Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bus Stop Conversations: Babysitters

Standing at our bus stop is always an interesting experience. I like our neighbors. We have 6 families who use our stop, with 3 who appear regularly. Most of the time we chat lightly about the kids, the teachers, stuff that I can click into mostly by talking about Andy. They ask about Joey, and are always very nice when he is at the stop (when his bus is late in the morning or early in the afternoon). Generally, it's all good.

And then sometimes, topics pop up that remind me that life is different on this side of the street. Usually, it is one of the other 3 families who come and pop into those topics to which I have little to add or are outside our experience entirely. And usually I just either stand there nodding as if I have a clue what their world is like, or strike up a conversation with Awesome Neighbor's grandparents, and drop away from the crowd. And sometimes, I'm cornered, and it can be a little awkward.

One of those topics that rears it's ugly head at the bus stop (and at other unfortunate moments) is babysitters. One of our bus stop families actually has a regular babysitter who gets the kids off the bus in the afternoon. Sometimes there is talk of regularly weekly or monthly outings, a phenomenon called "Date Night" in Momspeak. A couple of the families have whole weekends when they go away "without the kids." And these conversations and events usually lead to a conversation about babysitters: finding good ones, who to use, who not to use, who the regulars are, and even a discussion of "nannies" (by which they mean a sitter like our one family uses, who picks up and cares for the kids in the afternoons). Apparently, most people can pick up the phone, call in a local teenager or college student, and go out for drinks or dinner or even a whole weekend.

I bet for a lot of my readers, that is foreign concept, over which you are now boggling.

Several of the families noticed that we have been having a bit more trouble with Joey than usual over the past year. All of them know he is autistic and have now experienced a little of what that means for us. So whenever these conversations come up, almost invariably, someone suggests that I should "call a sitter" and "get some Mom time."

Seriously? And who do I call? That local teenager? Don't make me laugh.

When Joey was little, we had therapists who came to work with him for an hour or two at a time, mostly doing ABA therapies. These young people sometimes had some background of working with special needs kids. Sometimes we got a fully trained therapist, or a talented one (Hi, Miss Katie!), but mostly we got college kids who were vaguely interested in education careers and had some basic training in ABA and autism- very basic- and they mostly could at least deal with Joey for their two hours. And I would clean things, or play with Andy, or usually both. A few times I actually left the house to run an emergency errand. However, that was before Bolting Joey. And Biting My Arm Joey. And Everybody Hates Me Just Kill Me Now Joey.

We did try the teenager route a couple of times. Kids around here have to get in so much community service for their high school diploma, and babysitting a disabled kid fits that bill. However, you first have to ask the parents. "my kid is autistic" shut that down very quickly. And again, that was before Bolting Joey.

Even when we get people who know Joey to watch him, it can be an issue- problems can rear their ugly heads. It only take a minute for Joey to start the spiral into a meltdown. Or be gone.

Call a local teen with no training and no experience? Fat chance. Call a trained person? Any guesses how much that costs?

No, I don't think I will be calling in a babysitter on a whim any time soon, to run out for dinner and drinks with my husband tonight, but thanks for the suggestion. And the lecture about how I just need to call our babysitter. But give me a little notice, and I'll see what I can do. Not promising anything.


farmwifetwo said...

The first thing I did was get a handle on my eldest's behaviour. I have never, ever, ever believed that behaviour is communication. Autism may be the reason for it, but it's never the excuse. It's one of the biggest reason's I have pushed both children's communication skills along as fast as I could. ABA lasted a year in this house with the youngest and was a disaster. You'll find our house to be "normal", with a side of autism. The youngest's flipbook - augmentative communication service - should be here Fri. We were entitled to electronics, but my electronic wizard would turn it into a toy so instead the tri-fold book, with flipbook instead.

So, we had daycare - respite funded - 2 days/wk when they were small. Since then we've either used the Scout leader - last couple of summers - or a teenager. Then too it's been a day or 2 during the summer so I can get work done - grass/books - on the farm.

We go out about every 4 to 6 weeks. First time we went out the eldest was 3 weeks old for our 1st anniversary and my Mother babysat. Right now we are using teenager #2 of friends of ours that we usually go out with. The eldest - boy - just started Univ and we had him since he turned 15.

We live with autism... I've never been willing to live for it.

Joeymom said...

Sounds lovely. My mom is very generous in babysitting for us, though her health issues means we can't leave her with a bolter very often. And how nice to have respite funding! We don't qualify for respite here, but I hear people who do find it an excellent thing.

Anonymous said...

You might consider stopping by the Sped dept one day and asking the para's if they babysit. It has worked out wonderfully for us - they get paid peanuts so they're happy for the extra money, and we get a well qualified adult for date night. We have a date night once a week because we found it was helpful for G to make it routine. Of course, that can be tough on the budget so I'm not saying anyone has to do it that way.

little.birdy said...

Hi! :) Joey is still my favorite and my inspiration and I am not super far from Fredericksburg and I would love to see the boys again sometime. Just saying. ;)

Bullet said...

Father in Law babysits if we give him about six months notice and we have another babysitter who's very good with the lads, but we don't like to impose upon her a lot so we don't go out very often as a couple.

Miz Kizzle said...

My kids (now in college) went to a private school where there was no bus service so I drove them back and forth. I used to see groups of children waiting on corners for the bus to public school but no adults were with them. That was the norm when I was growing up. A mom or dad at the bus stop would have been very unusual.
But now there always seem to be a gaggle of moms waiting with the kids for the morning bus. They wait for the bus to arrive in the afternoon, too.
I'm not sure why. Stranger abduction is very rare, despite what some people believe. Is it the chance to visit with other moms that's the lure?

Joeymom said...

Actually, it is because the bus driver is not permitted to allow a child off the bus unless an adult is present to greet them until they reach middle school (some places, until they are 9 years old). We are required to put the child on the bus in the morning, and meet them at the bus in the afternoon. Otherwise, they are returned to school. If we don't come to get them in half an hour, social services is called.

mommy~dearest said...

Oh yes...I love the "call your sitter" line. "My" sitter? A sitter is a luxury, yo. I not only don't have "a" sitter, but my parents watch my kids for me during the week, so they need respite by the time the weekend comes. Ack. Solution? Move to Michigan- We could switch off and pretend to have normal social lives! I have experience, know lots of tricks, and always have a constant supply of Goldfish. ;)

ms_omi said...

Does your local college have graduate programs in education? I ask because when I was a graduate student in special ed I got a part time job watching a little boy with autism - the mom posted on the bulletin board in the education department. Graduate students would have more education/experience than undergrads so you might have better luck there finding someone you would be comfortable leaving Joey with.

kristi said...

We get respite funding and my teenager can watch Tc. It is awesome! We don't go out often, but we do every once in awhile.