All Strung out

We tumble into the house after school and greet the new potential babysitter. Hopefully in one hour from now, we shall have found our perfect match in return for the three hour minimum charge.

Our extra play date victim introduces herself, “Hi I’m Felicity, I’m here all the time so you’re gonna have to get to know me too.” I blink as I think. I sincerely hope this is wishful thinking rather her future reality. My own children are otherwise immediately occupied with dogs and cats and Nonna.

I interview and brief the babysitter by modeling. She stands by the kitchen door as we exchange information. Homework is on hold whilst I juggle. I juggle snacks, enquiries and queries from the five humans in my care, the usual blur of activity.

My daughter brings Thatcher back into the house after a frolic in the garden and talks to him as she towels him dry, “poor ickle wickle puppy is frozen cold.” Immediately we have a dose of the usual, a piercing scream of horror from my youngest as he hurls himself to the floor in a reverie of agony, “oh no! My dog is froze. I don wan a popsicle dog.” I glance at the baby sitter, “did I mention that he’s rather………er…….highly strung?” I scoop him up as there is no point in talking to the literal, far better to offer him the evidence of his own eyes. The eyes of the baby sitter are no longer glazed but gleam, with a slight tincture of alarm. I park him vertically, in front of Thatcher who pants and scratches and shows every degree of being alive and well. Poging, of the gleeful variety, overtakes him as he throws his arms around the furry neck, “ooo my own twoo dog, you are be alive!” he coos in the most beguiling of tones.

After 45 minutes in our company, I sign the papers to release the babysitter. I watch as she skuttles down the path, without so much as a backwards glance.

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The Green eyed monster

I have been resentful of Americans for far longer than is strictly necessary. Foreigners often have a long list of complaints about their fellows but mine were quite narrowly tailored. I was jealous that everyone had family and friends for support, encouragement and far more importantly, baby sitting duties. I was so caught up in my own particular mire that I completely failed to notice some fundamentally simple principles.

To read more click “here.”

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Autistic children seldom lie


It’s one of those “Theory of Mind” hic-cups. Some prefer to call is guileless or innocence. They don’t dissemble or sugar coat the truth. What you see is what you get, quite refreshing in some respects. It’s one of those developmental milestones that some children never reach.

I grit my teeth and book the Respite worker for the three hour minimum. Every thing has been planned with careful precision. The parent teacher conference is only half an hour. Superior being that I am, I cannot be in two places at one time. The babysitter will come 45 minutes early, 30 minutes to become familiar [ish] and 15 minutes to allow me to drive to school. 30 minutes conference, 15 minutes home. One and a half hours work for three hours pay. This is the kind of job I want.

I brief her. My only requirement is that homework is completed whilst I'm away. I resolve that I shall prompt them through the other complex chores myself on return, or if really desperate, do them myself.

I spend a blissfully peaceful time in the conference room, quietly discussing the why's and wherefores of my daughter's education. It is a civilized meeting between grown up people with no distractions or interruptions, which roughly translates to a day at a Health Spa, or so I would imagine.

I emerge from the classroom refreshed and energized. I begin to think evil thoughts. Maybe I could use the additional hour and a half in a productive manner, child free? I remember that there are only a few short weeks until the Holidays and as yet we are without Holiday gifts of any kind. This is the price you pay for bad genes. I know it's hereditary because my own mother was born in December. The DNA is undeniable, February is a bad month for us McEwen's. Hence, 40 weeks later, another December birth day. Once might be accidental, but twice has to be the gene pool. It is only now after all three December birthday celebrations that I can turn my attention to the Holidays.

I dither. Is Holiday shopping a pleasure or merely additional persecution? Am I the only person on the planet who is allergic to shopping?

I calculate using my super brain. Twenty minutes to drive to Target and park or abandon car. Allow twenty minutes for the return journey. Maybe 30 minutes to allow for the commuting traffic and red lights. Thirty minutes to bimble around the shop with ten minutes to queue, pay and pack. Perfect!

I telephone the baby sitter to check that I am not inconveniencing her? All is well. I am granted permission to shop. I jump in the car ready to complete my quest. As I drive I contemplate how calm the baby sitter sounded, how peaceful and quiet my household was without me. I determine that I just might have found a gem, a super human being capable of child management without the aid of earplugs? I bite my lip. Is this woman the answer to my prayers? I hum, because I am alone, “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth or one good Respite worker.”

I trundle around the shop with my trusty trolly. For some unaccountable reason there appears to be crowd of people with similar plans to me. I wade through the treacle of bodies who block my view of all my potential purchases. Today's shoppers have left their GPS devices at home, which means that they mill about willy nilly and far too slowly. I am certain that they hide all the really good things that I ought to be buying.

I head for home with only a few gifts under my belt but at least I have made a start.

I hide my meager purchases in the boot of the car for later retrieval and trundle into the house with empty hands. The baby sitter greets me amiably in the kitchen. It is very quiet. It is very quiet because all three of my children are plugged into their electronic devices at an exceedingly early hour of the afternoon. There is no evidence that their chores, to assemble their packed lunches and choose their clothes for tomorrow, have been completed.

I decide to complete the paper work with the Respite worker first and then attend to my children's needs, as I don't wish to delay her departure. At the dining room table I clear a space between the homework binders to complete forms and sign on the dotted line. I flip open a binder to see several untouched worksheets. “Oh dear! Haven't they done their homework!” I squeak as I check the other folders. “No. No homework,” she beams.
“How come they haven't done their homework?” I clarify, just in case I have inadvertently switched to Swahili.
“I ask him.”
“What did you ask him?”
“I ask him if he has homework?”
“You asked him, a seven year old?”
“Really. And what did he say?” Go on! Surprise me why dontcha!
“He said no.”

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Goldilocks, don’t let the bears win

I ensure that I have a full hour to devote to the babysitter prior to our departure. This enables me to run over the rules and remind her of where everything is. I am determined that this shall be a successful relationship for all of us.

“So there’s just one last thing that I wanted to draw your attention to.”
“The boys sleep in the same room in separate beds. She’s next door in her own bed. Both the boys wear pull-ups and I’ve left them here on the side for you.”
“O.k. No problem.”
“Great, it’s just that a while back we came home to find that they were all in the same bed. The boys didn’t have pull ups on which meant we had to give everyone a bath and change the sheets, which wasn’t much fun at 11 at night, if you know what I mean?”
“How did that happen?”
“I’m really not sure, but they managed to convince the sitter that they all slept in the same bed and that they didn’t need pull-ups!”
“How strange! Did you tell the sitter that they slept in separate beds and that the boys wear pull-ups?” I look at her for a moment, uncertain how to proceed.
“You know to tell the truth, I showed her the bedrooms and the beds and the pull ups, but I can’t be certain that I made myself understood. That’s why I’m telling you now, just so that there can’t be any misunderstandings.” I smile, in what I hope is a warm and sincere manner.
“Well, you know, everyone knows that boys and girls don’t sleep in the same bed!” This was not the response I was expecting. We live in the Western world, where it is less common for children to share a bed. There are three children and three beds. Is it wise to leave an adult in charge who has no matching skills?

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