Thursday, April 28, 2011

Does Your Child Babysit?

How much do you know about the babysitting jobs that your teens take on? 
Many parents seem to be very careful when it comes to monitoring where their kids go for social outings.  I know many parents who ask (and double check), "Who will be there? Are parents supervising? Who will be driving?" But many of these same cautious parents will let teens baby-sit without really knowing anything about the family.

Here is a story that I read recently:
When I baby-sat as a teen I was exposed to way more than I should have been. One mom told me all the details of her husband's affairs, down to specific things she knew that he had been doing (things I knew nothing about at the time). She viewed me as a confidant. 
Another family had very inappropriate magazines in different parts of the house.  It seemed to be everywhere --  including the baby's changing table. And, I am not referring to images that are considered mild by today's popular culture, either; it was pretty hard stuff. You would never have known it to look at them; they were a short, chubby couple that seemed very prim and proper.  I got away from it as fast as I could, but I certainly saw it.

Here is another experience I read about recently:

It was a Friday night in August 1984. I had put the baby down for the night and around 10pm or so, the door opened and in the husband came to the house. I was surprised that he came home from his trip early and he began to share with me that he never had a trip.  He had planned this whole event out and had just come home from a bar to spend the night with me. (I wasn't quite sure what he meant by that...I would soon find out). 
He asked me to make us something to drink so I went to the kitchen to get 2 cups and some ice. He came into the kitchen and told me that I never gave him anything for his birthday. He had turned 29. I asked him what he wanted, he said a kiss would do.  I was uncomfortable at this point and did not know what I should do. I kissed him on the cheek and thought that would be wasn't.
Two things stand out at me from her story.  
1) she knew something was wrong before he actually attacked her
2) but she didn't leave. She obeyed what he told her to do.

This is quite normal; she was a young teen, and he was an adult man.

We have to teach our girls and boys that when they feel uncomfortable, they should leave. Give them a cell phone so they can immediately call Mom.   
In such circumstances IT IS OK to lie.
And, it is OK to err on the side of caution. So what if you hurt someone's feelings -- if that "this isn't right" feeling hits you or even nudges at you - GET AWAY!
Arm them with the words to use. Practice the "polite" QUICK get-away and the impolite QUICK get-away.
My Mom set up this strategy with me and I have done the same with my children.

I think that we should stress that an impolite get-away is OK and even admirable when they feel that uncomfortable feeling. Practice!
"My head is hurting really bad and I need to get home."

"I have been feeling so sick. I think I am going to throw up (again)."

"My Mom told me to check in every half hour - I have to call her. You don't know my Mom - she called the police when my sister didn't check in and the police showed up at the door where she was babysitting! I would be so embarrassed!"
(Then when you call home - if things have escalated or you feel trapped or are in trouble use a code word that means, BIG TROUBLE come NOW).

We have 2 code words: One means: make an excuse for me now because I can't get out of an embarrassing or unwanted situation.  The other means: "cannot talk, I'm in trouble, CALL POLICE."

If they feel uncomfortable, it's for a reason. They do not have to comply with what an adult says--even a female adult--if it seems somehow wrong.

The blog author at To Love, Honor and Vacuum suggests that:
"[If this situation] had happened in the cell phone era, and the babysitter had said to the adult man, "I'm just going to text my mom and tell her you're home and you want to have a drink with me," it's unlikely anything else would have happened. He would have known that he'd be found out. He would have known he couldn't intimidate her. Cell phones can be big safety nets.
I think that a young girl might feel that is too confrontational and embarrassing a response.  Thinking back on my teenage years -- I would not have said such a thing to an adult. I would have been intimidated. That strategy might have kept me playing along and hoping for the best -- hoping that my weird feeling was unfounded.
If my feeling was "spot on"~~~>  how would I fend off an attack that might come because he knew I was catching on? What would I do if I created a situation where he then tried to prevent me from calling my Mom or get away?
If I was incorrect (which, in the back of my mind I would have suspected was the case) ~~~> I would be mortified by his embarrassment when he "realized" what I was inferring.
In a situation like this an innocent young girl (or boy) might feel that the dad is nice man and their weird feeling is unfounded.
The important thing is to recognize that feeling and act on it. 

"I'm glad you are home early. I have a terrible headache and my Mom was headed over with some Tylenol. I'll just text/call her and tell her you're home and not to worry about the Tylenol." Then she could text or call and use the code word for get-me-outta-here-now. Danger, Danger Will Robinson!
1) You have set the premise that someone is on their way.
2) You have set the stage for a call to Mom

Unfortunately, in that particular story the babysitter's folks were alcoholics and no one seemed to know or care where she was.
But, if you are reading this article I am going to take a huge leap of faith here and assume you CARE and want to PREPARE your children to protect themselves.

We can't expect our children to handle these things alone, without us. The problem with young teens is that sometimes they feel something's wrong but they can't explain WHY it's wrong. They're too naive and too confused. So, if they get into a conversation with the guy about it, they'll lose. So tell them, "don't talk about it. If you feel uncomfortable, phone to leave and we'll pick you up."

The second thing that struck me is that, after it was obviously dangerous, she still didn't run. She felt so ashamed and so scared she didn't get out of there. Our kids need to know that we will NEVER be angry at them if they take steps to protect themselves. And no matter where they are, they should always ask themselves, "where would I go if I had to get out in a hurry?" I do this naturally now whenever I enter a new store, home, or building. I always plan an escape route. It doesn't scare me anymore; it just has become natural, and I always do it. Teach your girls and boys to do it, too. If you feel uncomfortable, or if you're in danger, know how you're going to get out before it becomes an issue.

We can't protect our kids all the time, and baby-sitting can be a good job for teenagers on the whole. But let's remember that we never really know what goes on inside a house. Arm your kids with protection, in the form of cell phones, great advice, and warnings. Let them know they're allowed to say no.  And then just pray hard! It's a scary world out there, but we can help make it a little safer!

This post consists of heavily edited excerpts from an article found at, To Love, Honor and Vacuum.  
I edited much of the article to use less specific words and descriptions due the demographics of my readers!
I love you guys and the "R rated" nature of the original article was not necessary for the point to be made -- nor do I want search engines finding my site with those particular key words. If you want to read the original articles click on the sources. If you are a student of mine -- you know the drill. No clicking sources or any outside links without parental permission and supervision. You have signed a contract with your parents and me. This is the honor system (but I also have a tracker on the blog).

Neither Do I Condemn You
To Love, Honor and Vacuum

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