Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Babysitting and the politics of dissent

We’d given up on child care. Our experiment in the spring wasn’t a disaster, but you have to trust a mother’s vibe, and B’s vibe with the girl we has wasn’t great, especially after we checked her references. She didn’t lie, exactly, but it wasn’t what you’d call an accurate representation of the facts. After two or three Fridays, we called it quits.

We need B to keep her job, though. After health insurance, saving some and my student loans, about 50% of my salary goes toward rent, and while it should, the remaining $250 a week or so just isn’t going to cover the bills and expenses for a family of three.

For a while, I worked 7-to-5, four days a week, and stayed home on Fridays with the boy. That was great for everyone, but there were some not-so-subtle hints from my bosses that putting family ahead of the appearance of productivity (don’t get me started) just wasn’t cricket, and for the sake of my already-tenuous position, I went back to the 8-to-5 routine.

That meant B had to try to get all of her work done when I could take the boy. And as he sleeps with us, that meant coming home from work, attempting to get dishes done and food cooked, and going to bed at 7:30. Then, of course getting up when B came to bed at 9 or so, eating dinner, bathing, etc. With the poor sleeping we do with X teething, that meant four or five hours sleep on a good night.

I think we’d had Rosemarie Jackowski’s number for a while. She responded to my ad, where I’d written something about maybe looking for a grandmother missing her grandchildren, which is exactly what she is. A couple of months ago, we did send him over for about two-and-a-half hours, the first time alone we’d had in seven months. It worked out fine, but we weren’t exactly what Rosemarie was looking for. We’re adults with our lives more-or-less together, and she explicitly said she wanted to help someone who really needed the help.

But X is irresistible. And last week, he spent the afternoon there, where they had a wonderful time. She won’t be charging for the sitting; I’ll do some carpentry and whatnot around her house in exchange. She bought us a Xavier College T-shirt, because she “couldn’t resist.” She took photos, and gave us a set on his second visit on Monday: Xavier in his stroller by her big brass “Peace” sign; Xavier in her living room decorated with signed Nader photo; Xavier playing with her plush Che doll…

Because Rosemarie is a do-gooder. In liberal circles, she’s got a bit of a rep as the infamous incarcerated war-protesting , Air Force veteran grandmothe, arrested a couple of years ago for blocking the intersection on Main Street in town. She appealed her five-year (!) sentence to the state supreme court, which reduced it to community service; there’s a possibility the case may continue to the High Court in Washington.

I was reminded of a visit with our pediatrician, when Dr. Wood mentioned something about television viewing. I told her we didn’t have any reception where we live, so it’s not a problem, the only thing to worry about is constant NPR exposure. She got very serious then, and said that early on she made a decision to limit all the media consumption her own kids would get.

I don’t believe anyone comes farther left than myself, but I do try to be sane about it. I don’t have it in me to hate Bush, I try not to make ad hominem attacks on people, I make an effort to listen to people of good conscience with whom I might disagree politically.

So now I have to start planning for my son’s social upbringing. I can’t divorce him from world events, although I will make sure it’s not a part of his young life. Shall I do as my grandparents did with my father when they dropped him off at a different church every week, and find some neo-con sitter to steer him the other way? Yes, of course I want my children to share my values—I have them because I think they’re the right ones. And Rosemarie is a fantastic babysitter, who genuinely loves him. If I do my job properly and teach him critical thinking skills over the years, he’ll be able to make up his own mind. I’m certainly not going to remove him from her eight hours a week of care because of political viewpoints that I even share. But I am going to pay attention to my own attitudes around him, about everything if I can. I can’t, I know, but it seems as though there’s nothing better I can do for him than to give him a chance to make up his own mind about things.