But we need to take the next step, and let a real babysitter watch Katie. I got a recommendation from another mom at Katie's school, and I met with her last week. She was really nice, and clearly great with kids. Katie seemed to take to her right away. She's a student at the local community college, and she lives close by. All good things. But...there were some red flags. And since I'm brand-new to this, and tend to over-think all this parenting stuff, I'm not sure if I'm overreacting. See what you think.
There were really only two complaints I had about this sitter. Firstly, and I'm not sure how to put this kindly, she didn't seem overly bright. Friendly, sweet, nice, yes! But not too sharp. We almost had a big mix-up via text, because she told me she could meet Friday morning, but not before 2pm. Huh?? Took a couple tries to straighten that one out. When we met, she read Katie one of Katie's favorite books, and I could tell there were some pages she just didn't understand right away. I was kind of shocked. I don't think Katie noticed, but it made me wonder if it's safe to leave my child with this person.
The other complaint is that her childcare philosophy doesn't seem to be in line with mine. Ever since we joined Katie's co-op preschool, I've had a whole new outlook on parenting. I've been devouring parenting books like there's no tomorrow. I really believe in Positive Discipline and many of the other philosophies I've been learning. For example, I now know not to label my child as "pretty" or "smart" or "shy" or anything else - even positive labels can be destructive. The first thing this sitter did with Katie was quiz her on all her colors, and then tell her "You are so SMART!" What if Katie had missed one? Would she not be smart?
On the other hand, naming colors can be a fun game. Katie loves to talk about colors. But there was something in the way this sitter did it that made me uncomfortable. Usually when I talk to Katie about colors, it's to ask "Would you like to play with green play-doh, or purple?" Or we sing a song about the rainbow that we heard on Toddler Radio. Or she tells me which colors she wants to paint with. Or I make some really lame-sounding comment about the colors she used in her artwork, like "I see you made the blue paint go round and round!" I guess what I'm saying is, the more I read in these books, the less comfortable I am with quizzing Katie on anything. I do sometimes ask her if she sees a particular object (like a flag, her favorite) in the pages of her books, but somehow that feels OK. It's more like, "Oh wow, is there a flag on this page?" And she says "Yesh!" and points to it. I don't say "Good job, you're so smart" if she gets it right, I just celebrate with her that she found something she likes: "You found an American flag!"
The point is, I feel like I just barely learned some of these things in time, and there are many I wish I'd learned sooner. I am far from being a perfect parent, but it feels really good when I use the new tools I've learned. I feel relieved, like I've maybe saved Katie half of a future therapy session. Over time those are gonna add up! So it's really hard for me to think of leaving Katie with someone who will, in essence, parent the way I would have before I learned more about it. What will this sitter do if Katie seriously misbehaves? Will she yell at her? Scold her? Put her in time-out? (Not to say time-out is bad, but at this age I'm not using it yet, and I might not ever.) How much does the sitter understand about what makes a 2 year old tick? This has saved me untold aggravation - simply understanding more about Katie's capabilities at this age.
And, moreover, will the sitter understand if I try to explain any of this?
Maybe I need to sit down with her and briefly explain our house rules. I was thinking about this earlier today - that we don't have any official "house rules" and it's probably time we did. I remember Teacher Donna talking about her own personal rules for when to discipline her daughter and when to just let it go. It was something like: Health, Personal Safety, Safety of others, Safety of property. There was a fifth one, I can't remember it. So basically if what the child is doing doesn't jeopardize any of those things, then it's OK to look the other way.
So when Katie wants to wash her tea set in the bathroom sink, getting water everywhere and her clothing soaked, I ask myself: is her health at risk? Her safety? My safety? The house? And the answer is, No, as long as I make sure she doesn't soak the hallway carpet, and that she doesn't slip and fall. A few splashes is OK though, and so is a change of clothes. Our bathroom floor is actually cleaner than ever because of all the times I've had to mop it up recently. :)
I actually talked to Teacher Donna about this in a conference last week. She said that it might be hard to find someone whose parenting style is exactly like mine. I accept that. She also said that a couple of hours a week won't undo the work I've been doing. I hope that's true. Unfortunately, I have a pretty early memory of a babysitter who made fun of me once, and that doesn't make me feel too confident. Sigh.
Sorry for the rambling post, folks, but thanks for letting me get all that off my chest! Next time: Stalking other kids' nannies in hopes that they're looking for a few extra hours a week of babysitting work!