Babysitter fear?
September 5, 2013 5:45 PM   Subscribe

My two year old isn't talking yet (yes, this is being addressed) but he became very, very upset when I told him his sitter was coming to stay with him today. Should I be worried?

I know 2 year olds aren't the most reliable, but I don't have that much experience with them, other than mine. My gut feels very comfortable with this sitter (or she wouldn't be our sitter). I just was completely unprepared for how distraught he became (crying, upset) when I said sitter is coming to stay with you for a little bit today because mommy has to go out. I stay at home with him, and due to lack of family/sitting options I don't leave him often.

I've checked her references and she's stayed with him a few times before and although he doesn't like it when she comes, he's never had a reaction to me letting him know what was going to happen. I assume it is relevant that she was staying with him when his 3mo brother was born (I was in the hospital) - but she's stayed with him since.

I assume his response was to me leaving and not her, but need a little help from those of you who are more experienced. Thanks!
posted by cestmoi15 to Human Relations (22 answers total)
2 year olds are like cats. Why does my 2 year old X? Because (s)he's 2.

If I had to guess I'd assume it's more about you being gone than about the sitter being here. Although you have to admit that there's a really strong correlation there since I'll bet the sitter is never there at the same time as you except right when one of you gets to the house.
posted by theichibun at 5:53 PM on September 5, 2013 [4 favorites]

Yeah, my two-year-old sometimes melts down when she gets put to bed by her father instead of her mother. I don't think it's a magic spidey sense.
posted by leopard at 5:56 PM on September 5, 2013 [4 favorites]

You could set up a nanny cam.
posted by ainsley at 5:59 PM on September 5, 2013 [4 favorites]

Kids cry over things a lot, rational and irrational, especially when they're 2. I wouldn't give it much thought if you trust your sitter. My kid cried about his (totally nice) grandma being in the same room with him for a while, even when I was there.

For reference:
posted by chiababe at 6:02 PM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

My two-year-old screamed like she was dying when I washed a temporary tattoo off her arm. "Birdie back on! back on! Miss him! Miss him!" I have never felt so bad in my life. Her crying over it doesn't make me an unfit parent, though, I don't think.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 6:17 PM on September 5, 2013 [25 favorites]

He may have cried for the mommy-not-home part, not because of the sitter? But yes, look at some Foscam cameras that you can use as nanny-cams, they're not expensive and you can see them on your smartphone.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 6:32 PM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

In our house, that would mean he's just not ready for a sitter. Leaving him with strangers he does not like to be left with would be the last resort, reserved for stuff like family emergencies, births, funerals etc. I know many people, for financial or other reasons, have to outsource their childcare at a young age, but it sounds like you have the luxury to avoid that - good for you, and good for your son! 2 years is still very young and young kids prefer spending time with people they know very well. I don't think your son's fear says anything about the sitter (if abuse was your concern?), but even if your child's fear is 'irrational', you can still listen to what your child is telling you. YPPMV (your parenting philosophy may vary).
posted by The Toad at 6:33 PM on September 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

I don't think your son's fear says anything about the sitter (if abuse was your concern?), but even if your child's fear is 'irrational', you can still listen to what your child is telling you.

Personally, I was a stay-at-home mum with three children for much of my life. My children told me many things when they were toddlers...but much of it I either ignored or overruled because they're kind of clueless and self-absorbed at that age. They're all technically adults now...but my fingers are still crossed they'll eventually grow out of it.
posted by Nibiru at 7:21 PM on September 5, 2013 [7 favorites]

Yeah, former babysitter here.

I used to babysit a 4 and 2 yr old from mid-morning, and pick their 6 yr old brother up from school before mom got home mid-afternoon.

The two year old had a meltdown every. single. time. for.... weeks? months? The only way to get him to stop crying was to carry him, preferrably pacing in front of the front window (I presume to watch for mom). He wasn't really talking yet, and there was nothing 'wrong' - other than that mom had left. Once we got through the first hour or two, he'd run off and play and everything was fine. He *eventually* got over it.

