So, on Tuesday, after a 15-hour day in which I flew to Minneapolis and back, I spent an hour with my husband consoling my 9-year old son. Literally, huge racking sobs and desperate pleas that he was dreaming.
Why, you ask?
Because of an after-school sitter who completely flaked out on him. But more than flaking, because of a sitter who was too much of a coward to actually own that we had hired her because she was over 30, that we wanted her to take some ownership in managing schedules, pushing back on kids, and being an ADULT sitter vs. a mother’s helper.
She had worked with us for four months. She was kind and loving, sweet and talkative. A “friend” to me as a mom who works full-time from home and doesn’t want an employee watching her kids but someone in willing to be part of the family.
But, I didn’t recognize the warning signs, partly because I liked her. She always brought her work/family with her. She’d come into the house on her phone talking to her son before greeting the kids. I had to let her leave early for an entire week, because she had to work early at her other job and said she just didn’t “feel good.” She was on vacation for 10 days, then sick, then late. She kept forgetting schedules, even though I’d email and text. She’d never reach out to my husband with concerns but would instead text me while I was on travel trips because she didn’t want to address them herself – either with us or with the kids.
On top of that, my kids are challenging. They aren’t perfect, and frankly can be spoiled brats. I admit it! But they are sweet and kind. They just need structure and guidance. My son also spends every day of his life trying to control his body and his physical reactions to small things. He struggles with fine motor delays and sensory integration disorder (which impacts how he interacts with the world around him). Many with sensory issues are mistakenly identified with ADHD or Autism because a lot of the nuances are the same.
As I’ve learned over the year, by the demeaning stares that many adults and kids give him when he struggles, that many just think he’s a “weird” or “bad” kid. There’s no patience for a kid who is different, especially when you can’t see any clear physical issues or blame it on an obviously known condition. Let’s be honest. Most of us as parents can’t help but judge the behavior of other kids, partly because we are so happy in that moment that it isn’t ours…
And, I refuse to let him rely on his condition as an excuse. So he works on it and thinks about it everyday. We have been so blessed to be in a school where every teacher he has encountered has been willing to sit with us and build a plan that allows him to get the breaks he needs and the support he needs while still holding him accountable. They have been our biggest advocates and his biggest fans. But, he works so hard at school to fit in that he comes home from school EXHAUSTED but successful, and he needs home to be the place he can relax. We need a sitter who understands that and can adapt.
As I write this, I want to yell at myself for not seeing it earlier, but that is the challenge. As a working parent, you rely desperately on that sitter. Conflict is terrifying, both because it is uncomfortable, but also because of the work that you have to do finding the next sitter. Finding part-time sitters, especially for just after-school, is one of the most impossible jobs to place…ever! You need part-social worker, part-tutor, and part-play date all in one.
Because of my kids, we also need someone willing to be a disciplinarian and comedian at the same time. Our son knows that he is different, so when he makes mistakes, he internalizes them so deeply that it crushes him for a long time. The way his mind works, he has let us down, himself down, and whichever or child that he behaved badly with. That’s a HELL of pressure and guilt for a 9-year old.
So back to the original story! On Tuesday, I got home at 7:30 at night after leaving at 5am. I kissed the kids good night, and sat on the couch with my hubby to have a glass of wine. LONG DAY! At 9pm, I get a text from our part-time sitter. She had a bad day with Payton, he had yelled at her (which was completely not ok!) and gotten angry because he had to stop what he was doing to go on an errand. She decided not to tell my husband because she choose to let him go to a playdate with another child and didn’t want to bring it up. She told NO ONE.
So, she texted me at 9pm and quit. No good bye to the kids. No ownership over the fact that we had said no video games. No recognition that part of why we hired her was we thought she would be old enough and mature enough. NOTHING! She quit by telling me how unhappy she was with his behavior, but sweet he was, how blessed she felt to have been able to help her family, OH, and yeah, how she would drop of our house keys the next day while I was with my son at his weekly doctor’s appointment (which she always forgot). Since we had no clue what happened, we then had to ask Payton what happened. He admitted that he’d gotten frustrated and yelled. So he had to tell him what she said.
And then he cried…and cried…and cried.
So for the sitter who failed us, I wish you the best. You clearly weren’t the “one” for us, and by not recognizing that, I allowed you to hurt my 9-year old son – a 30+ year old woman with two kids of your own. Shame on you for your cowardice and shame on me for not seeing it.
And for us, the search for an after-school sitter begins anew. And the hours of finding “the one,” seems more important after seeing the implications of the WRONG one.