My daughter, Vivvi, is 2, so she messes up a lot of words. When we drive by the bank, she calls it the “piggy bank.” When I put on a belt, she calls it my “seat belt.” And sometimes her mistake is just a reversal of words. Just today, she said she wanted to go to the “theater movie.” And my very favorite repeated offense is when she calls the girls who watch them so we can have date nights “sitter babies.”

We had some great sitter babies when I was growing up. One was never asked back after my brother, a toddler at the time, reported that she “made smoke” in the bathroom. Another told my sister and me that if we didn’t eat our peas, we wouldn’t grow boobs. (Turns out, I should have ate some more of those damn peas.) Another locked my brother, sister, and me in the sunroom for an extended time while she hung out with her friends and we plotted our elaborate escape plan. And still another gave me, a 3 year old, as much of the “juice” in the fridge as I wanted. “Juice” is in quotes because it was a premixed cocktail, and I was quite wasted, stumbling around the yard, by the time my parents got home. (Maybe that one wasn’t the sitter baby’s fault…) Otherwise we are talking about some real winners here. I won’t even get started on the one who broke my leg…

But we did have that one memorable, amazing sitter baby. She lived just a few houses away. I remember being excited for days before she was scheduled to come over. She played with us, had the best smile, and was beautiful and fun. Another friend of mine had her as a sitter baby also, and I remember feeling jealous when my friend would talk about the time they had together. The babysitter commanded respect when necessary—I felt terrible once when I got wild and she had to scold me. Her worst offense was that she let us watch scary movies—for some reason Poltergeist was on the schedule a lot when she came over. She did her job so well that I thought she was coming for our enjoyment, rather than my parents’ (much needed—I know now) time away.

Then I was a sitter baby. I believe I fell somewhere between our lineup of terrible ones and the best one. I was in a family’s hall once and happened to pass by the bedroom where the 1.5 year old was at the top of the bunk bed ladder. My sudden appearance catching him doing something he knew not to do made him let go and fly backwards, back flopping on the ground. I was pushing another 2 year old on a swing and decided to give him an incredible underdog. I went running under full force, turned around, and he was dangling from the seat and chains, head nearly scraping the ground. I won’t even get started on the one I poorly strapped into a bike trailer and rode several blocks before discovering him a second away from tumbling out…

But I had good moments too. I loved to play with the kids, and I always washed the dishes because my mom told me the parents would appreciate it. (You would think her helpful hints would involve something more like, “No smoking in the bathroom,” or “No Jungle Juice,” or “No nearly killing anyone…”) I am lucky enough to have become friends with a few of the girls I babysat—they were in a youth group I led after college. They laugh and tell me that I let them stay up late to judge and watch “Miss America,” and that I hid donuts from them in the microwave. I don’t remember these things, but certain things that happen with sitter babies stick with you.

VivWalAnd now our kids have sitter babies. Our sitter babies live only a few houses away—every time we drive by, which is every time we go anywhere, Vivvi says, “There’s the sitter babies house!” They are twin 9th graders, and they come as a two for one deal! I made them repeat their rate for me 3 times—”Do you mean each, or total?”—when they first came to the door with a flier to introduce themselves, when I called them, and again the first time we had them to be sure. It is a steal.

The first time we had them last summer, we put Vivvi to bed ourselves since she was so young. Then we stayed and played a board game with them and WV to get to know them a little, and so the kids would feel comfortable. WV busted out his charmingest self, laughing at mistakes he made in the game we were playing—”Oh, I always do that!”—talking with a “silly me” tone. The girls are super quiet—when we are here, they hardly say a word, and when they do it’s so soft-spoken. They laugh at all my stupid jokes. They are sweet and kind.

Because they are so quiet, we don’t hear much about what games they played or anything that happened when we come home. The first time, though, when we returned they had the TV turned to a volume you could barely hear. They were watching Mr. Pauper’s Penguins (so cute!) but you could hardly hear it. We asked how it went with Wally (since Vivvi had been in bed when they arrived), and they said, in their little voices, “Well, an hour after you left, Vivvi cried, so we went in there and rubbed her back for a while and she fell back asleep.” First of all, they are better moms than me—I wouldn’t have bothered with the comforting. And second of all, how strange for Vivvi to have these two identical twins she’s never seen wander in and rub her back. But their calming, quiet presence must have done the trick, because she was out when we checked!

It’s fun to have sitter babies. We’re using them this weekend, even though we don’t have an event—just because it’s been a month or so since we had them over last. We have a lot of other reasons, too—we’ve got to keep a good thing going, we need a break from Viv and WV’s antics, the kids can’t wait for the fun (that we won’t hear about), and—oh yeah, I almost forgot—we get to have a date. Let’s hear it for the sitter babies!

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