Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Baby Sitters

In the last few years, the fun for me of dining out has been ruined by the numbers of unruly children accompanying their parents. This brings me to the question, "Doesn't anyone employ babysitters any more?" I don't mean daycare. I mean the kind of babysitter that almost had the status of "family retainer", because she wass called upon about once a week, usually on the weekend, to come to the house and take care of the children so the parents could go out together for the evening. Sometimes, she was even required to stay overnight.

When I was a child, I had a regular sitter named Mrs. Hoover, a grandmotherly soul who let me get away with murder. I loved her. She read to me and played little games, which she let me win, and she sat beside me until I went to sleep.

So, naturally, when we moved to Harrison, with our two children, I went looking for that kind of sitter for them. And, I found one, in the person of Ms. Rhoda Long. The first time she came to the house, she introduced herself as "Aunt Rhodie, like the song." And, we all broke into a fast chorus of "Go tell Aunt Rhodie, go tell Aunt Rho-o-die, go tell Aunt Rhodie, the old gray goose is dead." An auspicious beginning.

Aunt Rhodie was almost 70 years old, and still working full time at a local variety store. She walked to and from work every day, rain or shine, up and down hill, probably about two miles or more each way. Since I am always appalled by the thought of walking any distance, from the living room to the kitchen, for instance, when I found out what she was having to do, I started happening to be down on the square a couple of times a week, and giving her a ride home, especially when the weather was bad. Taking her to work in the mornings was a bit harder, because I was getting the kids ready for school, etc.

Aunt Rhodie was in great demand. But I managed to beat back all the others who wanted to steal her away. She soon began to check with me before she agreed to sit for anyone else.

When she was 72, she decided it was time to learn to drive. She had a garage built, bought a car, and asked me to give her driving lessons. This didn't work out because I already had high blood pressure and jangled nerves, and every time I gave her a lesson, I had to go home and have a stiff drink. So, she got someone else to teach her. I don't really think that's what caused him to have to go to the nursing home, but one never knows.

Finally, it was time for her go to the State Police headquarters to take the driving test. Everyone there was friendly and relaxed because it never occurred to them that she would pass the written part, let alone the driving part. And, it did take her awhile. She had to take the written test four or five times, but, finally, she passed it. THEN, they started getting nervous. She passed with flying colors, although they did caution her that she might want to drive just a tad faster out on the highway.

One day, I heard a horn honking in my driveway, and there she was, grinning from ear to ear, beckoning to me to get in. She backed out of the driveway and off we went. She drove very carefully in town, by that I mean at a lightning speed of 4 mph. Then, we got out on the open road, and she put the pedal to the metal and upped it to about 12 mph - maybe even 15 on the straightaways. The only real problem was that every time she wanted to look at something on the side of the road, she turned the wheel toward it, and it didn't seem to bother her any to have a virtual caravan of 20 or 30 cars behind her, the other drivers honking their horns and gesturing.

I admired her gumption. She was a tiny, independent little old lady who could hold her own anywhere. She died very quietly at her home one night while we were out of town. It was a great shock to discover that she was gone, when we got back. But, I don't think any of us will ever forget Aunt Rhodie. Whenever anyone happens to mention her, to this day, we all burst into song, "Go tell Aunt Rhodie, go tell Aunt Rho-o-die................"

I feel sorry for all the kids who will never have an Aunt Rodie in their lives.


katy said...

what an amazing lady she was.
i agree with you about children spoiling the odd evening out, if they can't be trusted to behave then leave them at home why should we have to have our meal spoilt be the spoilt little boys and girls.

Anonymous said...

Babysitter? I was the babysitter!

I had two sisters. I was nine years older than the oldest and 13 years older than the youngest. Talk about your "built-in" sitter.

And....I didn't get paid for it! :)

patsy said...

the lady was unusal to learn to drive at that age. my mother as for baby setters we never had one mother never went away from home and if she did we went too.drove some around the house and did go to town to the grocery store . she always had to park in the back of the store because she never had the piece of paper that said she could drive.

jusdealem said...

What a great story teller you are, Betty. I agree with you on the noisy children in restaurants and the worst part is that the parents don't even attempt to correct them or quiet their banging of silverware on the table. It's horrible. I certainly didn't let mine do that!

Tink said...

