Tuesday, May 10, 2011

About the babysitter

Mother's Day, 2011. Jack is enjoying some world-famous New Haven Pizza! (After suffering a major concussion the night before!)

We are so lucky: Jack is doing great. He was a little strange on Sunday* and a little sleepy on Monday, but he was perfectly Jack-like today. He is laughing and smiling and giggling and running as fast as he can behind the wheels of his walker-wagon. He is pointing and exclaiming "Duh! Duh duh duh!" at everything he sees. He can still find the doggie in the book. And for that degree of normality, for those constant indications of his good health and great cognitive function, we are very thankful.

*As best as I can tell, Jack had one killer of a headache. He kept reaching behind to the back of his skull. And he was confused. While snuggling against my arm on Sunday, he opened his mouth and bit me so hard that I can still count the toothmarks.

In case you wondered what was outside the frame of the other picture. Does that expression look familiar? Let me caption this emotion: immense, terrible fear

Several of you have asked about the babysitter. We've only actually left the house without Jack several times and have never had a stranger sit for us. Twice, Greg's parents watched him. Three times, our neighbor watched him. She is our babysitter; she is in her 50s, is a responsible landlord in the neighborhood, and has a grown child of her own. Once, she forgot to show up when she was supposed to. She missed the appointed time on a vitally important night, when I was throwing an engagement party for my best friend. I don't think the two issues -- forgetting to show up and tripping on our back porch steps -- are related, but the point of that is... things have been awkward with this woman for a variety of reasons and I have felt continued pressure to assure her that everything is just fine and that I'm not upset with her.

When Jack's accident first happened, I was not the slightest bit angry toward her. I felt sorry for her, because I knew how terrible she must feel inside. I knew she meant well.

Still, I doubted her judgement. She chose to take an infant out of the house for a walk at 8:30pm in near pitch black darkness. She utterly failed to communicate the seriousness of Jack's injury. Once I learned the height of his fall, before I knew that he was nearly unconscious, I had a sudden urge to rush him to the hospital: she did not. She let my baby pass out in her lap and misinterpreted it as "happily falling asleep". And then there was this email...

The day after the incident, she sent us this email telling us that in our "essential care of Jack", we ought to do something about the back steps. She described several reasons why the fall was not her fault. Those were not her words, and I am certain that transferring blame to us was not her conscious intent... but the subconscious motivation behind the email was obvious. She felt guilty. And she decided our back porch, with its 4 concrete steps, is a safety hazard that we are responsible for.

Truth is, she's right. We ARE responsible for the structure of the house, for what goes on in our own backyard, in the same way that I feel terribly, horribly responsible for Zane's death when he was hit by the car. This is why I didn't feel angry with her: accidents happen and her stumble happened on my property. Still, I was not the person speeding down Dwight and I was not the person to drop Jack on concrete and I think it show terrible, horrible judgement on her part to play the blame game just one day after Jack was in the hospital.

Now I'm pissed.

I have an inclination to send her an equally "helpful" email suggesting that in her "essential role as a responsible citizen" she might not want to ever lift or carry an infant again, given the possibility that she might trip and fall because the lighting is dim.

By the way, we've lived in this house for 7 years and none of our guests have ever had an issue with the four concrete steps, including drunk people.

Don't worry, I won't tell her that.

Truly, I don't ever want to see this woman again.

But she lives across the street from us and I've already seen her twice in two days.

My instinct says that I should simply ignore the email and not make any additional overtures. But, as Greg pointed out, this would leave the relationship sour and that's simply never a good idea.

So what do we do? What would you do? At the moment, I'm sitting on my hands. If there's one thing I've learned in life, it's that no good can come of "schooling" a person in appropriate behavior. I had and have no interest in laying blame about this incident, and I am upset that her remarks have made me think of what happened in terms of blame. I wish I could tell her that, but I can't.

Back to Jack. Thank god he's OK. He could have been killed by that kind of fall. I've learned a few lessons from this experience. If my child should ever hurt himself while I am away from home, I will know these things:
  1. Don't listen to the babysitter. Don't let her say anything about "normal" or "OK" or "seems fine". You know your baby. You know your baby better than anyone else in the world and you can never, ever rely on someone else's judgement to say whether he is healthy or not.
  2. Don't delay coming home if you have the inclination to come home. I shouldn't have waited the few minutes. I should have gone immediately.
  3. Don't feel any pressure to assume it will be OK. It might not be OK. Mama Bear is a phrase for a reason: my job is to protect this child and if that means making a babysitter feel bad by reacting externally in the same manner that I am reacting internally (*read, frantic with worry), I will do so without shame.

Let me reiterate. Jack's doing great. He reached two major milestones the day of the accident -- walking behind his walker wagon and pointing at objects in books -- and he's still doing both of those things. He is smart and happy and more bubbly than I ever imagined a baby could be. He's just fine.

I love Jack so much. I would do anything to protect him, and I try to take every precaution I can, but I know that's not enough. Accidents do happen. There will be more scary moments in the future. I just hope this was the worst*

*What if it isn't?


  1. I think you are right. Don't school her. But I think you are perfectly within your motherly rights to send her an email that simply states that you appreciate her follow-up on Jack, but please understand that this has been quite emotional for your husband and yourself and that you need some time to recover from this. This is a polite way of saying yes, I acknowledge your email, however I am still upset with you. This will help you from feeling the relationship is sour.

    Our baby sitter is young...she is only 20. I love her and think being young makes her really able to get down on the floor and play and just interact overall in a better manner than someone who is older. Perhaps you can find a younger baby sitter who does it because they really love Jack. (PS-ours folds our laundry when were gone....how can you not love that!)

    Glad to hear Jack is better. I told my husband the story when I got home after your post and his expression was probably what yours was when you found out! It's natural. We went through a lot to be parents and he is your prized possession!

  2. I can not imagine what you wre feeling. Seing jack in the cervical collar is hard for me and im not his mom. I think that woman has a lot of nerve emailimg you like that! Im so sorry. Hope he is feeling better! Hugs