Saturday, February 11, 2012

A Phone Call I'm Not Looking Forward To

Yesterday, I witnessed a friend's babysitter, Ms. H, do something that crossed a major boundary for me.

Unfortunately, a little over a year ago, I'd heard the same sitter had (allegedly) behaved inappropriately in the exact same venue, and I even blogged about it. So now I feel I really do need to pick up the phone and say something to the parents. Here's what I saw that upset me yesterday.

I took my kids to the local indoor play gym. We were the first ones there that morning. Or so we thought. As we walked in, I was surprised to see my friend's 3-year-old daughter playing all alone in the huge gym, which is filled with gymnastics equipment such as rope swings, huge trampolines, parallel bars, pommel horses, and balance beams. As my mother would say: "innumerable, creative ways to fall and get paralyzed if not used properly" - or, more probably, to just have a ton of fun on.

Nobody was looking after the little 3-year-old in this huge place. At first I figured her babysitter was in the bathroom for a minute (still, kind of questionable judgment there - why not take the kid potty with you if there's no one there to ask to please watch her for a second). Then the little girl started climbing a storage unit in an area that's off limits to kids, so I went over to her and asked her to come with me, and I took all three kids to the front desk, and reported to the receptionist that this little girl here was just playing completely unsupervised and went into a dangerous, off-limits area - and where's her babysitter?

Receptionist calls a young female employee from the back, and she agrees to look after the little girl for awhile until someone shows up for the kid. I check the bathroom with my own kids, nope, no babysitter there.

A half an hour later, the babysitter finally shows up, holding a disposable cup of coffee. Wow.

I'm flabbergasted. There are drive thru coffee places every 10 feet in Podunkville. This is the Pacific Northwest. There are several coffee places with nice play areas for the kids to roam. Nobody ever needs to drop a kid off somewhere in order to get themselves a decent cup of coffee.

Half an hour later, loads more people have showed up, and the little girl falls off the uneven bars, landing flat on the ground. She has really hurt herself and starts crying, literally right at the feet of me and another friend. We look around and at that moment, and unlike the rest of the adults present, the sitter is on the other side of the room, sitting down, texting, having no idea what's going on with the little girl. She finally sees us consoling the little girl and comes over, grabs her hand and says "You're strong, stop crying." I wouldn't call it a harsh tone of voice, but I wouldn't call it one with much empathy either. The little girl seems fine the rest of the time.

As we're leaving, and the kids are all waiting their turn for their hand stamps, the sitter gets into a VERY LOUD conversation with the receptionist. She's a loud talker I guess. And I can't help but overhear it, which sucks, because she said some incredibly mean things about the child's parents, like "they chose to have 4 kids,"..."they've been relaxing in Hawaii all week"... "it wouldn't be so bad if the stupid dogs would stop barfing everywhere".. and "I'm probably going to quit soon, after the baby comes (the sitter is pregnant)."

Awkward. And sad.

Sad that she agreed to watch 4 kids and 2 dogs by herself for a week while in the first trimester of pregnancy - clearly, this experience went beyond her personal limits. So I can see why she wasn't in the best of moods that day. But still. Shitty judgment.

And now I have a phone call I have to make. I can't not say something after all of that. I'm thinking of writing myself a script for this phone call. What to say? What to leave out? I dunno.

DH thinks I should tell the parents only the parts about how I witnessed her leaving the kid unsupervised for half an hour while getting a coffee, plus the very public, very disloyal shit talking about the parents that I overheard.

Your thoughts?


Lisa @ Trapped In North Jersey said...

I would tell about the leaving the kid alone for a half hour. That's verifiable by the gym staff and can be presented with a straightforward, unbiased way. (Hi, friend, I just wanted to tell you what happened the other day, I found your daughter and sat with her until the babysitter came back.)

The rest of it (the shit-talking, the nasty tone of voice) could get nasty if the babysitter denies it, you don't really have a way of proving it, and you are left with a he said, she said situation. Plus then your friend feels awkward--who to believe, a friend or a trusted babysitter?

But I'd really, really want to know that the person I pay to watch my kid has left her alone.

feMOMhist said...

def. left alone part and that she is planning to leave, in a nice, geez I really don't want to have to tell you but I know I'd want someone to tell me, so you know tell me to eff off if you want, but I'm telling you anyway :)

Cloud said...

Definitely tell about leaving the little girl alone. That would be enough to make me fire that sitter.

The rest- I don't know. I might tell about her not being close enough to the little girl while she was playing, so that she couldn't respond promptly and appropriately when she fell.

