Ask Jonathots … August 13th, 2015

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I am a mother of three children, two boys aged 5 and 7, and a daughter aged 13. I arranged to work half days this summer, and we planned to have our daughter babysit the boys in the mornings. After two weeks, it’s a disaster. My daughter spends too much time texting her friends, and the boys are running wild. Is thirteen too young to babysit? And should I just give up and put them all in day care?

I’m just curious–if you think your dog barks too much, and if you do, if you think the way to correct the situation is to place him in a kennel?

I’m not trying to be snarky with you. Lest you think I’m saying children are animals, I certainly am not. But their care is not dissimilar.

You are being critical of a thirteen-year-old girl who is texting. It is parallel to being angry at a dog which is barking. That’s what 13-year-old girls do. They don’t suddenly become nannies and take care of their brothers efficiently.

I don’t think anyone can tell you that 13 is too young to babysit, but I do think I can tell you that your 13-year-old is too young. I suppose you can choose to be upset about that, or you can realize that this is your situation.

Let’s go with some suggestions:

1. Daycare would be the last possible consideration because it is expensive, and also a little less personal than you might want for your children in the summer months.

2. Is there a compromise? Could your 13-year-old watch the children for a couple of hours a day, and then have a neighbor come in and check in on the situation and rejuvenate the energy? Wouldn’t you be happier to give one of your neighbors a little cash to assist, which would help their finance, instead of using a daycare?

3. There also may be a woman or man who is a house-parent, who might like to combine families and pick up a little extra cash, and take all the pressure off your 13-year-old.

But let’s look at what we do want to avoid:

A. Making your daughter feel guilty because she’s not a good “mommy.”

B. Spending too much money taking care of your kids and losing your livelihood.

C. Having your children in jeopardy because they are not well-cared-for.

You also have the opportunity of explaining your situation to your boss, and possibly doing some work from home, or at least being permitted to take a break from work to check on your children.

Never throw anger or money at your problems–your teenage daughter does not need you to be disappointed in her, and your bank account does not appreciate being depleted in order for you to work a job.

Use your three magic words: Look around you.

It is a miraculous way to live.

Often the solution is within eyesight, and we ignore it because we think everything needs to be more complicated.

 

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