It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Thanks, but…

questionExclamationMarksI have a doctor’s appointment coming up. Aiming to make everyone’s lives as smooth as possible, I schedule these things during naptime. If all goes well, I can leave and return, and no one any the wiser.

I have a friend, who, left at home alone for the first time with his newborn daughter, decided to work on a household project while she napped. Partway through the project, he realized he needed some item from the hardware store (OF COURSE. When does this NOT happen in a household project??) and he popped out to get it.

It was only when he was standing in the check-out line a few minutes later that the truth hit him like an icy sledgehammer, right in the pit of his stomach.

He was a father. He had a baby now. A baby which was at home.


I imagine his adrenaline rush was akin to the one I got when I wandered into the dining room from the kitchen and discovered that, in the intervening 84 seconds, my 3-month-old, non-crawling baby son had VANISHED! He’d been RIGHT THERE in the middle of the floor when I went into the kitchen.

The mind does funny things. As I stood there, scanning the (HOW CAN IT BE???) EMPTY dining room, the thought raced through my mind, “SOMEBODY SNUCK INTO MY HOME AND STOLE MY BABY!” In 84 seconds! While I was standing in the kitchen, from which I could see the front door, and from which the back door opened. But someone had SNUCK IN! Because, really. How else could he have VANISHED?? In 84 seconds? When he couldn’t crawl???

For about .94 seconds, I was CONVINCED that was what happened. And then I got slightly more rational.

He couldn’t crawl, see, but he could, by dint of lifting his torso up off the floor on his two pudgy hands, propel himself backward. I saw the glinting trail of drool and tracked the boy down, under the sideboard, covered in dustballs but otherwise unharmed. HE was fine. But, oh! My heart!

(You can see why my hardware-hunting friend reminded me of that story…) So, he got home, the baby was still sleeping, his wife was still out. No harm done, except perhaps the birth of his first half-dozen parental grey hairs. (His wife was not told this story until their second child was a toddler and everyone was thoroughly convinced of his parental competence…)

But me, I’m not like that. I am sneaking out during naptime, yes, but I have back-up!!

Emma will be tending to the tots. And, because I have a full house this week, just to be sure, I’ve hired another teen to come in for a three-hour window. (I expect to be gone an hour and a half.) So there will be two of them — AND I have the parents of the other teen (who live across the street, a teacher, off for the summer, and her police-officer husband) on the alert as back-ups to my back-up.

But really? All those back-ups and back-ups to back-ups? That’s just for optics, for parental reassurance. Emma, who is sixteen now, who grew up in a daycare… Emma, who has been babysitting for five years, who can manage four or five toddlers with aplomb, who tames tantrums, organizes food, kisses bo-bo’s and bundles babies with the best of them… Emma does not need back-up.

But she has it. Two layers of it. Because I am a professional, and because I am careful and cautious of the parents’ feelings.

So I lay this all out to the parents. Four sets of parents nod their heads. Sounds great. One set, parents of a 16-month-old, has the teeniest of reservations. After talking it over, they decide that they will arrange their schedules so that, if required, Emma can call on dad to come over and help out.

Which is very lovely, sweet and neurotic kind of them. A back-up for the back-ups of my back-up… Just to be sure! Because you never know!!!

It was kindly meant, and I took it in just that spirit. But you will forgive me if (privately, when they were safely gone home) I snickered just a little. Because you never know… when someone with ten (20? 30?) times the experience mightn’t need a little assistance… from a novice.


August 12, 2009 - Posted by | daycare, health and safety, my kids, parents |


  1. In my street, there’s a mother and a set of grandparents who will leave a small child in bed while picking up another from the school at the end of the street. They are probably out of the house for about twenty minutes, sometimes more. I just don’t get that.

    (I realise your story was not about that, the hardware story just reminded me of it.)

    That’s a frighteningly long time. I suspect that would be illegal here (“child abandonment” or some such); I wonder if there’s a law against it there?

    Comment by Mwa | August 12, 2009 | Reply

    • I’m sure there is here as well. Doesn’t bear thinking about what could happen. My mother saw a whole house go up in flames in about five minutes once. We live in terraced housing. I rest my case.

      Exactly. The possibilities of what could go wrong are just so many, and so many of them tragic… the inconvenience of taking the children with you just doesn’t outweigh the risk of leaving them behind.

      Comment by Mwa | August 13, 2009 | Reply

  2. I too have ‘backups’ for when I need to run an errand while a child is napping. Great idea! 🙂

    No matter if it’s 2 minutes…5 minutes..10 minutes, etc..a child should never be alone.

    I see it done all the time in my apartments. I don’t get it either.

    I find that shocking. I am, in fact, more careful with the daycare tots than I ever was with my own children, but even with my own… never. Just didn’t happen. Even when I was a single mom, I had a housemate (another single mom) in part to share the bills, but also so that I had backup.

    Comment by ~S~ | August 13, 2009 | Reply

  3. Sounds like you had it more than covered : )

    I once had to scoop my jaw off the floor when during an interview the Mom asked me how I would handle picking up schoolagers after school. She wanted to know if I left the little ones home sleeping, while going to get the older ones. My wide eyed “HUH?” expression led her to elaborate that for the last year when picking her oldest up from school she walked part of the way home with providers who routinely did this. Not knowing how friendly she was with these ladies I stammered something like “Umm I’m not comfortable leaving them here alone EVER, and ugh I’m PRETTY sure we are NOT supposed to do that.”

    WAY too many “What ifs”

    Totally agree. This is why I don’t generally take school-agers, precisely because I’d have to drag the little ones out to bus stops. It’s pain. Occasionally the parent can arrange that the child’s bus drop them right at my door, or for an older child to walk them to me.

    For the 12 or 13 years I’ve been giving care, I’ve seen those as my options: 1. get the parents to arrange that the children be dropped off to me, or 2. don’t take school-age children. The thought of option number three, that I could leave the little ones unattended to go to the bus stop has never once even OCCURRED to me. Ye gods.

    Comment by Julie | August 13, 2009 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: