BATH, Maine — Most any parent will tell you that having children is the most rewarding experience life can offer, but I suspect they’d also admit that spending an evening away from them is like a swallow of ice water during a forced march across the desert.
My wife and I haven’t had a baby sitter — and by extension, a proper date together — since the day our youngest son was born in July of last year, so imagine our delight to come away from a “Speed Sitting Social” Tuesday night in Bath with a dozen resumes from young men and women eager to watch our two children.
With my wife nearly full-term in her pregnancy last summer, we had unloaded our oldest son on her sister and went to her 40-week checkup. The mid-wife said all systems were go and suggested we have a bite to eat before coming back to the hospital later that evening. As we sat at Applebee’s in Waterville, I remember making “last supper” jokes with my wife, but I didn’t realize at the time that the next 15 months would slide by with our lives consisting of little other than work and parenting our two boys.
Then came the announcement that the Bath Parks and Recreation Department was planning a unique speed sitting event during which families interviewed potential baby sitters for five minutes before moving on to the next candidate. The first thing I learned was what an amateur I am when it comes to employing baby sitters.
Lee and Lisa Leiner of Woolwich already have a list of baby sitters which they were looking to add to — including twins who watch the Leiner’s single child, two for the price of one.
“You can never have too many,” said Lee, leaning in as if he were sharing a vital secret.
Mari Eosco of Bath has two children with her husband Dan. The Eoscos also have a list of baby sitters they use, but they’re already scheming about next year while my sights are set on next week.
“All my baby sitters are going to be high school seniors next year,” she said. “We’re losing them.”
It’s not as if we’ve never had a baby sitter, but we’re picky. With our first son we hired everyone from Harvard undergraduates to a friend’s daughter to a 40-year-old mother of five. For the most part we had good luck, except for the time we came home to find our baby sitter asleep on the couch and our 3-year-old next to her watching scantily dressed, drunk college students enjoying spring break on MTV.
But Tuesday night, each of the baby sitters I interviewed gave me the distinct impression that they knew what I wanted to hear and would follow up on their promises.
“So what will you do with the kids to fill the time?” I asked of all of them.
“Play games, and maybe make some paper airplanes,” said Kyle Wood, a recipient of the Bath Youth Citizenship Award who listed three references who are friends of mine. “You know, just about anything they want to do.”
“What experience do you have working with kids?” I asked Kelsie Gagnon, a high-achieving Morse High School junior.
“I baby-sit for three families right now,” she said. “For my independent study at school, I go to Patten Free Library to volunteer reading in the children’s room. I want to be an elementary school teacher.”
Could I ask for more than that? Yes. Despite all their qualifications and eagerness, there’s one question I needed to hear a positive answer for: “Do you change diapers?”
The majority of the sitters were quick with an “oh yeah” or “no problem,” but for some it was an obvious weak spot. Casey Bennoch, a soft-spoken honor student and apparent math whiz, squirmed a little.
“I have never changed a diaper,” he said. “But I can learn.”
On the other hand, Casey plays the drums and offered to teach my boy.
I’ll have to think about it.