The sitters of summer have officially fled, heading back to their autumnal fields of academia or, having earned their degrees, moved on to careers, graduate school or better ways of paying off their student loans. This means that if my husband and I want to leave the house—together—that it’s time to introduce a new batch of baby sitters to the ways of our family. Since I find it so hard to brush my teeth while writing out emergency contact numbers, I’ve planned ahead and created this little tip sheet. Feel free to modify this to suit your own needs.
Dear New Baby Sitter,
First of all welcome to our house. You are now responsible for the most important things in our lives so we hope you don’t screw up. As parents, we prefer to do that ourselves.
You may notice upon your arrival that we have a rather large golden retriever named Gilbert. He loves people and synthetic fiber, particularly North Face jackets. Because you’re in college, I assume you are wearing one. I recommend you keep it on a hanger.
You’ll also notice a small aquarium in our den. Yes, that’s a goldfish near the top of the water. Yes it is dead.
Moving on to the children, I think you’ll find them extremely helpful especially if you need the Wi-Fi password. Our youngest, in fact, has been known to hop on secure systems in Panera’s all over the country. Just give her an M&M cookie and an Ipad and you’re good to go.
Speaking of the Internet, it’s OK to let the four year old do a few computer games. When she asks you to help her get to “PBSKIDS-DOT-ORG” you’ll probably have no trouble. If she says, “No, no, the other PBS KIDS,” she means Nick Jr. and when she gets a bit peeved and says, “NO! The other PBS KIDS!” she means the Disney Jr. site, preferably a Doc McStuffins game. At some point my husband and I will explain to her the difference between public broadcasting and commercial television but we’re waiting for the congressional go-ahead.
The seven year old will probably want to play dress up. She has permission to use my old high heels because, first of all, she can walk better than I can in them, and second, they go with everything.
If there’s time and the weather’s good you can take everyone out in the backyard. The kids might play a little game they call “family” in which they pretend to be in the same family. I know it’s kind of funny, given that they are in fact in the same family, but I like to think of it as non-inventive creativity.
Dinner is prepared in the fridge. There’s one plate with a hot dog, cheese stick and some strawberries and another with a fillet of salmon teriyaki, steamed broccoli and organic rice pilaf. The kids will let you know who gets what. For the record, I love them equally; the hot dogs are nitrate free.
Help yourself to anything in the kitchen. I didn’t have time to go to the grocery store, but did just get back from our CSA. I’ve got at least 5 lbs of beets and 3 really dirty looking garlic bulbs in there. I know how boring dorm food can get so dig in!
When it’s time for bedtime, I’d recommend you recalibrate your expectations because it will probably not go well. I don’t want to make you think that’s it’s going to go badly, and I assume you’re not one to easily cry, but just know that it’s entirely possible for it to be one of the longer periods of the evening. Stay hydrated and you should be fine.
If the youngest wakes up and says she’s scared, you may have to turn off the nightlight. It can actually produce a shadow that bothers her. If she says she thinks Maleficent is in her closet, reassure her and then double check that her older sister hasn’t decided to try to terrify her.
Speaking of which, it probably goes without saying that even if you know the entire story of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horsemen by heart, don’t recite it at bedtime. Stay clear of discussions of the Russian Revolution, Rasputin and any animated film version of Anastasia.
No candles, camp fires or scientific experiments. Don’t open the door, unless it’s us.
And if you have any problems just send me a text. I’m still a bit new to it, so I may reply with complete sentences and use standard spelling. I’m getting better at it “tho”.
Well, that’s it for now. You can see we’re a pretty typical family. And we're really glad you're here.
This is the latest in the series, Tips the Parenting Magazines Won't Tell You, an occassional satire.