Do you ever meet someone and feel immediately comfortable and at ease with that person? Words flow effortlessly from your brain, out of your mouth, and you can’t believe how poised and smart you sound. Each conversation gets better, leaving you feeling more confident. Well, that’s exactly the opposite of what I experience each week with one very important person in my life, my daughter’s teenage babysitter.
The instant she walks through the door every week, I go from semi-together 38-year-old woman to bumbling idiot, with no relief in sight. It’s gotten to the point where I’m actually giving myself pep talks before our inevitably awkward exchanges, which only makes me – and her, most likely – more uncomfortable. Why does a high school junior leave me shaking in my snappy sandals?
Take this past weekend, for example. The sitter is late and hubby is antsy, which makes me even antsier. Finally, she knocks on the door, looking somewhat bleary-eyed. In my mind, I tell myself, “Say hello, grab your purse, and get out.” What comes out of my mouth instead is, “Are you doing ok?” Before I know it, I’m hearing about her prom, which took place the night before. My mouth is like a semi-automatic, firing question after question at the poor gal. All the while, I’m yelling in my head, “Shut the f*ck up, Wendy!” as more absurd questions and trying-too-hard comments tumble out of me. We have both entered, yet again, Babysitter Conversation Hell.
Can someone please tell me: Why do I need my kid’s caregiver to like me?
Earlier in my daughter’s life, I had this idea in my mind that if the babysitter felt connected to me she’d feel too guilty to text, talk on her phone, starve my child, yell at my child, kidnap my child, etc. So in my mind, having her like me was my way of keeping my kid out of harm’s way. But now that I’m slightly less neurotic about my daughter’s safety, I know there’s more to the story than that.
The truth is, I identify with the young women who watch my daughter, perhaps a bit too much. Don’t we all? We worry about what others think of us, what we’re going to be when we grow up, and if we look cute. We still watch shows like 16 and Pregnant, Teen Mom and True Life (um, for example, no pointing fingers here). In a way, forging a friendship with a teenager reconnects us to that era of our lives, but in a more adult-like and empowered way.
The problem is, sometimes a sitter just wants to be a sitter. She doesn’t want to hear about a mom’s good or not-so-good old days, and doesn’t want someone who’s practically a stranger identifying with her 16-year-old trials and tribulations. And, although I don’t know this for sure, she probably doesn’t want me to ask me to ask about her college applications and then offer to have us write a recommendation, which I’ve now done with THREE babysitters, all during the first week they’ve worked for us.
She just wants to play with my kid for 30 minutes, go through the bedtime routine, and then do her homework. And I need to respect that.
So the question is, can I back off and get us both out of Babysitter Conversation Hell? Can I say hello, grab my purse and go right after she arrives? I’m going to try, unless maybe she shows some indication that she wants to chat. Then I’m all ears, at least until hubby manages to nudge me out the door.
~ By Wendy Widom, Families in the Loop