Tuesday, September 9, 2008

First Day of Babysitter-Share

Twice a week, starting today, a little girl of River’s age is coming over for the afternoon. This arrangement allows our babysitter to make more per hour, but for us to pay a bit less (since we split the cost with the other family).

Today was definitely an adaptation day. Our babysitter, Grace, had no time to eat anything during the afternoon. Her hair was frizzy and unkempt from the hours of super-activity. The 8.5 month old girl, Mirena, had to adjust to new people and a new environment. And River, 9 months old today, had to adjust to sharing attention and to a younger girl who is stronger and more forceful than him. He probably wished we could have come up with something better for his nine-month birthday than a playmate. He was so exhausted from the commotion that he went to bed at 5:30 instead of his usual 8 p.m.

Grace commented that both babies got angry with the other. “It’s because they are both only children” she said. Saving money is one reason we are trying this. Another is that we think River is at the age when he needs to learn to share, to take turns, to play with others, to realize that he can’t always be the sole center of attention. I think it will take some adjustment for all.

Poor Grace really had her hands full today. I realized, upon seeing Mirena, who is a sweet little girl, but very physical and with a “stronger personality,” that River really is an easy baby. Grace did a good job trying to balance both of their needs, but I could see that it was exhausting. I’m sure it will become easier as she comes to know Mirena better and Mirena and River come to know each other.

But watching her made me wonder how daycares with an infant ratio of one adult to four babies manage. Or even three babies. Perhaps it’s easier if the babies are fed in separate areas. That would reduce some of the angst experienced today when one baby saw milk or food and wanted some too. But I’d imagine that managing so many little ones with such constant needs would necessitate quite a bit of independent play time, which is fine for older kids, but makes me uncomfortable for young babies.

We’ve done the one-on-one attention thing for nine months now. We’re moving on to a little one-on-two attention. We’ll see how it develops.

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