Once, Gordon and I went to see the improv comedy troupe Four Day Weekend in downtown Fort Worth. One of the worthwhileist uses of our time on earth. At intermission, our conscientious babysitter was texting me, “Does Drew need a bath?”
I’m of the opinion that staying in your babysitter’s good graces is one of the top ten priorities of good mothers, up there with early indoctrination of flossing and the disposal of bloody boogers. We try kind of hard, actually. We pay well — $12/hour — and we always text our girls ahead of time to see if we might pick up dinner for them, maybe a frosty from Wendy’s? Really rolling out the red carpet.
I have friends who only trust their parents with their kids, and while I have high standards for our sitters — that they be female and not on any hard medication — we pretty much rely on our likeability as employers and the perfection of our children to ensure good performance. Like those are lasting realities.
And Then It Happened.
I don’t know what it was. Maybe the watered down vodka tonic in my hand, or the jostling in the ladies’ room line, but the next thing I knew I had hit send on a text that said, “Nag, just put him to bed.”
I had been trying to hippify my text with “Naw,” as in “Naw, just put him to bed,” like NAW is what the kids are saying these days, but my iPhone did me the courtesy of auto- correction.
I couldn’t believe what I had done. I was a hippo bathing in a wadi of self-loathing, which if you think about it would be a hard sight to imagine. So stop trying. Pretend you didn’t read that at all, actually. Excuse my use of the word “wadi” too because I’m really not that pretentious.
The irony was my total lack of humor given how Gordon and I had just spent the past hour. He thought the text was hilarious, which proves my theory that husbands become fathers mostly for the jokes.
To Make Matters Worse…
I didn’t realize my mistake until the end of the night. A good 45 minutes had passed with that abomination sitting on her phone like an epithet. I kept wondering if she really even knew what a NAG was, because that is what kids were calling horses 100 years ago. But just to be safe: “Ha, I meant ‘naw’ not ‘nag.’ Sorry!” I texted back in the car on the way home.
Would she get my text before we got there? What if this was just calling attention to something she might not have noticed? Should I pretend to have been body-snatched by Glen Close from Damages? What to do.
Our babysitter, on that particular night, was a tall high school sophomore who says YES MA’AM to me and always does our dishes. She recently got her braces off. And when I say recently it might have been last week, last month or a year ago.
Our older, college-age babysitters feel more peer-like and able to enjoy a good sarcastic laugh, but oh, sweet Kate – calling Kate a nag was like slapping your little sister’s friend. You want her to look up to you and think you’re cool even as you’re shutting her and your sister in a closet. Deep down you know those two things don’t go together but somehow you make them coexist in your brain.
“It’ll be OK,” I thought to myself. We got her Wendy’s.
I think we all can learn from my experience here. Here are:
12 Thingies to Avoid While Your Kids Are Being Babysat
- Drinking. Laughing. Red pepper flakes. Judgment-impairing desserts.
- Social media. Have you ever thought your sitter might ALSO be keeping tabs on YOU? Best keep all Twitter/FB statuses related to Miss Piggy quotes or grooming minutia, instead of “Finished movie, off to eat ice cream for two hours, or, enough time for your boyfriend to come over and behave inappropriately.”
- Pencil skirts (you cannot run anywhere fast).
- Empty promises from well meaning wait staff.
- Small-minded thinking.
- Seashells that do not sound oceanic.
- Improv comedy.
- Romantic comedies.
- Comedies of error.
- Charlie Sheen.
No good can come from these. Avoid them. Your kids are asleep all snug in their beds and you owe them college tuition.
Epilogue: What Happened Then
Just an awkward exchange of “hey, sorry about calling you a nag” and she was all, “No problem.”