Dear Babysitter, Special Needs is Not All Sweetness and Light

Dear babysitter who thinks because my son has special needs that means he’s sweet and easy.

When I told you about my son’s issues during our interview, I don’t think you were listening to me. You were so perky and shiny and a tad bit condescending. “Oh yes, I worked with special needs kids in summer camp.” But you know what babysitter? All special needs kids are not a like.

And when I told you that my son has trouble with transitions, and explained that he might get wild or mean or angry when you came, and then again when it was time for you to leave, I’m not sure you heard me.

And when I told you he was going to test you; that meant he was going to try and convince you that he could have a whole Hershey bar in the middle of the day or that you should just wait outside a minute so he could lock you out of the house or that I said it was ok to make a pretend rocket and light it on fire as long as it was outside. I don’t think you put two and two together.

I explained to you that when a child has his issues, he’ll test you because he needs to know for himself that he can trust you, that he can feel safe.  He feels it’s his job to see if you’re going to make the right decisions when I’m not around.

When I came home yesterday and saw you completely tied up with caution tape and unable to move, I figured you didn’t make the right decision.

You weren’t all bad, you know. You did it all with a smile on your face and never yelled. That was awesome.

I also must applaud you for being one of only 7 people to respond to an ad that was very straight-forward:

My son is very energetic and loves to play. Please do not apply if you do not like to play imagination games and run around the house. If you do not feel that being physically active with a child is for you, that’s okay.
I want someone who will engage in his very creative play and be an active participant. Thank you!

And when I emailed you directly and explained that he had Sensory Processing Disorder and a Tick Disorder and 11 life threatening food allergies, you still responded so enthusiastically that I was thrilled!

The thing about being excited about something is sometimes that excitement makes you miss the red flags. Sometimes, when you want something really badly, you talk yourself out of the things you “thought” you saw.

When you put that “I’m not a preschool teacher but I play one on TV” smile on your face, squatted down and attempted to talk to my 8-year-old like he was 3, I should have noticed it. When you nodded your head and took a lot of notes while I was telling you things about him, I should have mentioned it was better to just listen. When he was explaining to me, right in front of you, that he was not prepared to hire you yet, I should have listened.

You see babysitter, I realize something now. I realize how badly you underestimated my child. I realize now that you equate special needs with low intelligence. That was a very bad mistake on your part.

Of course when I came home Friday afternoon to the sound of all of our silverware rattling in the dryer, and then turned the corner to see you lying on the sofa completely tied up with an 8-year-old boy sitting on top of you laughing maniacally I figured you had realized the error of your ways. And when I finally got you untied while he screamed “Don’t untie her! Don’t do it! She’s ruining everything!” I realized who was really in control.

So you see babysitter, I wasn’t surprised today when you texted me that you were quitting with less than 24 hours notice. I had actually expected that text yesterday. I appreciate you lying about why you were quitting, you know – the whole “it’s me, not you” thing was really classy. The thing is, if you want to grow to be a responsible adult someday (I’ll give you a few,  you’re only 24), it’s better to take responsibility for your actions. Maybe next time try, “I didn’t really understand what you meant when you said trouble and test and imagination.”

 

Here’s a tribute to some amazing babysitters of a really rambunctious boy.

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  • Tied. Up. With caution tape.

    I know that must’ve been a pain for you to come home to as a Mom, but WOW he’s a freakin’ AMAZING kid to manage to pull that one off 😀ReplyCancel

    • Jennifer Kehl

      Lizzi he is that and so much more. Not always good.ReplyCancel

  • That boy is going to change the world one day.ReplyCancel

    • Jennifer Kehl

      Jenn hopefully for good not evil!ReplyCancel

  • A babysitter that would let it go that far? Ummmm… Am a bad person for laughing out loud at that? I kind of wish you could have got a picture, though I’m sure it would violate many laws…

    The mental image I have of the whole moment in question… priceless. I hope you find a sitter who is more on the same page soon!ReplyCancel

    • Jennifer Kehl

      I always have one of those movies playing in my head of the babysitter running out of the house screaming!ReplyCancel

  • Hahaha…Just the image of someone wrapped in Caution tape…
    A good litmus test for how well she listened…ReplyCancel

    • Jennifer Kehl

      Oh Natalie… you have no idea. That was just the funny stuff.ReplyCancel

  • I’m going to use the line you hate, Jen. “I used to work with special needs.”

