I distinctly remember the first time I left our daughters with a babysitter who was not family. I wrote a 20-page doctrine on exactly how my children liked their frozen macaroni and cheese heated up. I also left every phone number I knew (including yours!), you know, just in case she needed to get a hold of my ex-step-uncle who is a nephrologist down in Texas. One never knows when a 2-year-old will need assistance in passing a kidney stone.
When I finally felt just a tiny bit confident that the teenager I had hired (who, the longer I stared at her, looked more and more like a girl I’d seen on Unsolved Mysteries) could take care of the girls, I kissed them, begged them not to cry as they ran into the backyard screaming something along the lines of “Momma’s gone!” and I left.
I sighed, grabbed my purse and retreated to my minivan. I sat in the driveway and tried to soothe my anger at my husband for having a work thing at the exact same time I had a doctor’s appointment. My mom and sister were out of town, so I couldn’t call them. After fifteen minutes of stewing about being forced to leave my child with this strange, honor society teenager we had only known for a few years, I put the minivan in reverse and backed out of the driveway.
I drove to the corner and called my doctor’s office. I rescheduled my appointment, agreeing to pay the $20 rescheduling fee. Immediately I felt completely silly for acting like such a nervous nelly. So, I put the minivan in park at sat the corner, with a clear view of my house, and waited for an hour to return home, using approximately five dollars worth of gasoline because I couldn’t be expected to not listen to the radio or have the air conditioning on.
Then, after my hour of sitting and staring, I returned home to relieve the babysitter and pay her for her time. That’s right, folks. I paid $25 dollars to sit in my minivan less than 100 yards from my home. When we drove the babysitter back to her house, my girls cried and told me they wanted me to go away more often.
You can’t put a price on that kind of betrayal.
As children do, my girls grew and it became easier to be away from them. I longed, sometimes, for a chance to just go sit in the solitude of my minivan. In what seemed like the blink of an eye, my girls went from needing babysitters (sometimes plural) to being babysitters.
“Can she babysit for me on Friday night?” my friend asked about my older daughter as if she were willing to trust my baby to stay at her home, alone, unsupervised.
I stammered my approval and then she texted my daughter and booked the gig. My baby was going to be in charge of someone else’s baby from 6 p.m. to midnight for a fee of $40 plus all the chips she could eat.
The same feelings I had those not-so-may years ago the first time I left her and her sister with a sitter came rushing back to me.
When they came to pick her up that evening, I armed my kid with a wealth of information: website to check for predators in the neighborhood, a poison-control handbook, a CD I got at a health fair about what to do when encountering blood-borne pathogens and Tipper Gore’s guide to family listening (a pamphlet leftover from college, but I felt like it might be timely). I also gave her all of the phone numbers she’d ever need (including yours, whoever you are).
And she was off. My husband and younger daughter were caught up in some Netflix marathon or whatever and I felt too antsy to just sit on the couch. I grabbed the keys to my trusty minivan, mumbled a “see ya soon” and took off for a drive.
I recollected the days when I longed for the solitude and autonomy to choose my own radio station. And now it seemed as if my daughters were ready to fly from my nest. Tonight she was babysitting. Tomorrow, she could be backpacking across Europe “finding herself” and eating exotic foods.
In no time at all, she’d be emailing me from college telling me she’d found the love of her life and would be making a run for the White House. In the blink of an eye, she’d have her own family, her own children, her own minivan, her own babysitter.
But for now, she could still be my baby, and if she needed me, I’d be there for her. In fact, I could be there quickly because I was sitting in my van just down the street from her babysitting job.
Heather Davis is a momma, a writer and a stalker. She’s the author of several humor books, all found on Amazon.com. You can reach her at email@example.com.