Babysitting is an art. Trust me, it is not everyone’s cup of tea. I for one, am not made for babysitting. I don’t know how to keep kids engaged. I don’t know how to play with them. I don’t know how to deal with their mood swings. I don’t know how to make them eat.
When I quit my corporate career, many ‘well-wishers’ worried about my financial situation offered me choices to make in order to keep the cash flow steady. One of the options was to open a day boarding play school as it helps mint money. I even got an offer for partnership. But knowing very well that I am not made for something like this, I opted out at the very first instance. Money was never one that has excited me enough. My priority has always been family, happiness and peace of mind.
Being a mother of two, people assume that I am good with kids. I am not. I am a disciplinarian. ‘Don’t do this‘, ‘Do it like that‘, ‘That’s not the right way to do it‘, ‘Don’t waste time‘, ‘Sit properly‘, ‘Have some table manners’, ‘Behave yourself’….the list is endless. If I am home, you can be sure about something like this being shouted out every other second. You know all my neighbours keep their doors and windows shut all the time to escape my parenting sermons. When the girls complain of my strictness, I conveniently put the blame on my Dad for having inherited this quality from him. And then they get even with their Muthacha. Safe it is to play with Dad!
So, there’s this boy in the neighbourhood. About 7-8 years old. They shifted about three months ago. We knew it was a sudden decision because they finalized the house and moved in within 24 hours. The boy till recently was getting dropped after school at his paternal uncles’ place which is nearby. There must have been some differences owing to which the boy now happens to be a latchkey child. He comes home after school and spends about 3-4 hours all alone. It pains to see him playing alone, talking to himself and sometimes sitting and looking blankly at the open sky. But then, I do not know them enough to agree to keep him home for some time. Moreover, he is an extremely mischievous boy. About a month ago, he slipped while playing and fell on an iron rod causing a deep wound on his head which required multiple stitches. While I feel really sorry for the child, I do not have enough courage to make a babysitting offer. When I discussed this with the husband, he too was of the opinion that I should not offer anything unless specifically asked.
This reminds me of another episode with a friend who is also my neighbour. She used to leave her daughter at our place for an hour or two, quite frequently. This was absolutely fine with me. More because my daughters were around and they used to play with each other and were busy among themselves. One day, her mother asked me to babysit her for about 4-5 hours. I had an important assignment to finish. But more than that it was my reservation because I was not sure if I could handle the child alone for so long. The child was slightly moody and would not mingle easily. And I am a dead duck when it comes to opening up. She was always wanting to go to her mother and would refuse to eat or drink anything when her mother leaves her here. She would often end up crying. And I knew her mother was going to the other end of the city and would not be able to reach faster if required. That’s what made me scared of keeping her for that long. I should have told her upfront if I had a reservation. Instead, I told her over the phone that it was difficult for me to babysit her child for so long. I am sure that most people would have chosen to cut off all ties with me since that day. But I respect this friend who chose to come to me by herself and made me comfortable enough to break the ice. I am not all that courageous. I would have sulked within instead of talking it out if it was not for her. I really appreciate her for that. Not everyone bothers to take that first step and trying to understand the other person’s stand.
So the thing is that even though I feel for the child, I feel I should not jump the gun. May be I am wrong but since the man also feels the same way, I think I’ll leave it for the time being. I do what best I can. Keep an eye on him and keep checking with him if he needs something.
As kids, our mother had to leave us alone at home for hours since she was working. And it was only possible with the help of extremely supportive and helpful neighbours. We survived our time alone without Dad, only because of a wonderful neighbourhood. In those days, the air was not filled with doubt, uncertainty, fear and apprehensions. Neighbours were more like family members. If a child went missing, the first thought in a parent’s mind was not of an accident or a kidnapping, but the surety that he/she’ll be somewhere in the neighbourhood and someone or the other would be able to give information about him/her. With time, technology and development, our lives have got restricted to the slim screen of our phones and the four walls of our houses. Blame it on anything from double-income families to MNCs to increasing rate of crime, but the word ‘trust’ is slowly but surely fading away.
I am an old school product and so I still believe that neighbourhood watch is much more effective than a hundred thousand CCTVs or police patrolling or security services.
What are your thoughts on Babysitting and Neighbourhood Watch? I would love to know.