I'd leave out the badmouthing. I don't think knowing that their sitter is saying nasty things about them does the parents any good.

And yikes. I don't envy you.

mom2boy said...

Hi Ms x,

Hope you had a nice vacation. Just wanted to let you know that the other day when I went to playa rama, little susie was there by herself. (not sure how she will respond but whether unless it is so? just proceed right on with babysitter x left her to grab a cup of coffee. I wouldn't go into anything else. That is plenty for her to make a parenting judgment call on. The rest won't tip it and as other people have pointed out put you in a bad position of she said.she said with the baby sitter.

And depending on her level of horror, I'd either listen and commiserate or just quickly get off the line, so sorry DD/DS is falling out of a tree must run. (So she knows you aren't judging her for letting her kid get in a bad spot).

That's all I've got. I'm glad you are making the phone call.

mom2boy said...

Sorry for all the typos. Still house training the puppy!

feMOMhist said...

I'm the only one who thinks someone with 4 kids is going to want to know that her childcare provider is planning to quit? that is every parents nightmare and finding a replacement isn't easy! Of course maybe everyone assumes they will fire her ASAP anyway!

Zenmoo said...

Ack. Leaving a 3 year old unsupervised? I'd tell that & maybe the too-far away when the kid fell (depending on the parents reaction). Probably not the public badmouthing - it's not nice but it's not going to result in injury/endangerment.

@femomhist, I guess I'm of the 'I'd fire her before she could quit' school of thought. The thought of a babysitter leaving my child *anywhere* by herself for any amount of time makes my heart stop.

But then again, as you say, care for 4 kids is hard to arrange. You can't discount the rock/hard place scenario

Anandi said...

Hmm, I think I'd tell all. If I were the friend, I'd want to know. If it becomes he-said, she said, so be it. Say your peace and get out of the discussion. I'd want to know if my sitter had that kind of bad attitude and wouldn't trust someone who clearly hates their job so much to watch my kids.

Bummer, though. what a sucky position to be in :(

the milliner said...

I agree with @Anandi. I would tell everything I personally witnessed. I have been in the situation where my kid was in a bad childcare arrangement and I want to know all the crap. I can't fix what I don't know about.

Now, I agree that finding a way to give the info in a non-judgemental (about the babysitter or about the parents who hired her) way is they key. So, when talking about the trash talking I'd say specifically what I heard (or specifically enough...I'd probably paraphrase a bit to take the sting out. I think that ultimately you don't want it to sound gossipy). I'd also probably throw in a 'maybe she was just overwhelmed and having a bad day but I thought you should know. I would want to know'. And also to point out that other than the three specific things you witnessed, the little girl seemed fine. I think when you give a balanced view of the situation (not downplaying the bad, but also pointing out the good things) it's easier for the perosn on the receiving end not to feel judged. That way, you're just the relayer of info, the parent decides what he/she will do with it.

While I agree that the leaving the kid alone for 30 minutes is the bigger issue, I still think the other trash talking issue needs to be addressed. At best it was a bad day. At worst, that energy or comments of a similar nature are directed at the kids. Or, it could be that the babysitters' frustration is a symptom of a bigger issue that you don't know about (she felt pressured to do the job, she doesn't feel like she's being paid enough, she's overwhelmed with her own pregnancy, etc.). If I was the parent that hired the babysitter I'd want to address those comments to see where they were coming from. If they are uncharacteristic, then I'd dig for what else is going on. If I've seen the behaviour before, it would give me more impetus to end the arrangement.

Good luck.

NK: Style-ING w/ Children said...

I would only speak to her leaving the child alone. Shitty situation to be in. Hope your phone call goes well! Good luck.

hush said...

Thank you for your advice. You were unanimous in your feeling that I should tell the parents about the sitter's leaving the 3 year old alone for 30 minutes, so I will open with that, and stick to the facts.

I've been playing phone tag with the parents since Saturday am, so I've had more time to think about how to phrase things.

I'm also going to mention that I heard sitter telling the receptionist that she's planning to quit - because if it were me, I would want the head's up, and childcare can take a looong time to arrange here in Podunkville. I'll leave out the shit talking unless pressed for direct quotes.

Ugh, my stomach is churning at the thought of them receiving my news. Suckety suck suck!

Vacationland Mom said...

Good luck hush, keep us posted! I think you are making the right decision. I would want to know. You could probably mention that too, how you feel about the situation, but that you'd want to know if it were your kid.