Wednesday, October 2, 2013

i'm not raising your child

 A few days ago I was mowing my lawn when a middle aged woman, a woman I've never seen or met, pulled up in front of my house. The backseat door opened and she shooed a little girl out. The little girl walked to the door, rang the bell, and the woman drove off.

Phoebe answered the door, and the little girl asked if she could play. This girl is seven years old. Phoebe is ten. That's about two decades in kid years. My other daughter, Margaret, is five. Phoebe didn't want to play with a seven year old, but someone had dropped this girl off like Orphan Annie, so what was she going to do? It turned into a babysitting gig, basically, in which the babysitter wasn't paid.

Do you get the picture I'm painting for you? Neither of my daughters had invited this little girl over. Her grandmother, who was tired of watching her, or had some errands or something, dropped her off under the assumption that we had a house full of kids and certainly someone would want to play with her. Just like that! Our house is Pinocchio's Island! Awesome times and roller coaster rides all day long! Anyone want a cigar? Lampy?

Can you see a problem with this little story? And then you compound everything with the fact that this is not an isolated incident. It's just the first one I really saw firsthand. I hate to bring this up, but what if I were a child molester or some kind of sex offender? That lady would have no idea. None. She doesn't know my name! She doesn't know my wife's name! She doesn't know my daughters' names! She only knows we have kids at her house and now she can go get her errand list over with (finally!)

I understand that it takes a village to raise a child. I know I need to parent the neighborhood kids, too. Especially if they are at my house. But it's so much easier to do that when I know that they have parents at home, too. Parents who are doing their job. Parents who know where their kids are. That's how the village works.

Sixteen years ago Lisa and I decided that she would stay home and raise our kids. It was, and continues to be, a financial challenge. But we felt it was the right thing for our family, despite the fact that Lisa could earn probably twice what I do (and I hope that day will come $$$$). Her choice to be an at-home mom, however, doesn't mean she signed up to be the neighborhood babysitter. And as the years have gone by I've seen her be more and more firm about drawing boundaries with neighborhood kids and parents. It's exciting to watch. I love it and I'm proud of her for it.

I need to draw those boundaries, too. The next time that lady, or anyone like her, drops off her kids for free daycare I'm going to walk up, introduce myself, shake her hand, tell her I have an awesome white van, and ask if I can take her child with me to Heber or something. You know, just see how that goes! Lisa doesn't think this is a good idea, but you never know.

The final analysis:

1. Parents, your children are not my responsibility

2. My house is not a daycare for random children

3. I might take your child to Heber (but just to get a shake at Granny's)
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