Oh, No She Didn’t: When the Babysitter Gets It Wrong

When you’re a working mother (and of course I get that all mothers work, yo, so don’t call me on that shit) and rely on someone else to provide child care, you entrust all that is precious to you to another.  That is a mighty tall order.

One thing I have embraced from the first day I dropped off my three month old daughter is that the sitter will never be perfect, but they will be good enough.  A hired sitter deserves the same respect and standards that I apply to myself — I am not perfect as a mother, but I am good enough, and good enough is good enough.

Today I picked up Mary Tyler Son at 5 on the button.  I rushed to get there, as he is often the second to last to be picked up and this morning he told me he wanted to be first.  Ugh.  You know I was thinking about that all day.  George W. taught me that no child wants to be left behind; watching all his playmates get hugs and kisses and trot home with mom or dad while he’s still waiting around is not fun.

I was feeling pretty good seeing three other kids walking down the sidewalk with my boy.  Good!  Not next to last today.  I pulled over, hopped out the car, and found “Auntie” who pulled me aside with a furtive glance.  You see, she had something important and private to say — adult ears only.

In a concerned tone, Auntie revealed to me that she had put Mary Tyler Son’s boots on a little girl close to his age during puddle time this morning.  He was wearing girls’ boots, you see, and Auntie takes her gender politics serious, yo.  Ladybug boots were the offending footwear.

I took a breath, smiled calmly, and explained that, yes, they were girl boots, as they were his sister’s.  Yep, Donna wore those boots first, so um, yeah, technically, I guess you could say I put girls’ boots on my boy.  Bitch, please.

If there is one thing that is a certain in my life, it is that any time I bring up Donna as justification for anything, ain’t nobody gonna argue with me.  I know that to be a fact, and still, I went ahead and said it.  I wanted to shut Auntie down.  Who in the hell cares that a three year old little boy is wearing ladybug boots?  And if you do care, well then, let me give you a quarter so that you can call someone else who cares, cause it sure as hell isn’t me.

Ladybug Boots

This is not the first time Auntie has taken it upon herself to school me on what is gender appropriate for Mary Tyler Son.  All last winter I had to suffer through her telling me that every time one of the other moms saw my son’s winter coat, they thought that Auntie had taken in another little girl to watch.  The offending coat was green and gray.  Yep, apparently girls have now cornered the market on pink, purple, and lime green.  Full disclosure:  the coat was also Donna’s.  I mean, why pay for another winter coat for a kid when there was a perfectly good one in the closet?

When we got home this afternoon, I asked my boy if Auntie had talked with him about his boots.  “No,” he said.  “She didn’t tell you they were girl boots?,” I asked, knowing full well it was a leading question.  Objection!  “No,” he said again.  Well, good, there’s that.

Last year, I thought Auntie had shamed the pink out of my boy.  For the longest time, pink was his favorite color.  It was a whole big deal for me last year.  I had to search far and wide to find masculine looking pink shirts for my boy.  I was fine (sort of) with him wearing pink, but I drew the line at all the ruffles and lettuce edging that came with the pink tee shirts at Target.  When I finally found pink shirts (thank you, American Apparel), I bought two.  Mary Tyler Son wore those proudly for months.  And then one day he stopped.  He refused, telling us that pink was for girls.  Hmmmm . . .

Overall, Auntie is good enough.  She serves fresh fruit and vegetables and reads to the kids and doesn’t have a television for the kiddos and has a sweet dog and teaches the little ones how to weed her garden.  She is relaxed and old enough to have seen enough to teach me a thing or ten about child rearing.  Her home is clean and well maintained.

All of those things are in her favor.  But every once in a while I hear something coming out of her mouth that makes me want to write a blog post with the words, “Bitch, please,” liberally sprinkled throughout.  She tends to shame the kids that develop more slowly than others.  She calls out the boy in the green coat and ladybug boots and pink shirt.

I don’t like that.

In six weeks, this will be a non-issue.  Mary Tyler Son will move on to pre-school and I will have a whole ‘nother set of folks helping to care for my boy with tics and quirks that are different than mine.  They will rub me the wrong way and I will make my peace with them as best I can.  In the end, Auntie is good enough.  She’s not perfect and her odd need to masculanize a three year old boy is beyond me.

But there will be no show down at the Auntie Corral.  I don’t have the fight in me right now.  When you trust another human being to help you care for your child, you must learn to embrace the good with the bad, while ensuring there is much more good than bad.  When you isolate and identify the bad, you compensate and teach and correct, just as you would any other outside influence.

