This post was written by Andy Hinds. Photo credit: family mwr/Flickr.
There are very few enterprises I've been involved in where I haven't been nagged by the fear that I'll be exposed as a fraud. You might think this is simply due to a lack of confidence on my part, and you would be partially right. But that lack of confidence is born, to some extent, of a healthy respect for reality.
I never had this lack of confidence until I started being placed in positions of authority. Whenever I was the low man on the totem pole, I was pretty sure that I was way smarter and more competent than my employers, or teachers, or parents. But as soon as I was allowed to boss someone else around, I got a little panicky.
The first time I remember being given authority over others was when I filled in a couple times for a friend who had a regular babysitting gig with two little boys, about 3 and 5 years old.
I was 13 years old, had never babysat before, hadn't had any younger siblings, and, really, couldn't have been any less qualified for the job. I had had no first aid training, no child development classes under my belt, and didn't even know who to call if one of the kids choked on a hot dog. I don't know if the Heimlich Maneuver had even been invented yet, and I'm pretty sure there was no such thing as 911.
There was no briefing on safety procedures before the parents left me alone with these boys: just a chat about what they (and I) were allowed to eat during the evening, and when I was supposed to try and get them to bed.
The first thing that strikes me, looking back on this experience, is that by today's standards, these parents would have been considered borderline negligent. My friend who I was filling in for was a very sketchy character who couldn't even keep it together to attend a regular high school. And I was taking care of their kids based soley on his recommendation. These days, parents are expected to do extensive background checks on babysitters, and the sitters are expected to have actual training and expertise in their line of work.
But the other thing I remember was thinking, there's no way these kids are going to do what I tell them--they know I have no idea what I'm doing. And I was pretty much correct in that assumption. Bedtimes were flouted, sugary snacks consumed with abandon, teeth left unbrushed, and inappropriate TV programs enjoyed by all.
In the thirty years since my brief babysitting career, I've been a foreman on construction crews, a ski instructor, and an English teacher; and in each of those jobs, I have sometimes felt like my underlings could see right through me.
But oddly, as the primary caregiver to 2-year old twins, certainly the most high-stakes job I've ever held, I haven't felt that old self-doubt very much. Not that I always feel like I know exactly what I'm doing--far from it. I just haven't worried that I'll be exposed. My kids certainly don't know any better, and I'm lucky in that they're a little reserved and shy in public, which makes people wrongly assume that I have them under control.
But the doubt is creeping up on me now, not because my kids are wising up to the old man's shortcomings; but because we're about to leave them with a non-family babysitter for the first time ever.
I know, I know--they should be totally accustomed to having a sitter by now, and my wife and I should get out of the house more often. We've been dragging our feet in this regard, mostly because it's easier and cheaper to stay at home than to worry about getting someone to watch the kids; but also because we haven't done the research required for hiring a trustworthy sitter.
But thankfully, our friends have. We're borrowing their fully vetted and beloved nanny for a day while I attend a conference. I don't have any anxiety about how responsible and knowledgeable this young lady is, and I'm absolutely comfortable with her looking after our kids. Our girls have met her a number of times, and I'll be home for the first few hours of her visit, so they shouldn't have much trouble warming up to her. I'm much more relaxed about this milestone than I ever thought I would be.
Except for one niggling tug of self-consciousness. Perhaps not surprisingly, I'm a little worried that the babysitter, of whom I should be the boss, will be judging my shoddy parenting. After all, even at her tender age, she has had a lot more experience with children than I have. She knows exactly where they should be developmentally and socially, whereas I just kind of eyeball that stuff. She knows how to play all kinds of educational games with the kids, and I just read books and talk to them. She knows which exercises will help hone the physical skills that they should be developing, and I just let them run around at the playground. And I'm a little concerned that my kids will drop a dime on my haphazard methods when they sing their ABC/Happy Birthday medley, or enthusiastically count in their own secret sequence: 1,2,3,7,8,11.
Overall though, I'm feeling pretty positive about the impending babysitter experience. It will be good for the kids to start getting used to being in the care of other adults, and they may actually learn some things that they would never pick up from Dad. And no matter what the babysitter thinks of my parenting skills, I know that I'm doing a better job than those folks that hired me to watch their kids lo those many years ago.
Read more about the modern state of parenting on TLC's Parentables.Top Posts about BabysittingHow to Find a Good BabysitterBabysitter Bots on the Horizon?Do You Trust Your Babysitter to Feed Your Child?