By: Cheryl Maguire
“Do you think she would want to babysit?” I asked my husband.
“We don’t know anything about her. I don’t think we should even ask.”
“But the kids seem to really like her and she must have passed a background check to work here, right?”
We debated if we should hire a babysitter as we ambled around an indoor track. It was the last day of our free two-week gym membership which we decided not to continue. The teenager who worked in the child care room seemed like a perfect person to watch our twin two-year-olds, but my husband felt wary since we didn’t know her. Seeing how well she interacted with our kids led me to believe that she was up for the task.
Going out as a couple for dinner and a movie was no longer possible without a babysitter. I didn’t know how to find someone who was both qualified and willing to watch twin toddlers—it wasn’t exactly an easy gig since they got into everything. One time, after I spent less than two minutes in the bathroom, I found my son perched on the dining room table and my daughter had decorated the walls with her crayon drawings—you couldn’t even take a bathroom break when watching my little minions.
I didn’t feel comfortable posting an ad to find someone and the few people I knew in our neighborhood had no suggestions for a babysitter. Which meant for over two years, we rarely went out just the two of us anymore unless a family member was available. The person in the child care room seemed like a way for us to feel somewhat “normal” and connected to one another again.
I wanted to be able to enjoy a quiet meal without feeling the need to scarf it down because I had to prevent my daughter from using the diaper cream as her new art medium. I wanted to watch a non-animated movie in a dark theater without hearing, “mommy I have to go to the bathroom.” I wanted a kid-free night using adult conversation without saying words like potty, mommy or any other word ending with a “y”. The best way to be able to make this vision a reality was to ask the teenager if she would babysit our kids.
In the child care room, my twins giggled while climbing on a play structure with the potential babysitter named, Brittany.
“Are you two ready to go?”
“No, we want to play with Brittany,” they responded in unison without even glancing at me.
Brittany flashed me an engaging smile and said, “They are adorable.”
Her compliment felt like a sign she was up for the challenge. My palms became damp with sweat and my stomach churned at the thought of asking a stranger if she wanted to watch my kids What if she said no? I salivated thinking about that kid free meal and how disappointed I would be if I couldn’t go. Or what if she said yes? I could barely handle them sometimes; I had my doubts that a teenager had the ability to keep twin toddlers safe.
“Um . . we were wondering . . . if . .you might . . want to babysit our kids sometime?”
She said yes! I almost hugged her. And then I began thinking of all the adult restaurants I missed going to for the past two years.
The first time she babysat, I was nervous. She was only sixteen years old. At that age, I didn’t know how fast a toddler could climb on furniture or that a kid could figure out how to open a safety latch. And I didn’t really know her. What if beneath her pleasant façade she was really an awful monster? As we left the house, I felt like I was going to vomit. Maybe we had made a terrible selfish mistake. My husband calmed me down and we ended up having a sensational kid free evening.
When we arrived home the house was spotless and the kids were asleep. I was astonished at her ability to do what often seemed impossible to me. So obviously I asked if she wanted to babysit again. Thankfully she said yes.
The next two years she watched the kids once a month. Despite the fact we ended up having another baby, she still was willing to babysit a newborn and twin three-year-olds. The moment the doorbell rang, they always spirited to her squealing with excitement knowing they would get to play with her. Often she brought a craft or activity for them to do. She made slime with them before it was a popular craze. She was like Mary Poppins minus the singing and dancing. Just like Mary Poppins, she had to leave when the wind changed. And also because she got into a really good college.
When it was time to say goodbye, the kids grabbed hold of her each of legs and said, “You can’t leave.” I considered grabbing on too. I was sure she would become engrossed with all that college had to offer and forget about us.
But I was wrong. She kept in touch, sending the kids cards and thoughtful gifts on their birthdays. She visited and also babysat during her breaks from school.
After she graduated from college, she got engaged. My three kids, ages twelve (the twins) and nine, were elated to be invited to their first wedding. A week before the big event she sent me a message asking, “After the ceremony we are going to take pictures with family members. The people who are not going to be in the pictures will take the bus to reception. I was hoping that all of you could stay for the family pictures.”
After wiping away the tears in my eyes I typed back, “We would be honored.”
Fear almost prevented us from having Brittany as an honorary family member. Taking a chance on a stranger helped us to be a happier couple and superior family.