    But I get that each person is an individual. Smart and intelligent. Crafty.

    So, I don’t care if it’s wrong, or I go to hell, I laughed and laughed and laughed at this.

    I can see a lot of my “favorites” from that job trying this.

    I have a visual of your son sitting on her and laughing.

    I love that he used caution tape.

    I love all of this.

    Good for him! Sometimes, people need to learn the hard way.ReplyCancel

    • Jennifer Kehl

      You can totally use that here! Because you get to what extent she underestimated him! Seriously… it’s like one of those movies when the family is interviewing nanny after nanny and the kids torture them to the point that they quit the next day.ReplyCancel

  • OK, it’s the end of the post, and I think I’ve finally decided that that whole thing actually happened and you weren’t making a joke. But really? Really? That happened? Wow. Um, yeah- “special needs” is not exactly a one-size-fits-all thing. I seriously thought this post was going to be some kind of tall-tale exaggerated baby-sitting horror story, but not. That really happened?ReplyCancel

    • Jennifer Kehl

      Nope Stephanie, not a joke. It really happened just like that.ReplyCancel

  • Oh my goodness! I laughed. I know I was suppose to laugh – but wow. A hassle for you. And agreed – a great example of not letting “enthusiasm” for getting a job make you miss hearing some of the important details about what you’re going into.ReplyCancel

    • Jennifer Kehl

      Louise I’m trying to figure out if I should let him interview the sitters!ReplyCancel

  • Jean

    My classroom always had children with Special Education goals (for every reason under the sun) and I have hosted countless student teachers in my classroom. That sort of happy, sappy mindset was common in all but one of them and the person who was the exception had done a lot of time in other childcare settings and had tons of experience. Many of my student teachers were wonderful educators who had the sunshiny view partially removed during their time in my class and I’m sure eventually removed it completely when they got their own classroom.
    All children are different and working with children (no matter who they are) is not a completely sunshiny process. Kids are people and everyone has their special needs that can’t be met with only smiles and songs and “glitter.”
    Experience does so much to help this as does knowledge. I would never suggest that all people work with children and get into classrooms to experience the diversity so they could go out and make much more informed opinions and decisions about what we do with children but I do believe that if people want to spout off their opinions about how to handle the futures of our kids then they better know what the hell they’re talking about.
    Reading your blog is one way for sure.
    Sorry. Stepping down from the soap box now.ReplyCancel

    • Jennifer Kehl

      You can get on your soapbox any time Jean! Amen!ReplyCancel

  • Have so totally been there, as evidenced by this video that we made! – http://youtu.be/Psm386tdWh0ReplyCancel

    • Jennifer Kehl

      Oh my gosh that video is AWESOME!!!! You are so right, I love the calling for the babysitter part especially. OF course!ReplyCancel

  • Wow. Just wow. That really happened…
    As the (amazing, experienced, awesome, good-listening) nanny that I am… I couldn’t help but laugh a little. Ok maybe a lot. I’ve learned (not the hard way like this little lady) that it takes a little thunder and lightning along with the sun to be a great caregiver. That little man of yours is truly something, and I mean that in the sunny way 🙂ReplyCancel

    • Jennifer Kehl

      Oh Erica, I wish you were here!ReplyCancel

  • When I saw your tweet…I had no effing idea that this actually transpired.
    Man…I don’t even know what to say. I just hope that you kind find someone who is amazing because that is what your kid is…tape…that’s awesomeReplyCancel

