Parents with sitters know who works for whom

August 15, 1996|By Kevin Cowherd

A YOUNG COUPLE with a 4-month-old daughter recently asked me for tips on how to find a good baby-sitter.

Basically, what you're looking for, I told them, is a girl of 14 or so who's attractive, well-scrubbed, alert, and has an engaging personality.

As soon as you find her, ask: "By any chance, would you have a sister who's homely, slovenly, dim-witted and sullen, and could watch my kids?"

Because the girl who's attractive, well-scrubbed, alert, etc., she won't have any time to baby-sit. She'll be dating and going places with her friends and enjoying a healthy, active social life, which is so damn irritating.

Whereas, the homely, dim-witted, sullen girl, where's she going to go? She'll baby-sit for you until she's 37.

Once you've found a potential baby-sitter, you'll want to sit down with her and discuss her qualifications.

An experienced baby-sitter will listen to your questions, look you straight in the eye and in a calm voice say: "Here's the deal: I get five bucks an hour, all the Diet Coke and Doritos I want and a first-run video from Blockbuster. Pick me up at 7. If you're home even one minute past midnight, I'm history."

Your answer to this, of course, will be: "Fine, fine" because you haven't had a night out in months and at this point would probably leave your kids with Keith Richards.

Years ago -- I don't know if this was back around World War II or what -- baby-sitters also were expected to do dishes, straighten up around the house and give the kids baths.

Of course, if you were to suggest this to a baby-sitter these days, she'd grab you by the lapels, lift you six inches off the floor and snarl: "Mister, I don't know what kind of sick game you're playing, but I'm outta here."

Instead, here's what I recommend: As soon as she walks in the door, quickly hold up the video you rented and say: "Look, 'Clueless!' With Alicia Silverstone! That's a good one, right?!"

Then I'd give each of the kids a quick kiss and hustle out the door, although not before telling them: "Remember to keep it down, kids. Amber wants to watch her movie." At some point in the evening, you and your spouse will look at each other and say: "Maybe we should check in with the baby-sitter."

When you call, the phone will ring at least 14 times, during which your imagination will run wild and your pulse rate will soar dangerously.

Finally, she'll pick up and phone and bark: 'Yes, what is it?"

Hey, you can't blame her for being PO'd. After all, you did interrupt her movie. And the thing about "Clueless" is, it has a pretty complicated plot which can be difficult to follow if you're distracted, especially the part where Alicia Silverstone and her buddies are in the mall shopping for earrings.

Anyway, once you get the baby-sitter on the phone, you'll lapse into this overly-cheerful, Wilma Flintstone-ish voice (if you're female) and stammer: "Hi, um, Amber? Hi, we're, uh, just sitting down to dinner here in the restaurant. And we were just wondering if, you know, everything's OK?"

"Yeah, yeah," she'll say. "God!"

"Oh, good!"' you'll say. "Well, like I say, we just wanted to ch --"

At this point, you'll hear a click on the other end of the phone, followed by a prolonged silence, which you'll recognize as the sound of her having hung up.

Throughout the rest of the evening, you'll find yourself glancing at your watch every five minutes, because you don't want to come home late and, heaven forbid, make the baby-sitter mad.

When you finally do get home, she'll be standing by the front door with her backpack slung over her shoulder, tapping her foot impatiently.

Your questions about the kids ("Did they get to bed OK?") will be answered by a series of grunts, and then she'll mutter: "It would help if someone rented a decent movie, but someone didn't."

"Didn't you like 'Clueless?'" you'll say, at which point she'll stick her index finger down her throat and make these attractive gagging sounds.

Anyway, all of this is what I told the young couple, and then I told them one more thing: Never, ever tell another couple who your baby-sitter is.

Tell them anything else: how much money you make, your ATM pin number. Tell them you were born in a bordello in New Orleans and need six shots of whiskey just to leave the house in the morning.

But never tell them the name of your baby-sitter, or they'll try to hire her away, sure as shooting.

And you want that little princess all to yourself.

Pub Date: 8/15/96

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