While I don’t like Auntie genderizing my boy, I have learned to live with it.  It punches me in the gut when she brings her gender mandates into the lives of one, two, and three year olds, but not enough for me to look for another sitter.  And what does that say about me?  Am I settling for my boy?  Ugh.

And more than calling out a three year old for what their parent dresses them in, I’m angry that the saga of the ladybug boots makes me wonder what else she does that is unacceptable that I don’t know about.  Such are the worries of the working mother.  It is a leap of faith, my friends, every day that I leave my boy with another.

16 Replies to “Oh, No She Didn’t: When the Babysitter Gets It Wrong”

  1. You are so funny when you’re pissed off!
    I think that unless you parent your child entirely in your own home without family, friends or schools, this is a universal problem. No two people have entirely the same ethics. Learning to deal with “difficult people” (i.e., everyone else at one point or another) is how we primates survive and thrive. Adaptation. And you do it more graciously than anyone I’ve ever known. MTS is so lucky that you’re his Momma.


  2. My 14 year old son picked out a lady bug bike helmet when he was three. I am happy to report there have been no lasting ill effects.


  3. MTM…oh how I love thee…my two minis (boy and girl) are constantly wailing about “girl” and “boy” things…you name it, they’ve said it…shirts, coats, shows, whatevs. It makes me CRAZY because my MTD and I have never made gender an issue in our house. I completely agree with Mary W that once the ‘outsiders’ get their access, it makes the whole process even more difficult. My minis play house together, cops and bad guys, and save me from the lava almost every day. And every day, the roles between them change. Keep on with your bad self MTM and never stop raising the hand with the knowing ‘Bitch, please’ look!


  4. I agree with you wholeheartedly and most likely it will only be a matter a time before your son on his own decided to reject anything that might be girly…so why should the parents/sitter push him there. However, the real reason for commenting is that you truly expressed what (outside the house) working moms and dads deal with everyday. It is refreshing to see that while you were ticked off, you saw the big picture and you know that auntie is good enough. Some of the best parenting advice I read in one of those magazines stated that if you want others to help (e.g. dad) let them do things their way, if you want help you cannot control how people do things if they do it good enough. We have to pick our battles and that is not always easy.

    Thanks for sharing.


    1. Thanks, Sharon. When I started writing this, I was actually hopping mad. But then it was time to make dinner, and play with the boy, and pajama time, and bed time. I came back to the post I had started and realize that even in a few short hours, my anger had subsided. I don’t believe Auntie brought her concerns to my son, and probably (benefit of the doubt, here) thought she was clueing me in on something I would surely want to know. She was wrong, but damn, I am wrong all the time. With the bigger picture in mind, I will keep my eyes and ears open and move forward. Thanks for the comment and for reading. MTM.


  5. Children aren’t “genderized” at 3. Hell, my 7 year old still has his moments when he likes what is usually considered “girl” toys. My father-in-law is a lot like “Auntie”. When my son was 3, one of his favorite toys was a Barbie he picked up in the free bin at a garage sale. The world ended when Grandpa took it away from him and threw it in the garbage IN FRONT OF HIM and told him that “no grandson of mine is going to grow up to be a sissy and play with girl’s toys”.

    Mamma Bear (me) went all kinds of bat-shit crazy when I found that out.

    Leave the kids alone. They’ll sort themselves out just fine. The most important thing is that they’re HAPPY and LOVED. Which Mary Tyler Son obviously is.


  6. When my 17 year old son was 3, he loved the color pink and he loved construction vehicles (he’d sleep in a bed filled with Tonka trucks). Such an innocent and true time–when self-consciousness and the opinions of others weren’t in charge of everything.

    It seems to me that one of the greatest challenges in parenting is to promote the inner character/backbone that will allow a child to eventually get back to the point where they think for themselves.


  7. Imagine if that person telling your boy that he shouldn’t wear pink was his father or another member of his family. *sigh*
    Lucas LOVED pink until his father took issue with a pink hoodie that he used to love. And then later came the comments from kids at school that pink is for girls. Now he won’t wear it anymore. 😦
    I’d also be torn about what to do in that situation, MTM, but I think you’re making the right decision to take the good with the bad.


  8. Oh my goodness, I have been there! Red & Pink were my son’s 2 most favorite colors, he loves all animals and I bought him the ladybug boots. He came home from preschool saying that he could no longer wear pink and that he wasn’t supposed to like ladybugs & butterflies, I was not happy. He continued to like the things he liked but would no longer were pink or admit to liking certain things to the kids and teachers at preschool. This same preschool teacher made a big deal about him being unable to color within the lines because he liked the fine manual dexterity. Writing has been an issue to this day because of it. I did take it up with the preschool operator but I was relieved when I left my job and my son didn’t have to go there any longer.


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