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Let's Panic: The Book!

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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,
and Finally Turn You
into a Worthwhile
Human Being.

Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

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Let's Panic

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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. → 

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

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'm so sorry.Sounds like the bitch is thinking of a lawsuit. You're busy and dealing with a lot but if you could make time to get the word out it would be a great service-she shouldn't have anyone in her care.Take care mama,Sue
June 22, 2006 | Unregistered Commentersusan
Whoa. Always trust those maternal instincts. I would say, in retrospect, that just exposing Henry to the Bedazzler informercial was sufficiently abusive to result in her termination.

But seriously, I'm so sorry Henry got hurt and so glad you caught this in time.
June 22, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMomVee
Most definitely take her SS#, if you have it, and report this "incident" in the most excruciating detail you're able to muster on paper to your local childcare licensing board. (Here in Virginia there are two versions, State and County licensure. State is more stringent than County in our case, but obviously this may vary in other locales.)

I'm glad you were able to jettison her, and I agree with all the other calls to document the living daylights out of this as deeply as you can, because the bitch is going to end up bringing this back around on you somehow, and it's best to be able to bury her when she does.

Bandage. HAH.

I was a volunteer EMT and was struck by my patients -- child and adult alike -- more times than I can count. I certainly never hit one back!

Also, I must confess that I spank my daughter when she is completely out of control because there is not one other method that breaks through with her -- and we tried them all. It was an incredibly difficult place at which to arrive in my head, because spanking is something that, as a former child abuse victim of the being-thrown-about kind, I had sworn before having children I would never hit mine. But I think spanking -- the single attention-getting swat that we use, which catches primarily diaper, anyway -- is completely different than shoving, hitting, etc. Also, how anyone else parents their child -- so long as their child is not AFRAID of them, but rather respects parental authority and in times of fear, turns to their parent for solace -- is none of my business.

Still, if anybody *else* ever laid hands on her, I'd have to end them. And it would never occur to me after 15-odd years of being a nanny to EVER strike another person's child, no matter how many times I were hit/bitten/kicked/etc.

So I applaud your restraint in not giving her a REAL injury to display, and hope you will collect the info you need should she come back around to haunt you later, so that if she does, you can bury her in her own nastiness.
June 22, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLiz Cadorette
Whoa - ditto everyone! I'm so sorry, unfortunately I know that awful-in-the-stomach-feeling when you've trusted a caregive and they let you down.The part that intrigues me is the talking to another nanny. Hello - she's on the clock, she should be totally focused on Henry - or paying attention enough to see a Buzz Lightyear headed her way! IMO she got what she deserved, and she is totally out of line.I would definitely be trying to track down the person she was supposedly talking to and anyone else who was at the playground that morning.
June 22, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterHoo
Hve not read all the comments yet, so I'll be quick:

Alice, I adore you and I am so sorry you had to experience this.

The woman is whacked. Plain & simple. Thank God she's gone. She's whacked because it sounds like she would try & lie her way out of anything.

Sitters should never hit anyone's child.

That is all.
June 22, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTerry
Wow. That sucks donkey scrote. Poor Henry, and poor you!

I agree with those who have advised you to document, but I think it's more likely that her strange phone call to the other woman was an attempt on her part to prevent the fallout. She's probably afraid that you will call around and inform people you know to steer clear of her (which, in your shoes, I would certainly do) and thought that by calling up the other lady and blowing her "injury" waaaaaaaay out of proportion, she could win people over to her side and keep from losing other clients.

At any rate, thank fucking goodness you found out about this side of her early on.
June 22, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterscarlettbgonya
Sweet boiled balls. What a nut job, this Trixie! I'm so sorry...

