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.