Thursday, January 20, 2011

Keeping My Mouth Shut

I kind of wish I was more of a talker sometimes. But the truth is I'm an introvert who sometimes manages to seem like an extrovert for awhile, but after a time my learned traits like carrying on a lot of small talk, and calling up someone to go see a movie or go to the mall with me go by the wayside, as I realize they are just not natural to my personality. The world seems to love extroverts - I'm learning to accept it, and to keep working to find my truest voice in social situations.

That being said, I am really good at keeping secrets - the good kind of secrets, anyway. When something is an obvious "need to tell" type of thing, I almost always find the courage to talk. Well, until this week anyway.

Something came to my attention recently regarding the "nanny" (Ms. H) of a local acquaintance of mine (Ms. S). (Note: to me, a real "nanny" is someone who actually lives on your property and works at least 40 hours/week. Anyone else is a "babysitter" or "day care provider/teacher." IRL, I would never, ever try to correct anyone on that point because, first of all, I'm not even sure my definition of "nanny" is technically correct. I just think the mis-use of the word "nanny" **in certain contexts** can sometimes make people seem overly pretentious and self-important. Not always, but sometimes, and in certain situations. I just think "babysitter" is so much more palatable, IMHO.)

So anyway back to my story. Another babysitter (Ms. D), who works for a local friend of mine (Ms. B) witnessed Ms. S's babysitter, Ms. H (an early-20-something with no kids of her own), treating one of Ms. S's four daughters inappropriately at a local indoor play gym. Ms. B told me that Ms. D told her that she saw Ms. H yelling across the gym at Ms. S's 6-year-old daughter, and refused to get up off her ass and actually go talk to the child about whatever she was doing that Ms. H felt she needed to scream about. So the little girl was running wild, Ms. H was yelling publicly, and Ms. D didn't like it one bit, but she also didn't say anything to Ms. H nor to the management of the play gym. (Sorry for all of these Ms.-so-and-so's, I hope this is not too hard to keep straight). Ms. B asked me what I thought she should do...

BTW, Ms. B and Ms. S are colleagues who do not know each other well; and Ms. D is in her 50's with 3 grown kids, and used to run a daycare that Ms. S's girls used to attend, before she sold the place and took up part-time babysitting.

I told Ms. B that I thought Ms. D should have addressed it directly with Ms. H or someone in authority, either at the time it happened, or immediately thereafter, if she really thought what she saw was so "inappropriate." I also said that I have seen Ms. H behaving very lovingly at this same gym towards two of Ms. S's other daughters, and I know Ms. S thinks the world of Ms. H and has taken her on several family vacations. Also, several of Ms. S's neighbors who are stay-at-home moms regularly play with the kids with Ms. H, and I have to imagine would report back to Ms. S if something were amiss.

Ms. B mentioned that this is a hard topic for her because when she used to live somewhere else, someone once reported to her that they saw her babysitter behaving inappropriately, and so she immediately fired her - but had nagging doubts about it. I agree that the "reasonable parent" when confronted with a report like that would probably have to let the sitter go immediately. I know I would - but part of the reason would honestly be not wanting to look like a crappy parent in the eyes of the person who reported the behavior to me! But on the other hand, no one can prove a negative. It would be like Ms. S saying to Ms. H, "prove to me that you did not scream at my kid in public."

I left Ms. B by saying she could call up Ms. S and let her know what Ms. D saw, and say something like "maybe you should talk to Ms. H about how you expect her to discipline the kids." I don't know though. My read on Ms. S is that she doesn't want her boat rocked and probably wouldn't fire Ms. H over this. I hate situations like this!! I feel like the so-called "right" thing to do here is eluding me. What say you, parenting goddesses?


Maria said...

Well… It's a tough one, for sure. It sounds to me that maybe your job here is to do nothing? Since you didn't witness the alleged incident, I don't know what you can do. And, from the way you describe it (and I say this as a mom who yelled at her kid tonight), it doesn't seem bad enough to warrant a posse of your friend+her babysitter+you getting involved, unless the allegations include screaming abuse or name-calling or something further over the line than "Hey! 6-year-old! Knock it off!" or whatever.

Sure, it's more appropriate to get up and deal with it more effectively, and it's worse to yell Knock it off across the room as a babysitter than as a parent, but… I'm not sure it's worth firing an otherwise loved and trusted babysitter over. If she's that much a part of the kids' lives, it seems more traumatic to suddenly lose her than to get yelled at when you're acting up at the gym.

Caveat: I don't have a nanny, and I yelled at my kid tonight and obviously I feel guilty about it since I've mentioned it twice now.

hush said...