    • Jennifer Kehl

      Welcome to my world Kimberly!ReplyCancel

  • You should read this to all your future sitter applicants. And I know he is a handful and I know that it’s not always easy to parent him (what kid is always easy?), but Isaiah totally rocks. I mean it – he is brilliant. Channel that energy and he will rule the world!ReplyCancel

    • Jennifer Kehl

      You might have an idea there Dana.ReplyCancel

  • Wow. Just wow. I agree with the previous posters, you should show this to all future applicants.ReplyCancel

    • Jennifer Kehl

      Yeah Sarah I might take Dana’s advice.ReplyCancel

  • LOVED Jenn’s comment above…and I second it!ReplyCancel

  • I used to work as a caseworker with kids with sensory processing disorders. They have amazing parents and caregivers. They also have pooped-out, over-worked, parents and caregivers who can’t find suitable baby-sitters! So sorry that this one didn’t work out!ReplyCancel

  • Bless her heart!

    Great post…I should save this letter for all future applicants.ReplyCancel

  • On the upside at least the sitter wasn’t bored right? As an early childhood educator and seasoned babysitter I would definitely include him in the interview! That way everyone would know what they were in for. I love his creativity and spirit!ReplyCancel

  • Genius! Silverware in the dryer! And genius ad. I love it.ReplyCancel

  • Only a soul reader like you could write something like this: I explained to you that when a child has his issues, he’ll test you because he needs to know for himself that he can trust you, that he can feel safe. He feels it’s his job to see if you’re going to make the right decisions when I’m not around.

    I completely understand what you say about you ignoring red flags because everything else was so appealing and you wanted to believe you’ve found a solution, a great solution, for your baby. I’ve learned from working as a recruiter to never ignore my gut. I was hurting for you when I was reading this. I was physically uncomfortable. I’m so sorry about your disappointment,but you know what, look at her day with Isaiah as the final interview stage, the last step in the process. He definitely designed it in a way that would weed out an unsuitable candidate. Good that you all found out as early as you did that she wasn’t the right person for you.

    And one final thought, after reading that job description you’ve posted, I love you even more, my friend.ReplyCancel

  • Holy sh!t. How did the stupid babysitter let it get SO FAR that she was actually unable to move? WTF. Isaiah is one awesome amazing kickass kid. I hope you find somebody who appreciates him and says NOFUCKINGWAY when he brings out the duct tape, caution tape, rope, etc. (also I am very sorry but I did think it was a little bit funny)ReplyCancel

  • I really love this post, Jen, so thank you for linking it up with The Sunday Parenting Party. I think your son is a genius, and he’s lucky to have a mom who understands him so well!ReplyCancel

  • Thanks for linking to the Sunday Parenting Party. Your post made me smile. Poor girl can’t have known what hit her. Hope you find a decent baby sitter soon. I’m pinning this to the SPP board and featuring this weekend.ReplyCancel

    • Jennifer Kehl

      Thank you so much! I’m glad you enjoyed it!ReplyCancel

  • I absolutely LOVE everything about this story. Your son has got to be pretty brilliant to tie up his babysitter! Thanks for linking up to The Sunday Parenting Party. I’m featuring you this week, so hope on over to the blog to see it and grab a button! Pinning too!ReplyCancel

    • Jennifer Kehl

      Thanks Amanda! That’s awesome, I’m so glad you liked the story, still haven’t found a new sitter though!ReplyCancel

  • WOW! This post will be an excellent screening tool for future babysitters, that’s for sure!ReplyCancel

  • I love your humor about this…because sometimes you just have to laugh at other people’s naivete…ReplyCancel

  • Love the way this article is written. Great mom and a boy. Good to see the enthusiasm between the son and those babysitters. Just proves that it is all about finding the right person.ReplyCancel

    • Jennifer Kehl

      Thanks! It has been an interesting adventure finding the right person for us!ReplyCancel

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