Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Adventures in Babysitting

Jennifer and I went to one of those fancy-shmancy restaurants Saturday night.  I had a perfectly-grilled pork chop, with sides of bacon, fried egg, and collard greens, while Jennifer enjoyed a savory black angus hanger steak, topped with a baby shiitake mushroom, onion, and potato puree.  We toasted our friend Amanda on her birthday, shared several stories from each other's lives, and laughed at a good joke or two.  Then came the grand finale: coffee and desserts, featuring apple crisp, brown sugar cake, and chocolate custard tart.  Absolutely delicious.  At the end, after sharing another (less hearty) laugh over the bill, we applauded the chef, blew kisses into the air, and went to the coat room to pick up our jackets and Kyle.

(Above: Enjoying a night without having to apologize
to other patrons)

Oh, if it were only that easy.  No, this past weekend, Jennifer and I did something we hadn't done since becoming parents: we hired a babysitter.  Both of us had wanted to go to Amanda's party, but our usual babysitters, my parents, were unavailable that night because they live in Massachusetts.  We have no other relatives in the area, and all our other friends either had plans that night or claim they are allergic to diapers.  So, we enrolled in one of those online sitter services, thinking that the internet's the best place to find someone you can trust with your child's life and all your possessions.  Nearly a hundred people responded to our request.  I'm not kidding.  They were all free on a Saturday night, and, for just a few bucks, they were all willing to spend that evening with a two-year-old maniac.  Surely, most of these people have some serious mental problems.  We needed to weed out the worst of them with only a week to go, and we soon realized that was not going to be enough time.  I was going to give up and stay home, but then Amanda and her husband Matt offered us a solution: their nanny Joyce was willing to watch our little guy!  Jennifer and I took our friends up on their offer. 

Now, leaving your kid with someone new is no easy task, especially when your kid is a toddler.  Two-year-olds like having certain things done a certain way... anything straying from the norm will lead to whining, crying, and, at times, bodily harm.  Of course, that's bodily harm to the person watching our son.  Kyle hurts himself only when he's in a good mood and running into tables or walls.  Since we didn't want our friends' nanny to lose a limb, we did everything we thought possible to make her job easier.  We wrote out all the important phone numbers, some of our rules for Kyle, and a detailed description of the bedtime routine, complete with charts, diagrams and escape routes.  We then placed key items, such as Kyle's favorite foods and blankets (which are sometimes one in the same), in easy-to-find spots.  Then, when she arrived, we went through all the routines with her, covering most of Kyle's habits in the half-hour of time before we had to go.  As always, I was more guilty of rambling than Jennifer was.  Joyce smiled, laughed, and nodded politely at everything I said.  I think she just wanted me to go.  Kyle immediately liked her, and gave her a book to read to him.  He almost didn't say "bye" to us. 

I completely trusted Joyce (she's done really well with our friends' child and has plenty of toddler experience), but my stomach was still in knots on the subway ride to the restaurant.  We were taking a big, but necessary, step.  Once we were at the restaurant, we placed our phones on the table, just so we can immediately respond to any problem, and I started to relax.  Jennifer called just before bedtime and learned that everything was going well.  But then, five minutes later, my phone rang.  The caller ID said "Joyce."  I grabbed the phone and darted outside, nearly knocking over a few waiters on the way out.

What could be wrong?  Was Kyle okay?  Did something happen at dinner?  Did he break something?  Did he break the sitter?  Did he torch the apartment?  Did he get arrested?  Anything was possible.  I answered the phone and paced back and forth outside.  With the car noise, my racing mind, and the nanny's thick accent, it took a while before I could figure out exactly why she called.  She wanted tea.  Tea.  That was it.  Our apartment was cold because the heat doesn't work when it's slightly above freezing outside, and Joyce was hoping to make herself a warm drink.  She needed to know where we kept the tea and mugs.  Apparently everything else was fine.  Kyle was getting along so well with Joyce, he almost forgot he had parents.  After explaining where we kept everything for tea, I double- and triple-checked to make sure there were not any problems.  Joyce said there were none.  There was a laugh in her voice, and I could tell she just wanted me to hang up. 

There were no more phone calls after that.  We enjoyed the rest of our dinner, and when we came home, Joyce was sitting on the couch, watching a bad TV movie (I forgot to show her where we keep our DVDs).  She said she had a good time with Kyle, and would do it again.  We thanked her, paid her, and called a car to take her home.  And that was that.  Our first sitter experience was done, and nobody was injured.  Kyle was asleep in his crib, looking very content with his blankets.  The next day he talked about how much fun he had with Joyce.  We had fun, too, though the next time might be a little better... I'm guessing I'll be a bit calmer then.

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