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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
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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)

I would say... make sure you have the number for a good attorney handy. Truly. The police report is a good idea too.

And I would also say... sit down RIGHT NOW and write out those weird incidents as you remember them, and as Henry has told them to you -- inappropriate TV watching at her house and all.

And if Henry can remember anyone else from the park, someone you could possibly call and ask about what they saw, do it.

I'm really not paranoid or trying to alarm you. But as a manager, the best defense against that kind of behavior is to be prepared. Document what you can, stay calm, and if you're ever accused of anything (or hit up for cash) you'll be ready.

I've hired some people who seemed perfectly OK but who were really bad employees, and I've learned the hard way to trust my gut. And keep good records. It's a hard lesson to learn, but necessary.

Good luck, and I hope the two of you are ok.
June 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterHeather
my response would have been, you're damn lucky i didn't hit you. and by the way, you better go into a witness protection program because you will be turned in to the proper authorities for child abuse.....

now, give me back my money...
June 21, 2006 | Unregistered Commentergorillabuns
Oh my GOD. That woman is outrageous. On what planet is it OK to run around hitting children? No. No no no no no.

Good for you for cutting her loose, and good for Henry for being such a good little man about it.

I don't know you from Adam and I want to find her and beat her down. Man. Hit your kid! Not OK!
June 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBrooke
If you haven't already (and if someone hasn't already mentioned this -- too pissed to read the comments first), you should take a picture of Henry's knee in case the crazy babysitter tries to make this incident bigger than it already is. Protect yourself. Document everything. She sounds loony. I didn't like her from the start, when you said she marched in and announced her own agenda instead of taking instruction from you. And WTF is up with her taking Henry to her house?? That is a definite no-no. Document, document, document. (Oh, and hugs to you and Henry!)
June 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBeth
did henry get in trouble for hitting her? when i was a kid, if i hit someone, there were consequences. I'm not saying that it makes it right to hit back, I'm just wondering if you said anything to him about it....

I hope everyone doesn't dump on me now.
June 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMags
That's terrible. I had an awful babysitter once when I was a kid - she would steal all my marbles and climb on our roof and then when I told on her, she attacked me like "You told on me didn't you, you little bitch?" But she never hit me. I can't believe the "only hit one other kid" defence...
June 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJem
Delurking to reiterate advice already given: document, document, document. Go to the park see if you can get names and numbers (and what their perception of the “incident” was/is). Also, at least get a name of an attorney licensed to practice in New Jersey, you can go to New Jersey’s Bar Association website for referrals: http://www.njsba.com/lawyer_referral/ . (Yes, attorney and so probably much too suspicious and cynical, but better safe than sorry; also this is not legal advice, you need to consult an attorney for legal advice.) I don’t want to freak you out any more than you already are (with excellent cause, Trixie is beyond words horrid) but…Take care of yourself, Henry and your husband.

June 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJK
this is my first time commenting. i just wanted to say that this horrifies me. if your responsibility is to babysit a child, then it's your responsibility to be at least somewhat receptive to said child, even if he or she would like to do something you don't want to do. such as leaving a park. i used to be a nanny. the little girl i watched used to hit me all the time, because she had a bad temper, and more than once bit me or hit me in the face. it certainly never crossed my mind to hit her back. it's not human nature to hit back. not in my opinion anyway. i would understand if, maybe, a huge dude was clobbering you in the face with buzz lightyear. but a little boy? i guess she's a babyhitter?
June 21, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterannie
She's only hit another child once?

Yeah. The word "only" and the phrase "hit a child" can only co-exist with the word "never".

As in, "I've only hit a child never." Any amount of times above never times completely obliterates the only.

Otherwise, you've got a total oxymoron going on there.

So sorry that happened. I agree with the other commenters that recommend consulting with an attorney, just in case.

