The bare bones of this post were written in the aftermath of a particularly frustrating evening of babysitting. And was then fleshed out and edited in the wake of a completely different disaster that was still related to babysitting. So call it something of a rant, but also a confession, and a prayer.
The Scenario: Your basic evening babysitting. Parents have to go out for an evening, so my job is dinner, bath, and eventually bedtime. In this instance, we have two children between the ages of 2 and 5 who I have babysat before. They share a room.
What I Did Correctly: I got the younger one to bed by following the routine. I read stories, played calm games, and got the older kid as ready for bed as possible without actually getting him in bed. When the trouble started, I made it clear that “the toys were asleep” so he could sit there bored or go to bed.
What He Did: He kept talking when I told him to be quiet, which made his younger sibling get more than a little hyper when I was trying to get her in bed. He refused to go to bed.
The Unforeseen Problems: I had nothing available to motivate him to go to bed. I couldn’t just put him in bed and make him stay there because he was still making noise and would have woken up his younger sibling. He refused to abide by the terms of our agreement/the-usual-bedtime-routine ( “I’ll read you two stories and then we go upstairs”).
My Mistakes: I fell to bargaining when at a loss for consequences that could propel him to bed, which put me in a vulnerable negotiating position (as in, any negotiating position at all). I got a little worked up and it came out in my demeanor, which probably helped him think he could just keep pushing my buttons until he got what he wanted. I never actually found anything to get him to go to bed.
My Failure: He was still up when his mother arrived home. Luckily this wasn’t too late, but it was still embarrassing to have failed so utterly.
At the time, I was willing to blame the kid for all and sundry. (And he was being kind of a brat this particular evening.) But it wasn’t just him. Looking back, I lost the situation when I got frustrated, and I got frustrated really easily because I wanted him to go to bed so I could goof for a half hour (or however long it would have been). He wanted his mom, I wanted reading time, and the latter pales in comparison to the former. Never mind that he knew perfectly well that she would be back, I let my own needs supersede his, and that’s not my job. As the babysitter, I was supposed to take care of him. If I focused more on that, maybe I would have been able to do my job to the best of my abilities.
If I’d gone back five minutes later, I would have reacted badly. As it was, next time I babysat we played together normally, and that was it. And I had a really good reminder that it’s not about me, it’s about the kids and taking care of them.
(But you better believe he wasn’t allowed to be in the room when I put little sister down for a nap. Prove you can be a responsible, quiet big brother and then you get to help.)