June 22, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSherry
Woah! This scares the crap out of me - I am so glad that you have handled it very well and are well rid of her! To echo what probably has been said already, you will be better off! Also, you mentioned that she was talking to another mom/sitter - maybe find that person for their take on the whole thing. Just a thought - you know just in case she tries to go further with this - like tries to sue you all or something. Also, it would give you a eyewitness account to what actually happened. Probably has already been suggested / thought of. Best of luck and may the crazy lady decide it's not worth it and never contact you again!
June 22, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLaurie
Man, I wish you hadn't paid her! For what, after all? Services rendered? Those services being the safekeeping of your child? I guarantee you never would have heard another thing from her, after she admittedly assaulted your child...Now you have the headache of having to try to find somebody new, and even harder, TRUSTING them. We are way overpaying our current sitter just to avoid having to find somebody new.

June 22, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterFlyDaddy
Okay, as a mom I am hella pissed on your behalf about this whole situation. You've already gotten lots of excellent advice re: police reports, 1099s, documenting everything, etc. so I will say only this: it sounds like Henry is a good judge of character. You might want to have him sit in on any future babysitter interviews. With his flashlight. You know, just in case.

Oh, but I haven't seen this mentioned: DO NOT have any further communication with Trixie. None whatsoever. If she tries to contact you, tell her your attorney has advised you not to have any contact with her. And that she can talk to HIM/HER instead.
June 22, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBadger
Oh. WOW. What a scary, creepy sitter. And yeah, I'd say it's damn near impossible to "react" to a child who is facing you, and have him fall and scrape his knee. Did Henry maybe reenact the "incident" for you?

Oh, and the "because he is allowed to hit" thing probably would've pushed me over the edge. I think I might've called Trixie up and said, "Hey, guess what! Henry's MAMA is allowed to hit, too!"
June 22, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLadyBug
I don't care that he hit her first. She is bigger and stronger, and SHE IS AN ADULT! He is a CHILD! Children do things they aren't allowed to do all the time! I am so mad I am using exclamation points!

I understand wanting to. As horrible as that makes me sound, when you are watching a kid for 8 hours a day and for 6 of those 8 hours hard plastic objects are being hurled at your head (and generally making contact) you get angry. However, wanting to do something and doing it are 2 completely different things. And even after being practically concussed I have NEVER hit a child. Not once. Not ever. Because I am supposed to be the adult, which means I am supposed to know how to control my anger. Yeah, they need to be punished for what they did, but not by hitting. How does that help?

She's a nutjob who shouldn't be allowed around children- all those reactions were way beyond weird.
June 22, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMegan
She's a freak - you did the right thing.

I think babysitters are like soul mates - the right ones do exist, and you know them when you see them.
June 22, 2006 | Unregistered Commentersinda
Oh my god. Let me first say I am very glad you fired her because of this. I think parents sometimes try to brush of these incidents and something worse might happen the next time. I think it is insane that she is trying to use the whole he hit me first defense! She isn't a child. She is a grown woman!! That is the whole point of being an adult. We have crazy in the moment reactions that we do not give into. Hello?! What is wrong with people? Is it so hard to find an itelligent reasonable reaction to being hit by a child? Of course you don't allow Henry to hit, but I am sure you don't try to teach non-violence by using violence because that is just stupid.

I hope you are able to find a suitable nanny replacement and I hope she cools down and you don't have to deal with all of this anymore. You made the right decision.
June 22, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAngela
This amazes me, because I work at a daycare and I have been hit, kicked, head-butted to the point of a bleeding lip, and come at with a screwdriver by pre-school age children, but never once would it have occured to me to retaliate in a physical manner. Not once.

If there's anything to say about a daycare over nanny/babysitter it's that criminal background checks have to be done and there are always witnesses and if someone hit a child in any way shape or form they'd be reported and fired and would have a REALLY hard time getting more daycare work (if it's a reputable daycare).
June 22, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterNicole
You're a good Mom, Alice. You did the right thing.
June 22, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterKate

Let me tell you, when I am hit hard, my first instinct IS often to hit someone back. I've done it without thinking about it more than once.

I even did it to a smallish child once.

