By Katy Killilea
Years of experience, sympathy for children, first-aid certification . . . what makes a great babysitter? For their first few years, our kids’ only babysitters were their grandparents. But grandparents have a habit of going off to Hawaii when they might be needed. So we have had to branch out, and we’ve had a handful of great babysitters, each with their own star qualities.
1.Â Â Â THE NEIGHBORHOOD KID: A kid, too young to babysit, can be paid a bit of money to work as a “helper” while you are home. You can supervise in a vague way, and be on hand in case of an emergency. If the kid has natural babysitting talent, your kids won’t bug you and you’ll be able to get some stuff done. If the kid’s a dud, your children will pester you the whole time and you’ll know to move on. But if you’ve found a winner, after a year or so, you’ll have a fully trained babysitter who is loyal to you and is adored by your kids.
WHERE TO FIND THEM: playing on the sidewalk, preferably with a doll, chalk, or rubber ball. PSP addicts need not apply.
2.Â Â Â THE WHOLESOME TEEN: Teens who are in orchestras and/or run cross country are ideal babysitters. They are disciplined and responsible, yet young enough to play like kids and really have fun with yours. We have a teenage babysitter who plays all of the board games the adults in our family have deemed too annoying (e.g., Cranium Hullaballoo, Chutes & Ladders, Trouble). Prominently place Edy’s Ice Cream Dibs in your freezer so they’ll want to come back.
COST: $8/hour if you drive them to & fro; $10/hour if they drive themselves.
WHERE TO FIND THEM: Houses of worship, or court a friend’s teen-aged offspring.
3.Â Â Â THE COLLEGE STUDENT: They are often experienced with kids, and don’t mind staying up late. They typically are able to provide their own transportation. One drawback is that they usually move away after a few years; another is that they like to go out with their friends and are not at your beck and call.
WHERE TO FIND THEM: score one from a friend, or check the lists maintained at colleges and universities.
4.Â Â Â THE PRO: An adult who sits professionally costs more, but will show up on time, have a distracting stuffed animal in her bag in case of a difficult good-bye, and will do your laundry while your kids are asleep. (I heard tell of one who folded clean clothes and figured out where to put everything away as well!) And she will not Jo Frost you with criticism, charts, and advice. I have never actually had anyone like this in my house.
WHERE TO FIND THEM: This is a mythical being, like a unicorn.
Who’s your favorite sitter, and would he or she come over to my house? Please share your tips and ideas by posting comments.