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Saga of the Babysitter Search: A Horror Story

If you have young children, chances are you've had to live through your own version of this tale.

It was a dark and stormy night. The handsome captain lit another candle and shuttered the window blown open by the wild wind outside. His wife, the fair maiden, felt the chill and pulled her shawl tight around her slender shoulders.
"I am scared," she whispered.

Trying not to show his own fear, the captain stood a little taller. "It will be fine. We shall meet them at the pub, and hurry home well before midnight."
Still unable to hide her trembling voice, quivering with dread, she looked at him, and asked: "But who's going to watch the kids?"

S-C-R-E-E-E-E-A-A-A-M!!!

Sounds like one of those old B-movie horror films, only this one plays out for real in many Fairfield County households every time parents' plans require a babysitter. And trust me, we've lived through many babysitting horror stories of our own.

There was the one time my husband and I enjoyed a late night out with friends. While I drove the teenaged babysitter home afterward, she told me everything had gone great. When I returned, my husband asked if, during our ride, the sitter had mentioned why our bathroom wastebaskets were filled to the brim with blood-soaked tissues.  

I had no qualms about calling the girl, waking her parents in the process, to find out if one of my children had somehow been severely injured in her care. Why hadn't she thought to mention the bloodbath she left in her wake? Turns out it had only been her own nosebleed, a difficult one to stop at that.

Actually, it seems like blood and babysitters go hand in hand at my house. There was another babysitter who had a particularly feminine problem for the first time while working for us one night, but must not have realized it. We had to have the slipcovers dry-cleaned, the hallway wood floors sanitized and the car detailed as a result.

And while no blood was shed by a third babysitter, she did manage to break my daughter's brand new 'big-girl bed' when she sat on it to read a bedtime story. Must have been a heavy story.

All that considered, it almost makes you want to stay in permanently.  

But then I remind myself that I'm actually an adult, one who likes to socialize with her friends, see movies, eat in places with tablecloths and not-so-fast food, and — oh yeah — spend time with just my husband on occasion. So I need to get over my fear.

Leaving your children in someone else's care can be harrowing for many reasons, but one of the most difficult parts is the prep work required in finding an appropriate sitter, and then hanging on to them.

Like many, we're trying to economize, so there's no full-time nanny or au pair to pitch in. We've set our sights on hiring teens from the local high school. Alas, there are few, if any, in our neighborhood. So we've had to creatively expand the search.  

My kids once took a French class at the local library, here in Wilton. Naturally, I then asked the Wilton High French Honors Society girls helping out if they did babysitting.

I'm stereotyping here, but on the theory that the girls involved in band and drama are smart, reliable and good students, I tried to track them down too. When I saw a woman I didn't know at Stop & Shop buying a cake for the cast party of the high school play, I rolled my shopping cart over to ask if her daughter could sit. 

And I hired a 12-year-old recommended by a friend when I learned her qualifications consisted of taking the babysitting class at the Wilton Y. Crazy? Maybe. Desperate and pushy? Probably. But a mom's gotta do what a mom's gotta do if she wants a date night with her husband.

Heaven forbid that date night falls on Wilton High School's homecoming weekend, either. That happens and you're out of luck. And with New Year's Eve fast approaching, you're likely already too late if you didn't book in June with the offer to pay double.  

Speaking of paying double, what's the going rate? You tell me what you pay, maybe I'll tell you what I pay. I'd hate to be outbid.

In the end, like the captain and his fair-maiden wife, we usually rise to the occasion, face our fears, and live to see the dawn of a new day, having weathered the babysitting storm.  

That is, at least, until it's time for the sequel…

ts October 29, 2011 at 12:32 PM
I don't know about Wilton, but Brookfield's Park and Rec had a list they kept in the office of all the kids who took the babysitting class and their specifications, including pet sitting. It was the best thing since sliced bread.
Steven DeVaux October 29, 2011 at 01:09 PM
Go to care.com. They are also insured and bonded unlike Brookfield's Park and Rec. Trust you child only to a competent adult capable of making critical life and death decisions in the event that one time, a bee sting, allergic reaction etc that they are needed. All our children are worth paying a little more to make them a lot more safe, don't you thing?

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