The Babysitting Course

Today I dropped my son off at The Babysitting Course.

The Canadian Red Cross runs a good course. They cover everything a young babysitter needs to know. Many local kids who aren’t the babysitting type take it, since much of it is about what to do when there are no adults, whether you have kids with you or not. Son is not the babysitting type.

I walked around the room before registration and recognized the infant CPR dummies (those are new), cards with situations on them (ranging from kid won’t go to bed to you smell gas or hear noises outside), a box of bandages and diapers, tests, forms for employers to fill out, the official handbook, certificates and wallet cards.

Wednesday he listened to the message on the machine and wrote the list. Last night he assembled the bag. This morning he peeled carrots for a snack while I was trying to remember what liquid I need to start my brain.

Daughter loaned him one of her dolls. It was okay that he put it in the bag upside down, but he’s not to let other kids use it. It’s a good sign. She trusts him.

When we arrived, Son sat down and set himself a long division problem. When the leader sat at the registration table, he was the first in line. He gave his name clearly and spelled it without being asked. (We have one of those names.) After registration he read his handbook.

I think it’s a big deal for him, too. The materials and tests won’t change just because the class finds them too challenging. It’s about being able to do a job, not being as good as an average grade six. It’s at the local country club, with adult-sized chairs, white cloths on the tables, and glasses with stems at the snack table.

We spent the last 12 years preparing him for this moment.

Now to prepare me.

Watching him hold the doll, I remember him at three, holding his newborn sister, staring at her and then grinning at the camera. Oma says we should edit her arm out of the picture. I say it’s part of the story. Then I remember him as a newborn and how nervous I felt when Husband went back to work and I was alone with him.

I’m proud of my son. He judges new situations accurately and isn’t afraid just because it’s new.

He doesn’t hang on my apron strings. He doesn’t wait for me to tell him to do things (except for chores). He asks for help if he needs it. He asks me to be around, just in case, before doing something that might go bad fast. He asks for advice or help with his plan if he’s worried. He knows I’ll be on the sidelines if he needs me, but usually all he wants is for someone who knows him to return his nervous grin.

All the important things he’s learned have been like that. I provide the breast, he learns to nurse. I provide the mobile, he learns to kick his legs to make it bounce. I provide the floor, he learns to walk. I provide the books, he learns to turn pages and look at the pictures. I take him to school, he learns to stretch his brain. I drive him to the course, he learns how to look after himself and others.

He is the young teenager we hoped to raise. His adult framework is there. This course is just filling in some details.

Husband and I are already discussing our first “date”. It’s been a while. Our last few babysitters didn’t last. The ones we had for years insisted on moving off to school. The next swore at his mother when he arrived home (too much sugar and TV while here). The last was incredibly good, but also incredibly busy. My MIL lives too far away for regular babysitting.

We’ll probably go to a restaurant and maybe grocery shopping, with the cell phone on. We did that ten years ago, when we left Son, then a toddler, with a nervous 14-year-old who then came every two weeks for years. She planned to be a veterinarian; she may be one by now.

We’ve prepared the kids. Dtr is to listen. Son isn’t to be bossy. Son’s rules don’t have to be our rules, just like with the other babysitters. (Yes, my kids are smart enough to pull that trick, but we’re smarter.) We’ll pay Dtr a token amount, so she’s looking after herself with Son’s help. That might work better than her making Son earn his pay.

Dtr is already thinking to her turn. She told me how she’d handle a torado when babysitting.

So I’m mixed. Freedom! Proud moment. My baby is no longer a baby.

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