And I'm going to vibe the shit out of Miss Whackjob Fisticuffs all the way from across the country, here. Jesus.
June 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTina
I hit my son a few times out of anger when he was younger and I still feel bad about it. I'm emotional and physical and generally this is good but it does have a downside. This is why I do not earn my living watching children. And this is, I think, what's at the heart of the Trixie story: You may need to fix your own car from time to time, but if you do not know how to fix a car, you should not be a mechanic, offering to fix the cars of others in exchange for their money. If you cannot restrain your anger at a child, you should not care for the children of others. There is more than a damaged engine at stake.
June 21, 2006 | Unregistered Commentertuckova
I had the very same thing happen to me when I was a teenager babysitting neighborhood kids. A little 4 year old girl who I absolutely adored socked me in the face really good, and even as a 14 year old, I had the sense to deal with her appropriately. I know children can wear on your nerves and make you crazy at times, but there's really no excuse for hitting a child out of anger, ESPECIALLY when you can't say, "Wow. I was way out of line and totally wrong and am so very, very, VERY sorry." I can't believe this Trixie woman tried to rationalize it! Good for you for giving her the heave-ho! None of you need that crap.

Not that you want to be vindictive, but perhaps you should file a report with child welfare? I'd want to know if someone I left my children with had only hit one - oh wait, TWO - other children, particularly if it was enough to leave a visible injury. This woman should not be caring for anyone else's children.
June 21, 2006 | Unregistered Commentershannon
Ok, so she only hit another child once right? What happened, did the others just move too fast for her?I really feel for you, finding decent childcare is like finding rocking horse shit and then you feel constant guilt about leaving them.This Tricksy dog was an exception to the rule, you will find your own Supernanny and you will never look back.Hugs to you both.
June 22, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBrightflowermaid
First, I'm sooo sorry that your family has been through this. It's awful to imagine (over and over, if you're like me) anyone doing ANYTHING to your baby, when you aren't there to step between them first. That doesn't make it your fault *at all* - you've been making good decisions through all of this, and sometimes, you just can't know something will go wrong until it already did.

The other thing is, you said that this woman's version was that Henry wanted to leave, she was talking to the sitter, etc. Have you also asked Henry why he did it? This is a woman who is crazy / cunning enough to show up later with a bandaged face, badmouth you to other parents, etc. I'm wondering *cringe* if anything else might have provoked Henry? She's a bad, dishonest person, so I don't automatically her story is true.

Just something I was thinking about, to distract myself from wanting to drive over from Pennsylvania RIGHT NOW and throttle this woman.
June 22, 2006 | Unregistered Commenter~t.~
Whoa. This is sickening but not, sadly, that unusual. The best thing here is a lesson learned. Trust your gut. As women we sometimes are afraid of not being "nice" when someone engenders that icky feeling in us. We have to learn to get over that; it can save us from a lot of bad things. By the way, I have taught children and adults with autism for the last 20 something years so I have been hit, kicked, bitten, even had a TV thrown at me. Last week, in a 3 hour period, a child hit me 37 times. In the face. "No hitting." A time out and a sad face on his chart. Done.
June 22, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterDenise
That is so insane. Not just the hitting but her trying to justify herself. I'm so sorry it happened. At least now she won't be around Henry anymore. Hitting children is illegal here in Scandinavia, but maybe it isn't in the U.S.? One of my first thoughts was "lawsuit", too, when I read about her bandaged cheek (as a foreigner I tend to freak out about American lawsuits, the outcome seems so random and unfair sometimes), but in Norway I think you would stand a pretty good chance with a claim against her (which doesn't help you at all though). The bottom line is, there is no excuse for an adult to hit a child. Ever.
June 22, 2006 | Unregistered Commenteranja
Um, yeah, I think you ought to track the other sitter down, hire an attorney, and call the police and/or CPS. Something's fishy. And take copious photographs of Henry's knee. I don't like the way this sounds at all.

