Here’s the thing. I know that toddlers can be brats. I know that with the tantrums and the meltdowns and the sleep deprivation most parents will utter “little brat” under their breath 50 times a day while reminding themselves they can’t kill their child. I know it’s not fun or entertaining when a toddler has a complete meltdown in the middle of the restaurant or Target, and I KNOW that’s the first thing outsiders think too. The stranger observing with contempt on their face and judgement in their eyes believe he’s spoiled, I’m a terrible mom, he’s just a brat, and on and on.
But the truth is, generally they are NOT brats. We’re just tired, impatient and frankly, completely ignorant adults. Having the sandwich in triangles instead of squares may not seem important to an adult, but how many times have YOU sent back a sandwich because it had the tomatoes you asked them to remove? Same thing. We’ve just learned to deal with our disappointments.
So when my sitter took my son to the park today and promptly returned less than ten minutes later I was a little taken a back. “He wouldn’t listen. He kept trying to run in the street, chase the older kids, climb the tree, and then just started throwing a fit. He was being a brat.” Ok. So what did you say to him? Did you try to redirect him? Did you forget I told you he loves the outdoors, older kids, and climbs like a monkey? Did you miss the part where I said he has cabin fever and letting him run would be good for him? Did you truly think you could sit on the bench and simply watch this two year old run amuck?
Let’s be clear. When I average 5 hours of sleep a night, my incredible patience for children that I was so proud of and reveled in years ago as a teacher, has totally disappeared as a parent. I hear Bill Cosby’s “Jeffrey” skit from his As Himself standup every time I talk to my kid. Like a skipped record I say his name 100 times a day. Like the crazy guy on the street I talk to myself in exasperated mumbles over lukewarm coffee while watching him run circles around the kitchen island just because.
“Come here come here come here come here! STOP!!! Come here come here…” is repeated like a mantra while chasing an unnervingly fast, naked, 3 ft human through the house at bath nightly. I marvel as my child goes totally deaf regardless of the amazing amounts of noise in the house, until he hears Facebook autoplay a video on my news feed on my phone. I, like so many of my fellow toddler parents, feel like banging my head against a wall would produce more results than trying to reason with a toddler in the throws of a tantrum.
But YOU, dear sitter, you have that blessed break I took for granted so long ago. You get to go home, recuperate, take a pause…eat regularly.
So when YOU tell me “He won’t listen,” my first response is “Yes. And?”
As a sitter I understood I had one job. To take care of the kids. But with that comes some seemingly obvious obligations that strangely elude my sitters. I shouldn’t HAVE to tell you these things, I’m paying you to watch my son…not watch NetFlix with my son, yet here I am listing out your job duties when I pay to you come to my house to watch my child.
1) Turn It Off. No. Really. Turn off the TV, iPad, PS4, Wii, XBox and tablet. He watches enough electronics when you are not here because I work at home and that’s how my husband and I decompress. Frankly if I wanted him watching TV all day, I wouldn’t pay you to be here because I own a laptop.
2) Put your phone away. I’m not paying you to text your boyfriend, update your status on Facebook, tweet your bestie, or email your teacher an update on your report. Just because you don’t get W2s from me, doesn’t mean it’s not a job.
3) PLAY WITH MY KID. In the words of Cher from Clueless: “Um. Duh!” Of all things I’m listing, this seems the most asinine. Don’t sit on the couch and repeatedly say “Play with your blocks Damian.” Get off your tiny little butt and play blocks WITH him. He’s has a lot of toys to play with…he wants to play them with you. He’s not a plant. Engage for god’s sake.
4) Cook. I know you are able to feed yourself and I happen to have a whole kitchen full of food. Snacks, meals, left overs, bread, peanut butter, fish sticks, fruits….so stop asking me what to feed him. He’s not a lizard. Unless I give explicit instructions one way or another, figure it out.
5) Take him outside. I’m an introvert. He’s a toddler boy. So he doesn’t get to run as much as he, or I, would like. So when it’s sunny and nice don’t ASK me…just go. You know where the stroller is, how to get to the park, and how to open the back door. If you leave my property, let me know. Otherwise, take him outside. Let him get dirty, let him run, let him explore, or just splash in the splash pool I made him. You won’t have to deal with the exhaustion later if he doesn’t take a nap, so what’s your excuse?
6) Read, play with play dough, or just color. He doesn’t HAVE to be running, getting dirty, or listening to something all the time. He and I will sit for a long time while I make play dough balls and he practices cutting with a butter knife.
7) Talk to him. He speaks, just not English. When he says “Wa Wa” over and over, say “Do you want water? Ok. Say Please.” He’s trying to talk to you, just talk back.
8) CLEAN UP!!! I really don’t mind messes. Honestly. But nothing ticks me off more than when I come home and my son’s stuff is everywhere. I’m not asking you to do dishes, scrub the toilet, or to wash my underwear…but do I REALLY have to ask you to clean up his stuff? Especially when it was clean before I left??
9) Leave. This one kills me. I have no problem doing a ten minute small talk, getting the details of the day with him, telling me about your upcoming placement test…but chatting with me for 30 minutes when I’ve said “thank you” or “Ok I have to get dinner started” or “Ok Let’s go get some milk handsome!” 15 times like you’re trying to milk the time just annoys me. I know when I came back, which means I know what time I clocked you out.
I truly can’t believe I have to list this next one.
10) Wash. His. FACE! I have boxes of baby wipes everywhere, real wash clothes at an arms reach, paper towels on the counter, and if all else fails…tissues. There is NO reason I should come home and my son’s face have gunk on it, his shirt be dirty, or his hands sticky. Remember what I said about not minding messes? If he’s still eating, fine. But if lunch has been over for an hour and he’s playing with his trucks he shouldn’t look like a street urchin.
Listen. I’m not asking for Mary Poppins, I probably can’t afford her anyway, but for all that is holy WHY is this list not common sense?!
So I say again, no. My kid is not a brat. You’re just not doing your job.