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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain,
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Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

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At LET'S PANIC ABOUT BABIES, Eden Kennedy and I share our hard-won wisdom and tell you exactly what to think and feel and do, whether you're about to have a baby or already did and don't know what to do with it.

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« There’s too many cars round here | Main | Whining finally gets the respect it deserves. »
Wednesday
Jun212006

And here I thought the suburbs were boring.

So! Henry’s babysitter hit him yesterday.

She. Hit. Henry. My son. Hit him! With her hand!

Before we place our hands on top of our heads and run around shrieking—and in doing so also perform an uncanny impersonation of my behavior yesterday—let me get this out, now that I’m calm enough to sit. While I’m telling you, try not to divine her identity using the power of your mind and then teleport yourself to her home and berate her for her wildly inappropriate behavior! Because I know that’s what you were planning!

Yesterday Henry arrived home with Trixie (my new name for her. Because she’s tricksy!) and announced. “Trixie hit me. She pushed me down and I scraped my knee.”

My heart stopped and I died. The end.

Then I came back to life and said, “Flalalalahhh?”

Trixie came in behind him, beaming. “We had an incident!” she declared, a huge smile on her face. “But we’re okay now!”

Here is her version of the events that occurred. She was talking to another babysitter when Henry demanded that they leave the park forthwith. She told him no, and continued talking to her friend. She was kneeling down next to Henry, and suddenly, BLAMMO! He walloped her in the cheek with his small (yet admittedly solid) Buzz Lightyear flashlight. And without thinking (“it was like a natural instinct,” she said many more times than I could stand without throttling her. It was my natural instinct!) she hit him right back.

“I couldn’t believe how hard he hit me,” she said. “I can already see the swelling. Look at that swelling!”

I could not see any swelling. I stared at her.

“I have only,” she said proudly, “hit another child like that in 30 years of watching children.”

Well! Only one other time! Bravo, madam!

Friends, she hit him such that he fell on his knee and scraped it. Now, will you please explain to me how, if he was facing her, and she struck back just as Buzz clattered to the ground, his knee was scraped? Shouldn’t he have fallen on his butt?

(And also? Last week he was running toward me, went flying, landed on both knees, and scraped them. And those scrapes were not as bad as this one.)

And if you’re struck in the face, would your first reaction be to hit the person who struck you? Wouldn’t it be to put your hands on your face? I’m sure it’s different for everyone, but for me, if something hits you that hard (“Look at that swelling!” Trixie is yelling from the sidelines) my first impulse would be to protect yourself. My second, when the pain kicks in, would be to respond in kind. Say, after the person has turned away.

I think he hit her and turned away. I think she was in pain, and had a big ol’ burst of rage, and she pushed him. This is what I think. I think she covered her ass as much as she could, given my son’s tendency to blab. Not that it matters, because either way, she’s not watching my son ever again.  But this is how I like to torture myself.

(Dear people who might get uppity about my kid hitting someone else and why do I condone that: I absolutely do not. Never,  ever, ever.  But do you get that it’s different when an adult hits a kid? Are we clear?)

When she was telling me about the incident, she kept saying, “I don’t blame you if you fire me right now! Don't blame you at all!” and yet I couldn’t bring myself to do it. All I wanted was for her to be out of my house. Around fifteen minutes after she left I called her, and told her not to come back. “I absolutely agree,” she said. “I mean, I could get hit like that again!” She said this several times. “My husband says I should go to the doctor. He could have taken out my eye!” Then she wanted to know when she getting paid.

(Don’t get me started on the payment thing. Wait, too late! She would only agree to be paid in cash, and she kept insisting she was going to come to my home and get her money, and then after I told her I would let her know when and how she would get her money and hung up she called me every five minutes, screaming that I hung up on her and she is not a bad person and she only ever hit one other child ever! Apparently this “only one other kid” thing is an impressive track record! Finally my husband met her at a designated location and gave her her three days’ back pay. She was wearing a bandage on her face.)

The part that is causing me both guilt and also some degree of satisfaction is: I knew there was something off about her. She came highly recommended; she had an impressive background; she was full of ideas and enthusiasm and all that crap that we look for in a sitter. And yet, there was something about her that gave me the creeps. Usually this feeling took over when she wasn’t around, and I would think, I should tell her never to come back. I’ll call her right now. Wait, where’s her number? And then the next morning would roll around, and there she’d be, all smiles and chatter, and Henry would be excited, and I would think,  Crazy Alice! She’s like Mary Poppins, only without the funny hat! And then they’d be off and I’d immediately begin my fretting and worrying and suspicion-having.