@Maria - Don't feel guilty, every truly amazing parent I know IRL has yelled at their kid on occasion! True confession time: I'm also a parent who has yelled at her spirited 3-year-old son on many occasions, though I have never done it in a public setting (which suggests I can control it if I tried harder to identify my triggers). Today I screamed at DS in the car after he had thrown a 20 minute tantrum in the car about not wanting to sit in his carseat - I was just overwhelmed, and I felt trapped in the car listening to him scream, and I confess that I definitely didn't handle it the right way by raising my voice at him. That all being said, I think we need to give ourselves a break. Yelling is NOT the new spanking as some commentators have said. ;)

You're so right that it is much worse for a babysitter to be yelling across a room in public than for a parent to be doing that. And you're also spot on about there being a big difference between yelling versus abusive raging/name-calling/humiliation etc.

Melba said...

I dunno hush. I don't get a good feeling from this, given the amount of Ms. So and so telling Ms. So and so, telling Ms. Hush and so one. Small town gossip, baby, can get out of control.

I guess I don't have the full feel for how bad the yelling incident was. But OMG, if I were my babysitter, I'd have fired my ass over and over again. You just can't be with kids day in day out, the SAME kids who do the SAME things that drive you batshit every SINGLE day, and not lose it every once in a while. While I don't think I've ever yelled at my child across the playgym, I've done some whopper lose-it's in the car. Something about driving and Rosie's kick-the-back-of-my-seat tantrums that drives ME batshit.

So maybe, if anything, I'd approach Ms. D (the witness, right?) and coach her through how she should approach Ms. S (the mom of said kids, right?) on the subject. If it was a minor "for the gazillionth time stop pulling your sister's hair!" I'd probably do nothing. If it was "you bleeping bleepity bleeper, get DOWN" then I'd talk to Ms. D, have her talk to Ms. S in a non-confrontational, non-tattletale way. Like "hey, I saw this, and it bothered me, so I thought you might want to know..." etc.

But I don't think I would go straight to Ms. S unless I was the witness. Seriously, what's "bad" to some people is not to others, and vice versa. I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt, because I sure hope that one day if I yell at Rosie in the grocery store, someone will give me that courtesy. Because none of us are innocent on this one. Not even our babysitters.

mom2boy said...

I agree w/pp. Small town chatter and not seeing it yourself combined with "yelling" as the offense doesn't add up to approaching a parent, imo, given the information presented here.

Cloud said...

You know, this is one of the reasons I like using a day care center. Because, as @Melba says, it is impossible not to lose it with kids some time. At a center, there is always another teacher there who can step in and give the person who is losing it a break.

The flip side, of course, is the number of colds we've had this winter. I have honestly lost count, and I am not sure I remember what my throat feels like when it is not sore.

Anyway, about your dilemma- I'd keep my mouth shut on this one unless I knew the parent really, really well or I had evidence that there was a trend of the babysitter not getting up and dealing with the kids at close range or a trend of abusive yelling (to me, there is a difference between the "I just lost my cool and am now yelling crazy stuff at you" and "I am yelling cruel words at you and trying to hurt your feelings").

Melba said...

To add to this, something happened to me just today. I'm gassing up my car at a gas station, and Rosie is screaming and yelling inside the car. We've been really working with Rosie on her volume level - she is super squealy and screetching All. The. Time. and it really drives us nuts. She cannot talk in a normal volume. It bothers people around us too, in stores, restaurants, everywhere. We get looks everywhere we go, like people are thinking "can't you get your kid to stop screaming every word she says instead of talking like a normal person?". Anyway, I'm gassing up the car, she's screaming something at the top of her lungs inside the car, and I open her door and sternly say "Stop this yelling right this minute!" I wouldn't say I yelled at her, but I said it sternly and loudly. And then, the lady gassing up her car across from me says "She's just trying to get your attention, Mom!" Yeah like you know the whole story about the coaching and reminding and 1-2-3 warnings and on and on and on and on we've been doing with Rosie to try to curb your behavior, lady. Like you know.

Anyway, the moral of my story is: maybe the babysitter was in a similar situation. Where there's a particular behavior that they're really working on with the kid, and that the kid is just not getting it. Benefit of the doubt... that lady at the gas station didn't give it to me, and I wasn't even yelling, just being stern. She still judged me. So I try really hard not to be judgey too.

Ok I'll stop with this topic now!

hush said...

@mom2boy & Melba - I hear you on needing to witness something like that firsthand before telling, and on giving the benefit of the doubt, because I think in practice the knee-jerk reaction would be to fire the sitter. Yes, small town gossip is way out of control, but I suppose the upside to that is you generally have a whole cadre of people telling folks (and sometimes even telling the actual parent) what is happening with a child, which could be a good or bad thing.

And @Melba - about that annoying gas station lady: holy shit! I never know how to respond in those kinds of situations. I need a stock "come back" that I can just use reflexively, something like "He's 3 years old. So what's YOUR excuse?" I'm sorry that happened to you! I can totally relate to hating my kid sometimes when he is acting out in the car.

@Cloud - Yes, that is definitely one great benefit of well-managed day care centers (and preschools) with proper caregiver to child ratios. We had a wonderful day care experience at a Bright Horizons center when DS was just an infant back in the day in the big city. If only they had quality day care centers here in Podunkville!