My BROTHER. When I was a TEENAGER. And he hit me from behind in the knees with a stick APPROXIMATELY THE SIZE OF A BASEBALL BAT. I turned and slapped him, once. And then I aplogized to him and ran into the house crying, not because I was hurt (although I was), but because I'd hit him, and he was much smaller than me, and I felt terrible about it, and immediately told my mother what had happened, and I hated myself for the next week. I was 16; it was my own sibling; my brother didn't have a mark on him afterward.

And I had more remorse then than this woman seems to have for visibly injuring someone else's child.

I was a part-time nanny throughout most of college and for a short time afterward, and, let me tell you, I got hit by the kids I watched a bunch of times, and it hurt, a bunch of times.

But I never, ever, not once, even started to hit one of the kids I used to care for back. I don't even recall ever having had the slightest urge to hit one of them back. They were a third my size, for heaven's sake!

How could a grown woman possibly feel so threatened by a small child armed with a toy flashlight that she would feel the uncontrollable need to forcefully shove him to the ground?

Small children often hit people when they are angry. It's just a thing they do. They're too young to reason their feelings out or to control their impulses all of the time, and any professional childcare provider ought to understand that, and be ready for it.

Hitting him in the first place was reprehensible. Trying to defend herself to you by blaming him was worse, and going around defending herself preemptively to other people tells me she knows what she did was very wrong and might cost her her career.

I get the feeling that this might not be "only" the second time she's hit a kid in her care . . .
June 22, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjaelithe
I am so mad right now I can't breathe! How dare that woman lay a HAND ON YOUR CHILD??? GGRRRR!! If I'd have been in the park and witnessed it, I'd have taken her down! Besides, how is hitting him back teaching him not to hit anyway? What kind of child care expert is she? Oh, I'm twitching I'm so upset for you. GOOD FOR YOU for firing her.
June 22, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJamie
You are a fantastic mom who absolutely did the right thing in firing Tricksy Trixie. I'm sure you've already documented Henry's injuries and the times of the calls from this insane person.

I'm so very sorry that this happened to Henry, but very thankful that he is so bright and verbal that he was able to tell you about it.

Cyber {{{{hugs}}}}
June 22, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterkim
OMG, what a horrible woman! You are an awesome mom and took action right away. As some other posters said, I would document the entire incident, take pictures of Henry's injuries and file a police report (at the very least contact an attorney right away). This woman seems like she is trying to get stuff together to sue you. Psycho biotch...I am so sorry you had to deal with this.
June 22, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJean
I'm so sorry you had to go through this - I agree with Amy (waaaay up there in the comments) who said she thought maybe Trixie was being mean to Henry in other ways - ignoring him, snotty comments.

Sorry about all of this.
June 22, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSerenity Now
I am so sorry to hear about Henry's being hurt. You are well shut of her. I don't know if she is trying to start anything, though. If she insisted on being paid cash I'm sure she isn't reporting it as income. I don't know how old she is, but around here several older women will sit for cash only so they won't put their social security in danger of being reduced. If that's the case, I can't imagine she'd start trouble that would publicize her "off the books" income producing job. What it sounds like to me is that she is attempting to preserve her "good" reputation by getting her version of the story out first. I can't imagine that it'll do anything but more harm. I mean, would you continue to employ someone who tells you they caused a child injury - on purpose, in self-defense? I don't think so.
June 22, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBob
Yikes! I'm so sorry--what a horrible thing! She clearly should not be allowed to watch any child, ever again. Boy she is sneaky, what with the bandage and covering her ass with other parents. He's three years old for pete's sake! Good on you for raising a secure child who knows when to blab to you about something; she probably hissed at him all the way home not to say anything, the witch.
June 22, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMandy
It's a very good thing that Henry can express himself so clearly in words, so that you knew what was happening. Imagine if he were an infant! She would get away with all of this! Good for you for firing her!
June 22, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLily Bleu
I read this yesterday and I just cannot figure out how Henry could have scraped his knee without her .... the point is I think you should always, always listen to your instincts. There are times you may not find out why you felt a certain way, but deep down I think we all know when our kids are in danger.
June 22, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMaiken

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