Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Babysitter Dilemma

There are a lot of ways I would argue that our generation has it a bit easier when it comes to rearing small children. Diapers are more absorbent. Strollers are more versatile. Baby monitors are more reliable. Daddies are more involved. And let's not forget the modern invention that's the extension of every toddler's arm: the no-drip sippy cup. How did they do it?

But one thing that seems to have gotten tougher as time has passed is finding a responsible and engaging teenage babysitter.

When I was growing up it seemed my mom had a least four different teens in the neighborhood to choose from if her and my dad had an evening out. Even more surprising is that my siblings and I loved all of them and actually got excited for babysitter nights.

I remember being so excited when I turned 12 because that meant I was old enough to take the local babysitting course. I started babysitting that summer and didn't stop until after I graduated from college.

Times have changed and it seems girls (and boys) no longer have that right-of-passage of turning that magical ready-to-babysit age. Their time is consumed with a demanding homework load and a massive schedule of extracurricular activities. Or so it is here in the 'burbs.

It also seems as if that maternal seed is never planted within those teens. Not only do they not have time to babysit, they don't desire it either.

Now more than ever parents are relying on relatives and other parents for babysitting duties because they just can't find a young person trustworthy enough.

When William was a newborn Brian and I volunteered as confirmation teachers for a group of ten 15-year-old girls. There wasn't one girl in the group that I would have trusted enough to leave with my son even for a few moments. How sad is that?

For William's entire life we have used family and friends to help with our babysitting needs. Because this service is free it leads to a lot of guilt and a lot of restricted nights out.

Then we got smart and decided to tackle the issue in another direction. Find parents of teens first.

Within a group at our church Brian befriended a woman who had a similar parenting philosophy as ours. Lo and behold we soon found out she had three, count 'em, three teens at home who all had extensive babysitting experience.

On Thursday night my wonderful husband took it up himself to contact one of those teens and set up a date night for the two of us.

The sitter was awesome. As soon as he (yes, he, it was a boy!) walked in the house he immediately got on the floor and started playing trucks and airplanes with William. William thought he'd died and gone to heaven.

It felt good to leave the house knowing not only was my son in good hands but that he was actually having the time of his life with a new friend.

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