Just the day before, I had addressed another issue with her: Henry had, over the weekend, been telling me all about various commercials they had watched at Trixie’s house. When, hmm, I hadn’t known anything about them going to her house, not to mention watching television at her house. They clearly did this with some frequency—I mean, he recited the various uses of the Bedazzler to me, and then asked when we could get one. But then I asked her about it, and she had such a detailed story about this one time when they had to go there for an emergency and she forgot to call me, and on and on, and I left that conversation all confused and, well, bedazzled! Like she had covered me in shiny paillettes and made a throw pillow out of me!

There were other things, but anyway, it’s all over now. I was worried that Henry would miss her. I told him I was going to ask her never to come back. I wanted him to know that this was my decision. I didn’t want him to feel like he made her go away; I was sure he would have conflicting feelings about it. And he looked right at me and said, “Call her and tell her that now. Right now. And give me the phone when you’re done.”

UPDATE!: I just received word that Trixie called another parent, someone whose child she occasionally watches, and left a strange message. She said she had gone to the ER and had a serious injury. She added that Henry hit her because "Henry is allowed to hit," and therefore she had no choice but to retaliate. No choice! I'm not sure what she's up to, but it's not nothing, I'll tell you what.

ANOTHER UPDATE!: My attorney hath spoke: there's nothing she can do. I mean, she can try to sue, but nothing will come of it. So I will file this away under "Lessons Learned," and next time I'll be listening to my gut. Right now it's telling me I require a bucket of cookies. And I must obey.

Reader Comments (179)

In between freelance research jobs, I've worked as a full-time nanny to two lovely but mischevious children. I've definitely taken a fair amount of physical abuse, and I can say from experience that no matter how much a child hurts you, it's pretty easy to keep presence of mind and just tell them to stop. My six-year-old hit me over the head with her hard plastic lunchbox while I was tying her shoes. She held the lunchbox in two hands, swung it over her own head and then down onto mine--and I totally saw stars, but I never thought about retaliating with physical force.

That Trixie chick doesn't deserve the pleasure of Henry's company.
June 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterC
That is just downright wrong to hit a child back if they hit you. What kind of a person does that (well, aparently, this Trixie does.. she's done it before! a repeat offender!)? If she was any sort of a person, she wouldn't have done it in the first place. The part of this story that really makes me queasy? The part where Henry told you about going to Trixie's house. Emergency, my ass.I hope she doesn't try to get any more money out of you, what with going to ER and all. A bandage! From a three year old! She probably did something mean to him to instigate that wallop.
June 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth
My first thought: OMG.Immediate thought after that?: Document and call an attorney.

Good advice above on the police report. I'd also run a background check on her SS#, if you have it. And get a good attorney's counsel in case she's thinking of coming after you. Love the idea about asking for more info from the playground brigade as well. I'd keep any vmail messages as well for proof.

She's clearly unbalanced, and you should protect yourself.

Hugs for your and kisses for Henry.
June 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterPammer
She is saying that he is allowed to hit therefore she is allowed to hit? And she is how old? And she has chosen caring for children as her career?

I think you should do some photographic documentation of your own. Whatever she is up to, if she doesn't just believe her own fantasies she is scary.
Oh, Alice, I'm really, really sorry about this. And I know, too, that you'd been nervous about leaving Henry in the first place, and I just want to reassure you as a nanny that THIS IS NOT HOW IT SHOULD BE, and there are those of us who know this, and who respect the privledge of loving and sharing your children and who HATE HATE HATE that women like this do crap like this and make all of us as a profession look like this. Good for you for not letting her near your child again and for sending Henry the message that it's not okay for him to be hurt by anyone, ever. He'll carry that with him.
June 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLauren
Oh, Alice, I'm really, really sorry about this. And I know, too, that you'd been nervous about leaving Henry in the first place, and I just want to reassure you as a nanny that THIS IS NOT HOW IT SHOULD BE, and there are those of us who know this, and who respect the privledge of loving and sharing your children and who HATE HATE HATE that women like this do crap like this and make all of us as a profession look like this. Good for you for not letting her near your child again and for sending Henry the message that it's not okay for him to be hurt by anyone, ever. He'll carry that with him.
June 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLauren
I am so glad you kicked that bitch to the curb.
June 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterShasta
Oh. Wow. Run. Far, far, away. I reached for my 2 year old as I read this and held her tight, not wanting to know that someone could possibly hurt her. And there were more things? Thing she did to your little boy? Who is this madwoman?