I don't think she had a nanny-cam, but she never seemed concerned - mostly likely because the 4 and 6 yr old adored me, which really highlighted that the little was just... little. Little kids don't really differentiate themselves from their mom/parents yet... this 2 yr old, when he wanted picked up, would hold out his arms and say "Hold you?" - 'cause that's what his mom would say to him and he didn't quite yet see himself as an entirely separate entity. He hadn't quite made that leap -grammatically or philosophically- between 'you' and 'me'.

Check with the babysitter and see how he does. He might just be trying something new. He could wail like he's dying when she shows up, and be totally fine the minute you leave... I've had that happen too. Kids are manipulative.

Make sure he's well rested and well fed - everyone gets hangry, esp kids.
posted by jrobin276 at 7:24 PM on September 5, 2013 [4 favorites]

I actually remember a lot of things from when I was extremely young, so oddly enough I can remember being around this age and similarly sobbing whenever my parents told me that the babysitter was coming. I can still remember exactly why I hated her: she felt like a stranger, she put on strange television shows with a boring man talking (in retrospect, on one occasion she was definitely watching Bill Cosby: Himself - my parents didn't watch stand up comedy with me so this was Weird and Different and Therefore Bad), I was extremely shy and didn't feel comfortable asking her for milk or juice so I had to wait until she offered it, and when she put me to bed she was not my parent so I didn't get any cuddles or kisses. The horror!

As tragic as it seemed to me at the time, it was an important life lesson that made me miss and appreciate my parents, which I think is good - kids should know that their parents have parts of their lives that don't revolve around caring for them 24/7. It was a little bit of a traumatic realization but one that is absolutely necessary and important to learn. As far as memories go, it falls in the category of "geez, I was a weirdo" and not "geez, my parents were evil."
posted by gatorae at 8:30 PM on September 5, 2013 [4 favorites]

I didn't leave my kids with sitters if they cried for more than a few minutes until they were old enough to tell me what was going on. Maybe the sitter just isn't a good fit. I felt more comfortable using preschool programs for 2yos and the community centre drop-in program, because I knew there were lots of eyes there.

That being said, I wish I'd given myself breaks more often, so please give yourself the break if you need it and you feel like it's just that your kid is fussy.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 9:45 PM on September 5, 2013

Have the sitter come over to your home while you are there a few times before letting her fly solo. This will help overcome any "stranger" fears. When you leave, leave promptly and don't drag out the drama. You child will forget you two minutes after you're gone.

Make sure the sitter follows EXACTLY the same bedtime routine as you would. Give the sitter very specific instructions.

And lighten up. A two year old is finely tuned to your stress and anxiety. If you make it fun, it will be fun.
posted by three blind mice at 1:23 AM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

This morning, my daughter melted down while my husband and I were leaving for work, despite the fact that she adores her nanny, who's been caring for her for the last year and a half.

Yesterday, she melted down because we ran out of garlic mayo to eat dinner with, and ketchup just wasn't good enough.

This evening, she will no doubt melt down when Papa walks our dinner plates to the kitchen and leaves her sight for THIRTY SECONDS. Because both parents must be visible at all times. Always. Except when we don't have to.

Two year olds are two year olds.

Like others above, I suspect that your kid's behavior is because he's two, not because there's anything nefarious going on with the sitter. If you're worried, follow-up with the sitter when you get home. How long did your toddler cry after you left? How did the sitter sooth him? Does the sitter seem engaged with his likes and dislikes? Etc.
posted by asnowballschance at 3:02 AM on September 6, 2013

As his parent you're probably much better than the sitter at figuring out his non-verbal cues. I imagine it must be frustrating for him to not be able to communicate his wants and needs as efficiently as he can with you. I know when I'm around kids that age I often have *no* idea what they're trying up say, even though their parents understand them immediately. I have to do a lot of "Are you hungry? Thirsty? Tired?" type quizzing, which I guess must be stressful for a kid who knows exactly what he wants and can't understand why the strange grown-up Just Doesn't Get It. Maybe things will improve once he starts talking? (Or at least once the sitter knows him well enough to better read his cues).
posted by embrangled at 4:42 AM on September 6, 2013

I think you need to use your judgment about your child. Has he cried before when left with sitters, or is having a sitter a pretty new experience?

