteen minutes or so you’re going to want to cup your hand under the middle child’s chin and say, “Pit it out. Pit it out right now.” You know, just to be proactive. Because you can never tell with that one.

Good luck, and we’ll see you on the other side.