I hope she fries.
June 21, 2006 | Unregistered Commenter2girlsmama
Unbelievable. And i know just how you feel, about that 'off' feeling. We had a daycare situation that was similar -- i had a bad feeling, i went back and forth with it, i let my daughter go there, there was something 'off' that i just couldn't identify, the caregiver was highly recommended, i still had a bad feeling ... you know.

the thing that did it for me was when the wee one came home and said 'NO!' and slapped the back of her own legs. and when we dropped her off she'd scream no no no no ... the first couple days i thot it was just adjusting, but i've never felt as relieved as i did when i called and pulled the wee one out of that place. i still cringe whenever i drive near it.

i'm so sorry this happened, but i'm glad henry is ok and that you found out this early in it all. it's always a little scary to leave you little one with a carer, but a very good thing is that henry is old enough to tell you what's going on. kisses to both of you.
June 21, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterkristin
Delurking to say the following:

1. I'm sorry this happened, but at the same time, thank goodness it did before something WORSE happened to Henry or you. Something is seriously wrong with this woman. I have to agree with some of the other comments above...you might not have seen the last of her, unfortunately. It sounds to me like she is trying to cover her ass by going on the offensive.

2. Obviously it's not OK for Henry to hit anyone. But even if he DID hit this woman (and I'm not convinced of that), she committed battery against him. Her act is not privileged by self defense because (as the scrape on Henry's knee shows) she used more force than was necessary to defend herself. I would consider filing criminal charges and/or a civil claim...or at least preparing to do so in case she doesn't go away. Consulting an attorney would be an excellent idea.

Disclaimer: I'm an attorney, but not licensed in New Jersey, and obviously I don't have all the particulars of your situation, so don't rely on anything I've said as a substitute for actual legal advice.

3. Thank you for sharing this experience. More parents need to learn to trust their intuition when it comes to deciding who looks after their children.

4. It sounds like Henry will recover from this experience just fine -- indeed, probably has already.



June 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJon
Hmpf. Steam is pouring forth from my ears on your behalf. Email me if you want me to come sit on her or something (she might have a natural instict to sit on me then, but ha! she won't be able to since I'm still sitting on her... ummm... anyways).The whole "natural instinct" crap and her excuses (=lies?) about TV sound like she's 13 years old - but apparently she isn't.Congratulations on having a blabby, smart, wonderful boy. Who cares if he hits mean people?! ;)
June 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterEuropean
Good riddance. Good job getting rid of her. Good for Henry for sticking up for himself.
June 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterWhite
Okay, hi, I've never commented here before, but reading this makes me insane. While I don't have Trixie's impressive "30 years of watching children!" I do have a solid 10 years of babysitting and nannying under my belt, even just at the age of 23. I have dealt with many an angry child. I've had kids scream at me, and I've had kids take swings at me. It has never been my "natural instinct" to hit a kid back. EVER! Anyone whose natural instinct is to shove a little boy, under any circumstances whatsoever, shouldn't be around kids! Under any circumstances whatsoever! Go away, crazy lady, and never come back.

Trust YOUR "natural instincts" with babysitters. I've taken care of a lot of children, and I have had some really wonderful relationships with families. I've watched kids grow from 5 year olds to 8th graders. I've also gone for babysitting interviews in which the family has never called me back. For whatever reason, those families didn't feel like I was right for them. And that's okay, because if it doesn't feel right for the family, then it's not right.

Okay, I hope I didn't come across as condescending, because you obviously know everything I just said. But as someone who loves kids, who can't wait to have kids of her own, and who takes her job of taking care of kids very, very seriously...man, am I pissed at Trixie!
June 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMelody
You are so in the right here. I've been a nanny for years (though not 30), and have NEVER hit a child, and lemme tell you I've been hit PLENTY of times. They are CHILDREN. I do not know why I am YELLING because we are in AGREEMENT. A little girl bit me recently and my first reaction was to, y'know, get her teeth out my arm, but I just pulled away and had us be apart for a little bit. I hated having to tell her dad, but I had a really massive bruise from her so it was sort of unavoidalble. As a sitter it is our job to be in control of not only the child but ourselves. I am UPSET at this Trixie. Garrgh!
June 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterEmily
I am so sorry this happened. I was a nanny for years, often for children who could be quite difficult at times (I had a shoe thrown at my head once and was told that it was my job to pick it up, by a three year old!). I NEVER hit or felt the urge to hit a child. I hope you find someone who works out for you. Maybe another mom would be better?Sounds like you handled the situation very well. It seems like she is trying to cover her ass in case you press charges. Good luck. Henry is a very bright boy, what a great job he did telling you what happened!
June 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterKatie
You should have pushed her down, you know, just to see if she falls on her knees or her butt.She sounds like a coward and a bully. Bravo for getting rid of her.
June 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMary
This post was very interesting to read. What drama! Since no one else has done so (or admitted to it at least) I will be the first to confess that I have reacted impulsively to a hit from my own child with a tap back - not my best parenting moment by any means, but I didn't harm my child and did nothing more than shock her. HOWEVER, I am not defending Trixie, because I would think that if she did truly react "with natural instinct" she would also then realize how stupid that instinct was and APOLOGIZE PROFUSELY after the fact (not try to defend herself!) to both you and Henry. But it appears to go beyond the incident if more is bubbling, or bedazzling its way to the surface. And here I thought you were such a weirdo for spying on them at the park!
June 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterA
Oh my.