I'm with Alan. My brothers were 10 and 11 years younger than me. I was the second parent and babysitter. I think my Mom planned it all along... ;)

Betty said...

her indoors: She was amazing. She helped me out a lot.

alan and tink: I think BOTH of your mothers planned it that way.

patsy: My grandmother never learned to drive. I can't imagine it.

jusdealem: Hello and welcome. Thanks for the compliment. I'm going to check out your blog.

grannymar said...

Betty I agree with you. I have a daughter and when she was small we tried to teach her to behave in public places. Over all the years I think I could count on two hands the number of times we had a babysitter.

When we went out visiting or to a restaurant she was allowed to bring a book. Once seated at the table, she was encouraged to study the menu and select what she wanted to eat. I found that if we all chose different dishes she had the opportunity to have a taste from my husbands and my plates. If she liked them then they were possibilities for the next visit.

Once the order was taken she could read until the food arrived, she was allowed to read between courses and after the meal was finished. We never had any trouble and she never wanted to leave the table or run about.

No matter what we do in life it involves living within boundaries. So the earlier we teach this message to our children the easier it is.

CarmenSinCity said...

Awwwwwwww - that's adorable!!!!! She sounds like a sweetheart :)

My parents were LUCKY because my grandmother lived upstairs from them - they always had a built in babysitter.

Betty said...

grannymar: We took our children to restaurants when they were very young, too. But, like yours, they weren't allowed to run amok. We found that if we just engaged them in conversation, they were happy to sit still and felt grown up.

carmensincity: You were lucky. I never had any family members living close. So, Aunt Rhodie was a godsend because I could count on her.

Annie said...

When I was a kid my parents would take me and my siblings to Mrs. Lakey's house. It seemed there was always a storm brewing in the skies and so Mrs. Lakey would hurry us all down in her cellar where we would rest on the cots in the darkness, telling stories and finally drifting off to sleep. Now that I think back on it, maybe she just liked to put the five of us rambunctious kids into a calm environment. Maybe there really weren't that many threatening storms. Whatever, we all had fun with her, in the cellar, listening to stories in the dark, sleeping on those army cots in the coolness.

Newt said...

Babysitters, what a great idea. Unfortunately people now feel that the world is "entitled" to worship their little ones. No matter how evil, destructive, and unruly they are. We are just supposed to worship the ground the little "Future of America" walks on and also give their "capable of breeding" parents applause. You should be honored to have your dinner ruined, you were after all, in their presence. Isn't that enough????

Betty said...

Annie: Mrs. Lakey sounds like a very clever lady. Going to her house was like camping out, and her house didn't get messed up. LOL

Newt: There's a restaurant in Eureka Springs that does nothing to aid parents of young children - No children menue, no kiddie seats, no booster chairs. And, if the parents want to know why, they are politely, but firmly, told that they discourage people with young children from eating there. If parents are insistent, they are served, but nobody caters to the kids.

Anonymous said...

Oh, what a great story. I was lucky enough to have both sets of grandparents just up the road from our house. They were always willing to babysit. Aunt Rhodie sounds like such a great person!

Cazzie!!! said...

If I could find a Auntie like that then my hubby and I might just go out a bit more often for some US TIME. But, because of just what you say, we do not go out very much. I would not want to wreck someone's night out because of my kids at any cost.
If we go out as a family we would go to an RSL Club, where they have kids' meals aswell as adult meals and a play area for the kids to go to.
We make sure we go somewhere really special if we do go out as a couple, especially for our Anniversary in September :)

Anonymous said...

Betty, the parents today don't trust the neighbors. We keep the girls when they go out to eat and they pay a few sitters that we know 'all' about. But our world is a dangerous today. Aunt Rhoda might bring a pick ax. Sis 3

Betty said...

arkansas songbird: I wish we had had relatives who could babysit, but we lived away from our families. Boo-hoo.

Cazzie: I know it's hard to find the time for an evening out with just your hubby. And, you want to go out sometimes, so the only thing to do is take the kids, but you're smart to take them to kid-friendly places, where someone like me would know to avoid. lol

sister 3: You're right. These are dangerous times in many ways, and it's probably difficult to find someone you can trust with your most precious possessions - the kids. I wouldn't want to be raising children in this day and age. Not in a city, at any rate.

unknown said...

I agree about the children being unruly at restaurants! A lot of todays parents have this notion that correcting their children will "stifle their creativity." WTH does that mean???????? Teaching them good manners and to respect other people will only make them better adults, thus producing further generations of respectful adults. I am glad to say that my son and his wife will take the kids out of the place before they allow them to bother other diners. As did their parents. hugsssssssssss