I understand that in a moment anyone--and I do mean ANYONE--can snap. Which is maybe what happened (and I'm not defending it) and maybe this chick is just afraid to admit that she lost it when she was hit in the face.
June 22, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterwix
That's the pits...and from 8 years on the playgrounds of NYC, I suspect it happens in post-playground on carpeted surfaces more than anyone cares to think about - I've seen a couple of babysitters and mothers whose stress level drapes around them like a mantle til their faces get that "Don't Defy Me" look. And if she's been at it for 30 years and you've only been at it for a few, well, she reckons she's got it all figured out, hence her call to the other mother. Sounds like this is going to be a helluva way to meet some other folks w/ young children in your new community! (And in 5 or 10 years you and your close friends can trot it out for homesick new arrivals from Brooklyn. By then, it will be merely a source of grim comedy and Henry will be outside by himself skateboarding or if it's 10 years we're talking about, loitering near his former playground with his girlfriend. But even then I guarantee that at story's end, the listener will gasp and say, So what happened to Trixie?
June 22, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterayun
I'd guess if she admits to hitting once before, you can bet it's more than that. If she bothers you in the future, report her anonymously to the IRS. Since she gets paid in cash, they can probably keep her busy for a while sorting out her taxes...
June 22, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterEllen
Hi - I'm a lurker from Brooklyn, and Brooklyn misses you. Lordy, I am so sorry that this has happened, but glad you're maintaining a sense of humor about it. And Henry seems pretty resilient, so I don't think he will turn into an ax-murdered suddenly. Aagin, sorry. But don't let this sour you on babysitters forever. Just Trixie. So long to Trixie! Forever.
June 22, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterrobin
Iy sounds to me like she had someone else hit her so that she would have something to show (or sigh sue) about? if I was uber paranoid and insane that thought would cross my mind.

if it seems like she is trying to build up some kind legal garbage, you could always threaten to 1099 her for every cent she made from you ( more or less threatening to take 30% of her pay back from her point of view.)

That's awful Alice. I hope you can just get your chin up and move on. There is one thing that you can be happy about, though. In all my life everytime I've managed to get rid of someone who made my intuitive crazy person spider sense go off it has made a huge and amazing poisitive impact. All best.
June 22, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterrobbm
I am so sorry this happened to you and your little boy! There is nothing scarier than trusting someone with your baby and then they go and do exactly what you hired them to protect your kid from. You handled it beautifully. I've occasionally met people whom I trusted when they were in my presence and, the minute they left, started having doubts about. I've learned not to question it any more - they are always bad news, in my experience. Thankfully, your little guy is okay, and your mommy instincts are sharper than ever.

And all that bitch's whining about being hit - did she not know that kids sometimes hit? Or bite? Or scratch?

Good thing you made this post. I'd photographs his scraped knee, that woman sounds like trouble and you should have this whole thing documented.
June 22, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjennifer
Yes. If someone hits me my instinct is to hit back. In my Muay Thai kickboxing class.

Silly babysitter. So sorry for Henry.
I am shocked and saddened by your post today...Is she a licensed childcare provider? If so, you NEED to report this incident to the board to go on her record, (If NJ is set up that way) also a police report. Even in self defense it is NOT allowable to hit a child. Especially as one as young as Henry. Also, I know you want to probably forget this whole thing, but a police report should be obtained. Just in case, whether you pursue (or she does) civil action or not... Also, in our state after 600 dollars you can 1099 them for their services, because, you know, you did pay her and she needs to report those monies on her tax return. Your intuition kicked in and you waved it off...Please, Please help the other mothers who are also waving off their icky feeling of her, because of her cunning behavior. Just by her actions of calling other parents shows that she is defensive which shows that she guilty. Hugs to you today.. For that sick pit in your stomach!
June 22, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJudi
I would have fired her too. I suggest (I haven't read previous comments, so this might have already been said) that you take pictures of Henry's injuries, just in case. She sounds slightly vindictive and crazy, so you might want to cover yourself by having those pictures. Good for Henry for not being shy about telling you when things like that happen!
June 22, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJessie
Maybe she has been childminding for a hundred years, but it sounds like she's beginning to lose the plot. She sounds tweaked.

I just know she didn't have that bandage on before she went to collect her money. Don't you?

I hope that by phoning around other mothers to tell them about the incident, she'll be setting off alarmn bells in their heads about HER, not about YOU: if any of them shared your gut instinct that she's a creep, they'll be asking her not to come back to their houses either.

Well done Alice. Good on you. Hope the bad feeling goes away soon.
June 22, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAntonia

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