by Nancy Hellekson
Good babysitters are hard to find. I remember the days I struggled to find a babysitter. Then when I did find one, there were issues. Not little issues, BIG issues.
I was excited to have Ralph, a teenage boy, babysit my five- and seven-year-olds. He lived around the corner and could walk to my house. Driving wouldn’t be an issue. In addition, he was a boy. I thought my kids would have fun with him.
The day Ralph was to babysit, I coincidently purchased the book Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle. At the time, it was an excellent book to introduce young children to the facts of life. It was full of cute illustrations and rhyming verse. I had planned on cuddling on the sofa with my kids and reading it to them.
Everything seemed to go fine with Ralph that night. He arrived on time, was polite, and the kids seem to like him.
It wasn’t until the next morning that I heard my children spouting phrases from Where Did I Come From? like: “Vagina rhymes with Carolina.” I was shocked. Ralph had obviously found the book in the house and read it cover to cover to my children! Besides being outraged, I was disappointed that I didn’t have the opportunity, as their mother, to introduce this delicate subject to them.
That’s not the end of this story! A short time later, I found that he had been caught looking in neighbors’ windows! Not only was he a stealer of stories, he was also a Peeping Tom!
When my children were younger, two and four, I had hired Betsy, a sweet 14-year-old, who I thought would be good. She needed transportation, but was only five-minute drive away.
I don’t know where my husband and I went that night, but we were home early, by 10 p.m. We opened the front door and found Betsy out cold on the sofa. We had trouble waking her. Finally, a bit groggy, she woke up and my husband drove her home.
As I was getting ready for bed, I went into the bathroom and found an opened bottle of nail polish remover on the counter. I freaked out and woke up both children. I grilled them both as to who had opened the bottle and did they drink any. Both denied knowing anything about the bottle.
Once I was convinced they were alright, I called Betsy, the sitter. When I questioned her about the nail polish remover, she said, “Your daughter was in the bathroom for a long time. She must have been playing with it.” Well, I knew my children and there is no way my youngest could have climbed on top of the toilet, opened the cabinet, put the bottle on the counter, and unscrewed it—without creating a huge mess.
The next day I called Betsy’s mother, who happened to be a drug counselor. I told her that I suspected her daughter was sniffing nail polish remover at my house. She vehemently denied that her daughter would do such a thing and slammed down the phone.
A year later, I heard that Betsy was having some serious drug problems. I didn’t want to gloat and say— “I told you so. You should have listened to me.” I wouldn’t wish that on any parent. But I did have a quiet moment of schadenfreude.
I finally found a good reliable babysitter, but I failed her. Beth was a shy and sweet 16-year-old who took good care of my babies. She was not attractive and never dated, so she was usually available.
One day she came to the house and asked if she could speak to me. I was a bit surprised—why would she want to speak with me? After the usual small talk, she started to talk about her sexuality. She was trying to come out to me, and I kept trying to put her back in the closet.
I told her that her thoughts were not unusual and not to worry. I should have listened more and supported her. A couple of years later, she found a girlfriend. I’m sure it was a difficult time for her. This was the 70s, people still wanted to believe that only men and women had sex with each other. She never came over again to talk with me. She needed support at a pivotal time in her life and I wasn’t there.
These are three babysitters that stick out in my mind. I’m sure all the other ones were too normal to remember. But I do remember that when someone would ask me for the name of a babysitter, I would come up blank.