We are slowly and gradually undergoing a major change in Krinkeland: the Shift to the Sibling Sitter.
This past spring, Amanda turned 10 years old, and then took the Red Cross babysitting course through our local community education program. Since the minute she "graduated," she has been begging to babysit. This is where the struggle begins.
On one hand, Amanda is exceedingly responsible, conscientious, and confident. I have no doubt she is capable of supervising her brother and sisters, of making good choices, of being careful but still lots of fun. She has always been a rule-follower and a rule-enforcer; this is just her nature. Amanda is also naturally a people-pleaser, so I know she would do a good job as a babysitter, if, for no other reason, to receive the praise of being a good babysitter.
On the other hand, she is only 10 and headed into fifth grade. Every time Amanda asks to babysit, I have to bite my tongue to keep from asking, "Yeah, but who will babysit you?" I just feel like the world is not a place where 10-year-olds can be in charge of anyone or anything. I've felt this way since the day I became a mother-- and, yes, an overprotective mother at that. My children have never had a really "young" babysitter. For years, it was only grandmas, grandpas and aunts. After I had my third child and we moved to our current home, we started utilizing the neighbor girls, who were already both in high school, by that point. Plus, their mother-- who also happens to be a child care professional-- was next door. Just this summer, I asked a middle schooler, a good girl we know from school, to sit for a few evenings while we were at play rehearsal. She did well; I was still a wreck.
On the other hand, I babysit for all kinds of families, beginning exactly at age 10. I was an industrious neighborhood babysitter, sending out flyers, packing my own toys, showing up early and staying late. The kids loved me (probably because I was hardly older than they were... also because I had the same people-pleasing personality as my firstborn.) Looking back, I cannot believe these parents left their children in my care.
On the other hand, she has to learn sometime, right? Who does Amanda know better than her siblings? Plus, it is a really awesome, though foreign, concept-- the idea that I could leave the house and do something without four kids in tow, and without paying someone well above minimum wage or obligating a grandparent.
How many hands is that now?
So, we have begun, little by little, leaving Amanda in charge. It hasn't been more than 30 minutes, an hour tops. She hasn't yet babysat all three kids. I haven't left her at night. She hasn't had to cook anything, bathe anyone, or put anyone to bed. But, I have run out to get some milk or to return the library books. Today, I went to pick up Elisabeth from a play date, and Amanda and Benjamin stayed and watched television while Madeline napped.
Slowly, we will get there.
It's an odd sensation, suddenly being able to leave your child alone, after a decade of taking her everywhere. I feel scared and excited and melancholy and anxious and uncertain. We will adjust and it will be a wonderful thing. On to the next phase... just not too quickly.