Oh my oh my oh my.

I think you are sooooooo right that this is not the end of the story. I can see this getting ugly. I hope it doesn't get ugly. Well.. I hope it gets ugly FOR HER however.

And I am feeling guilty that I am now awaiting any forthcoming details with eagerness! Call the paparazzi! The public needs to know of any new episodes, toute-de-suite!
June 21, 2006 | Unregistered Commenteramy
Ok, I'm not a nanny and by no means have 30+ years of experience doing anything whatsoever, but I WAS a teenager who babysat 3 boys who where seriously devil children when their parents walked out the door. One of them threw a severe temper tantrum ABOUT NOTHING WHAT SO EVER and while I dealt with the screaming and the wailing of arms upstairs, the noise (of the boy yanking on the door I was holding) scared the boys downstairs to such a degree that the oldest one told his parents that I SPANKED his brother, which NEVER happened (I did indeed eat all the mini Reeses cups, but spanking isn't quite my cup of tea!). Although my charge was not physically injured in any way (visually), I phased out of the career and have mostly stayed away from children since.

All that to say--remember she's still a kid herself. The mom of the kid I baby sat was really cool and sat me down to calmly explain what their policy for discipline was so I would know what to do next time rather than act in frustration. Looking back I really appreciated her patience and maturity with me. I'm sure it was something she was forced to learn.
June 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterHeather
Wait... she's married? Nevermind -- fire her ass.
June 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterHeather M
You're right about the first instinct (particularly a hard wallop) is to go 'Ow, that really hurt.' That's what I do if my son gets me. You're also right in that she must have really shoved him. Sounds so pre-meditated! It's good she's gone.
June 21, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjen
I agree with the people who say be careful and document everything (that bandage on her cheek makes me very nervous). The thing that bothers me most (well, not most I guess but a lot) is that she took him to her apartment and he was there long enough to watch a bedazzler commercial and remember details of it (those are infomercials, right? and other commercials too?) and did not mention it? Until she got caught? And then she said once, but it was more than once? (What about the other things she has said only! happened! once!)

Alice, I am so sorry. Good for you and Henry for sticking up for yourselves.
June 21, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermeg
One more thing to add.

It seems atypical of Henry to hit someone just because they said they weren't ready to leave yet. And obviously because of the "Let me talk to her when you're done" aspect of firing her shows that he didn't like her. It makes me wonder how she was treating him in other ways. Ways that are not as obvious as being HIT, but still are just as detrimental to his well being.

I hope you're still feeling good about camp that's coming up! At least at a center, there are more people around and a lot more accountability. My son, unfortunately, has been a hitter (and kicker, thankfully, never a biter) and we've worked very hard with rewarding the good choices and punishing the bad ones, and have been lucky that the center he goes to has worked with us during the rough patches (instead of just flat-out kicking him out). He's doing much better now. I've totally felt the urge to smack my child. Who doesn't feel the "instinct" (who are we kidding, it's a WANT, lady! You WANT to hit him back, it's not instinct!) - but that is why we are adults! Because we can stay in control of our passions and not give in to them. I admit, I have spanked, and have been sorry about it ever since. Even spanking is different than hitting a child ( and you're right, it sounds more like he got pushed/shoved) (not that I have any excuse) spanking denotes a punishment, and hitting is just abuse!

Anyway. Good thing you've shown her the door!!
June 21, 2006 | Unregistered Commenteramy
I'm sorry but I would like to defend Trixie on one point. I often have BeDazzling emergencies. Often. Practically hourly. Someone somewhere comes home from the mall realizing that their denim is WITHOUT RHINESTONES!! Their Keds have no oomph, no pizzaz. What is a person to do? Just let them walk around like that? So, I do what any red blooded American Bedazzler would do, I stop what I am doing and gemmify! And if I happen to be babysitting, I bring the kiddos along. I consider it passing on my craft to future generations.
June 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterEm
Down with Trixie! Off with her head!Stories like this scare the crap out of me. I have yet to leave Audrey with anyone but our parents. Kudos to you for taking it so calmly.
June 21, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterangela

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