My friend Julie had arranged for a baby-sitter to pick up her son, Hayden, then 8, and his friend Jake from school. The sitter, a high school girl who could drive, was to watch them until soccer practice at 5.Hayden came home that night and said he’d been in an airplane.”Oh, Hayden, don’t tell stories,” Julie scolded.Then the phone rang, and it was Jake’s mother.A most dread series of events had transpired. The sitter had driven the boys to the small airport in Glenwood Springs, to see her boyfriend, a recent high-school graduate who also had a new license – his pilot’s.”Want to go for a ride, guys?” he asked. “Sure,” said Hayden, and into the sky they all flew, for an hour.Sitters are hard to find, and costly. Even the best sitters – or parents, for that matter – can make mistakes, and parents sometimes, regrettably, hire poorly. Or be fooled.Peter was 2 when his parents traveled to a wedding on the shores of Lake Tahoe. They joined other friends in hiring a sitter for several children, a grandmother found on a list supplied by the condo agency.When the adults left for the wedding at 4:30 p.m., Peter was napping. Molly phoned at 6:30, and was told that Peter had come upstairs from the bedroom, then gone back down to bed. That seemed to Molly a bit odd, but he had been swimming all day.At 10:30 that night, she walked in the condo. No Peter.”He should be in bed,” said the sitter lamely from the couch. She had never checked on him.Molly and her husband, Bob, began shouting into the night. She was sure Peter was at the bottom of the lake.A man parking his car nearby asked, “Are you looking for a little blonde boy?” He’d seen the boy around 5, and taken him to the condo office.”Oh, yes, he was here all afternoon,” the office staff said, “eating hot dogs. When no one came by 7, we had to call the police.”Molly and Bob called the station: Peter was now in foster care. After undergoing a police interview, the parents arrived at Grandma Vicky’s foster home. They found Peter in a playpen, in pink pajamas and, she says, “happy as a clam.”Last week my sister Lucy was invited to a dinner and left her Sam, 3, in the care of a 13-year-old neighbor, the brother of a teenaged girl who often sat.The next morning Sam said, “I went out in a car with Carlos.” Carlos had driven, he said. Sam had had no car seat, he reported, but had been seatbelted in the back. Lucy suddenly remembered that she had once seen Carlos driving the family car around town, and knew it must be true.”Where did you go?””Nowhere. We just drove around.”My friend Lynn once put her boys for two hours into the Kids Club at a resort in Cozumel. As the pack of children was led from the pool back to the clubhouse, Griffin, 3, escaped, navigating back to his oceanside condo. The maids were inside, cleaning, so he walked in, lay down on the bed, and began eating prunes. When Kids Club called, Griffin answered the phone.One morning I left my son Teddy, then 2, with a sitter, and within two miles realized I’d forgotten something. I returned to find her deeply asleep – hungover, I realized – on the couch, a quilt pulled firmly to her chin. I had to say her name five times before she woke up (and was sent home).My sons have had many excellent sitters, too, teens included. Tanner, 17, is patient and fair, and plays with them vigorously, on the floor and on bikes. We appreciate him, and they love him. And baby-sitters, of course, have a few horror stories themselves.Alison Osius lives in Carbondale and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org (write GSPI as subject heading).Alison Osius lives in Carbondale and can be reached at email@example.com (write GSPI as subject heading).
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