I heard a guy on the radio say he tells all his babysitters that he cross-examines his kids when he returns home. He said he asks his kids, “Were you touched in any way that made you uncomfortable?”
Who would want to babysit that guy’s kids? He’s so scary.
He might sound good to a parent reading this and feeling that danger lurks at every moment when the children are under someone else’s supervision. But how would you like a parent to tell you that your morality and competence will be confirmed by the children’s response to the question, and that the confirmation is valid only until the question is answered next time?
Temperance and Bentley told me yesterday they had hoped to come over to my house and play with me, but that they weren’t allowed out of their house until the roofers removed the construction debris in the yard.
Oh, man, when Temperance and Bentley come over to play, they wear me out. My wife drags out one of the toyboxes, then maybe we go outside and chase soap bubbles, then we rescue imaginary people high up in the trees, and then Temperance starts calling me Daddy for fun and says I have to haul her and her brother to school. She loves her real daddy, and he’s good to his children.
The kids don’t understand that I have other things to do, such as my work. They give me a break for a few minutes, and then Temperance tells me an emergency is at hand and I have to rush her and her brother to school because she has a musical or something to prepare for. They sit and scoot on the floor while I stand and drive from one room to another. It’s pretty boring.
Running around the yard catching bubbles is not boring, but it will wear you down. But not the kids. They scream and run themselves silly until my wife finally — never soon enough — says, “That’s all. I’m out of bubble soap.”
But the kids have an idea. They suggest she refill the bottle with soap from the humongous container my wife keeps on the porch. At ages 4 and 2, respectively, Temperance and Bentley are willing to stop on the condition that we do something else together.
If I thought those kids were being cross-examined when they go home, there would be no more fun in their visits. It’s work!
Besides, I could be asking, “Hey, kids, is there anything going on at your house this week that makes you feel afraid or uncomfortable?”
If you don’t feel confident about leaving your kids with someone, for Pete’s sake, don’t do it! It’s not good for kids to have a routine of answering investigative, intimate questions. There are other ways to keep kids safe. I can match every scary babysitting story with terrifying episodes involving nobody but parents.
A common mistake nervous parents make is to instill their own insecurities into their offspring. Worse is the practice of interrogation that causes children to invent stories. In the field of memory we call this memory fabrication. It can get ugly.
I asked a retiring businessman what he was going to do with his time. He said, “I don’t know. I know I don’t want to babysit.” He meant his grandchildren. He has a lot of them.
Watching kids and loving them and keeping them engaged in wholesome play is hard enough without suspicions being piled on top of the deal. I’m getting tired just thinking about Bentley and Temperance coming over this evening.
Max T. Russell writes for the international business intelligence and nonprofit communities.