Raise your hand if you ever babysat. I sure did. I've always thought I did a good job as a babysitter, too. I'd come over, actually PLAY with the kids (as opposed to watching TV or talking on the phone (NEVER!) or reading a book). And if there was free time when the kids were sleeping, I'd fold laundry, clean the kitchen, the living room.. whatever I could find to do. I prided myself on being *the best* babysitter. Or so I thought until tonight.
Tonight I met the Queen of all Babysitters. She put me to shame. I'll tell you about her in a minute, but... let me back up with the story, first.
The date. With my husband. It's kind of funny how this date came to be. We rarely go out, Mark and I. That's not to say that we don't do date-ish things (we eat good food, rent movies occasionally, and play lots of games just the two of us), but we don't get out much.
The big reason for that is that I don't want just anybody watching our kids. So our list of "babysitters" is short: my mom, Mark's parents, or Amy. Really, that's the list. There's no one else.
My mom is great. Every month or so on Mark's day off she'll say, "Why don't you let me take the kids for a couple of hours so you and Mark can go on a date?" Which is wonderful and I am very thankful. Usually it's during the day, as my parents often have evening engagements, so we catch lunch or something.
Mark's parents are great, and they are usually the ones who come to watch the kids when Mark and I go away for a night or two. (So, our anniversary). They love coming and we love it when they're here. The kids have a blast, Mark's dad wanders around the house and fixes things, Mark's mom does yardwork for us, they take the kids on walks twice a day, every day, and play with them. They're wonderful.
And Amy, too- is wonderful. And my kids love going to Auntie Amy's house. But she's got four kids of her own so it's rare I give her the opportunity. But there have been a few times (like when we had all those adoption classes in March), that I needed her and asked her (and she graciously said 'I'd LOVE to!') and they all did great.
Two nights ago Amy emailed me and said, "Try to find a sitter and let's all go out on Saturday night." Now, Amy is my best friend and her and Mike are our best couple-friends and we LOVE to spend time with them. But we rarely do it. I jumped at the opportunity.
But then there was whole sitter thing. Ugh. My parents are out of town for the weekend, Mark's parents don't live in town, and well, our other option was who we were going to go out with, so...????
I called Courtney. We met Courtney two years ago. Her fiance had recently moved here and was interning with my dad. Courtney lived on the other side of the country. She wanted to move here to be closer to her husband-to-be, and we had considered renting out a room to be able to make some money for our adoption. It was a win-win for both of us. We worked out the details over email, she moved in and lived with us for nearly six months. I'm proud to say we introduced them to Settlers of Catan and they became our steady "wanna-play-Settlers?" friends. They're still in town, and they are now also in our small group. I happened to know that J was out of town at the same function my parents are out of town for, so I called Courtney and asked her if she'd be willing to come watch our kids. She said, and I quote: "I'd love to!" And when I said, "Are you sure?" She said, "Are you serious? Stacy, I LOVE your kids. I'd love to come and play with them for the night." Aww... And let me just say, she scored HUGE bonus points for saying that (as opposed to the "Sure, I'm free" variety.)
I explained that it was still kind of tentative, since Mike and Amy hadn't yet found a sitter... so it might not happen but I would let her know either way. She then said, "Well, even if they can't do it, you and Mark could still go out!" Oh. Yes. Well, then. I guess we could. (I hadn't even thought of that possibility.)
Turns out, Mike and Amy couldn't find a sitter so it was just Mark and I (which is fun because I love my man and it was a treat to go out with him but we were both genuinely bummed that we didn't get to hang out with Mike and Amy.)
Courtney came early. The kids were thrilled. They love her.
We scooted out the door. We went to a Thai restaurant for dinner and then got to see The Bourne Ultimatum afterwards. Very good, both the food and the movie. I was on the edge of my seat during the movie. We'd bought some candy at the store beforehand and I did not even crack open the candy because I didn't want to be distracted with it. I didn't want to miss a second. (Note to self: I've got to read those books.)
The movie finished up around 10:00, and we hurried home. When we walked in the door, the first thing I saw was this:
She'd brought the poster board AND the paints. To make a sign for us when we were gone. I KNOW. (You all want a Courtney, don't you?)
She said the kids were great. They ate dinner, made the sign, played, she braided Ella's hair. Yep. Braided my daughter's hair! How cute is that? I wanted to crown the girl.
So. Mark and I had tried to figure out how much we were supposed to pay her for four hours of babysitting. (Remember, we don't get sitters.) The going rate when I was babysitting was about $1.50-$2.00 an hour, no matter how many kids there were. One couple consistently paid me $3.00 an hour for their two boys and I felt RICH. While I know the rates have surely gone up, I have no idea what people pay babysitters anymore. I'm a bit out of the loop.
I'm actually a little embarrassed to tell you what we decided to give her because, well, it probably wasn't enough. But I'll tell just you. At the risk of you all thinking we're total cheapskates. (Which we are, but that's beside the point.)
We gave her $20. Which she argued about (not the amount, but the idea that we were paying her) but I won, she took it, and went home.
And then I gazed at the sign some more. She brought paints, people. And then I went in to peek at the kids and saw her award-winning braid job on Ella's hair. She braids. Did you get that part? And then I noticed that the table was cleared, the dishes were done, the living room was picked up. Our kids were tucked cozily in their beds. And then I felt like a LOSER to have only paid her $20. I walked around the house saying, "She made a sign with our kids. PAINTED a sign with our kids. She brought that stuff. Made the sign FOR US. And braided Ella's HAIR. Mark! She braids. We should have paid her $50, for crying out loud. What were we THINKING?"
Mark just shrugged and said, "$20 is plenty."
*Sigh.* You and I both know that it's not. She braids better than I do. She combed the tangles out of my daughter's hair. That alone will save me twenty minutes of getting-ready-for-church time in the morning. And that cute sign will grace our mantel for weeks.
I never ever in all my years of babysitting braided hair. Or brought supplies to make a sign or project with the kids.
So much for my babysitting pride. That was all washed away in the wake of Courtney, Best Babysitter Ever.