My youngest son was always very fearless about being left with sitters, and in preschool. Awhile after we started a new preschool, he started clinging to me and crying when I dropped him off at preschool. I thought it was something new because of his age. Eventually, I was able to get him to tell me that he was afraid of one of the teachers.

So the next day, I mentioned this to the teacher. I expected him (the teacher) to be concerned, and maybe to have some plan for dealing with it--like spending a little more time with my son doing something fun, being reassuring, whatever. I expected it to be a problem the teacher and I would talk about solving together.

Instead, he turned to my son and told him that he was being a baby, that when he got to kindergarten, nobody would put up with this behavior, that he'd have to be at kindergarten all day, not just a few hours, and what was he going to do then?

I pulled my son out, of course. And as he's gotten older and more verbal, he's been able to tell me more about the ways that this teacher was "mean" to him. He's had questions about why some grownups are mean to children. It's been a couple of years and he still talks about it from time to time. I wish I'd paid attention sooner to my son's out-of-character crying, looked into it more.

My point is, crying can mean different things to different kids. It could just be crying at the transition, and the kid is happy 90 seconds later. Or it could really signal a problem. It might not be helpful to hear other parents say, "My kid cries like that over little things, and it's nothing," because it might not be nothing for your child. I'm not saying it is! It might really be developmental, or transitional, or because your kid has big, strong emotions in general, or frustration at not being able to express himself. But do think about how this behavior fits with what you know of your child, and if it seems out of character, take it seriously.
posted by not that girl at 5:12 AM on September 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think this is a perfectly ordinary reaction. Do not worry. We call it the terrible twos.
posted by BenPens at 7:19 AM on September 6, 2013

My son always cried when I left him at daycare, and stopped as soon as I left (I went back to verify). Your child prefers you to a relative stranger. If you're really worried, leave a recorder running.

My son had only a few words at age 3. When he decided to catch up, he went from very a few basic sentences to fluent paragraphs and chattering.
posted by theora55 at 9:21 AM on September 6, 2013

Seconding everyone who's saying worry neither about the language nor the sitter. My daughter (2 yrs 9mos) was exactly the same on both counts. Still isn't crazy about being left with a sitter, but the tantruming stops immediately after we leave and she's talking up a storm.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 9:43 AM on September 6, 2013

Yeah, this just means that now your kid is able to understand what you are saying and what is going on better and he's unhappy that you are going to be leaving for a couple hours.

For what it's worth even two year olds who can talk are terrible witnesses. Last year my two year old told me- very seriously- that her day care teacher put her in a pan and cooked her.
posted by steinwald at 11:46 AM on September 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

I didn't speak until I was three. Then I went straight to full sentences. Family joke is that I haven't stopped talking since!
posted by typewriter at 6:21 PM on September 6, 2013

In case you are considering some of the other advice you have been given, I'll weigh in. Speaking as someone who nannies and babysits, I'd call the police if I found a hidden camera while I was sitting. If it happened to be illegal in that particular area, I'd press charges.

Don't hire people and/or please fire them if you don't trust them, but please don't spy on them.
posted by long haired child at 7:55 PM on September 6, 2013

I think you should invite the sitter to come over and spend the afternoon with you one day, as a friend, with the baby there. If the two of you are just "hanging out," talking, laughing together, doing a project of some kind together and the baby sees that you're good friends, he probably won't be as upset when left with the sitter. On the particular afternoon that you spend together, I'd have the sitter just go on home - no babysitting that day - adding to the idea that the sitter is just a good friend who pops in sometimes.

Might be worth a try.
posted by aryma at 9:52 PM on September 6, 2013

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