Johnny's Unexpected Adventure
Another sleepy child crosses the threshold of my back door for the first time in his young life. Barley clinging to any form of consciousness I place his limp body in the crutch of my couch, cover him in tenderly, and bind him to go to sleep. "Its very early." I whisper, "Close your eyes and I'll be right here when you wake up."
His heavy eyes quickly survey my front room then close with abandonment. His chest puffs with the sign of a deep breath. "Poor thing." I say, covering him once again, trying not to disturb him.
Like a mouse sneaking tiptoed towards the cheese trap I head for the kitchen to snatch my first coffee for the day. The child is in clear view from my kitchen table, and as I watch his slumber I can't help wondering what his day will be like. "He'll probably be scared when he wakes up." I conclude quickly. "Maybe I'll get the kids up early so they can play with him and make him feel more comfortable.
Sipping the hot coffee from my cup my mind reminiscences how many times I have done this. And I shake my head. "Its not fair." I say to myself, "This little guy should have had time to get to know us, to learn about the house, the neighborhood, the dog. I don't even know if he likes dogs. What if he starts screaming when he sees Fido? What if he is allergic to animals? Why didn't his parents take the time to talk to me?"
Leaving a child with someone he, she, or the parents barely know is a common practice. So common in fact, that in eight years I have been baby-sitting, nine children have experienced the trauma of being left for the day with a total stranger.
Granted some of these jobs came by way of a recommendation from other parents, but what did these new parents actually know about me and my family? I could be a sex offender, a child abuser, or a cult practitioner and they wouldn't have a clue. How could they? Not one parent asked to se my references or for the telephone number of other persons I have worked for. Worse yet, not one parent came into my home to check for cleanliness or safety features. God knows, I have my cleaning supplies and household chemicals sitting on the floor for easy reach of not only for myself, but by a child as well. And what about the dog piddle in the corner by the door? The screen missing from the balcony door? The cords and plugs just waiting for little hands to tug on them?
Okay, maybe the surface dirt from the front door did not look too bad and maybe they took it on good authority I wasn't about to kidnap their child, (or so they believe). In their rush to find a replacement for the baby-sitter who quite without a moments notice, they forgot to give me any information abut little Johnny. They didn't even leave me their work number or who to contact if their is an emergency. Now for all I know Johnny is a perfect litter wonder. That is until he has a reaction to the egg I served for breakfast, or he hyperventilates when he plays too hard, or he goes into shock from the bee sting he receives while playing in the backyard, which for all the parent knows could be filled with junky car parts or a tool shed with no door. Please don't let Johnny cut himself because I have no idea where to go for medical help.
All that aside, on my front room couch lies a little fellow who will be soon waken to find a house full of strangers. And he'll have no where to turn for support. Comforting him will be the easy part for me. Suppressing the fear and terror that will be undoubtedly overcome him when he first realizes that Mom or Dad is nowhere to be found will have a profound impact on his young heart. We'll take good care of him though, we are good people.
If all goes well the day will prove eventful for Johnny. He'll learn the rules of my house, where the Bathroom is, where he is allowed to play, and what he is allowed to play with. My children Kara 4, and Paul 3, will keep him busy I'm sure. That'll help as long as there is no fighting, which I'll have to quell. I'm not sure however, how is parents discipline him. What if they don't approve of my methods? What if he throws a tantrum? Maybe he bites or cries a lot. How do I handle this?
My fear now switches from little Johnny's anxiety to my uneasiness about accepting a child I know little about. Fear gets a firm grip on my insides. "Maybe there is something in his dipper bag." I say, rushing to the green speckled bag lying dormant on the piece of rug in front of the back door. Opening it almost excitedly I find his little brown bear and his Mickey Mouse blanket. "Oh good!" I sigh, relived. "Some support."
Unexpectantly, I come across a little bottle of yellow medicine. 'AMOXIL' the bottle reads, ' administer 1 tsp. 3 times daily, preferably on an empty stomach. KEEP REFRIGERATED'. "For heavens why didn't they mention this." I curse, tipping the remaining contents of the bag hurryingly onto the floor. "No note, no nothing. When am I supposed to give this to him?" I look around the room in hopes of finding his parent's phone number. Nothing. "I hate giving medicine to a child without some sort of written instructions or consent." I say in dismally, putting the bottle into the refrigerator.
Gathering up the disrupted contents of his dipper bag I hear a rustling noise coming from the couch. Quickly I rush into the front room. Two generous blue eyes stare up at me from behind the rosy red blanket Johnny has pulled up around his chin. I've seen him at Grandma's house across the alley a few times but this is our first official meeting. "Good morning young man." I sing. "My aren't you handsome." He remains still and uncertain. "You know me." I continue, "I'm the lady who lives behind Grandma Smith's house. Come here and I'll show you Grandma's back yard."
With that Johnny raised his arms in anticipation. I scoop him up into my arms, resting him sideways on my hip. "You see," I point from the back door window, "that's where Grandma Smith Lives."
"Grandma Smith." He repeats, questioning. "Now, how about if we take you Paul's room and we'll wake him up. Paul is a little boy just like you."
We walked hand in hand down the hallway from the kitchen. "There's the bathroom." I say, pausing to turn on the light to familiarize him with the surroundings. "And here is Paul's room." Immediately upon opening the door Johnny spots the big red transparent truck parked at the side of Paul's bed. "Truck!" he yells, then runs to grab it .
"Good morning pumpkin." I greet Paul who raises a sleepy eye to the commotion. "This is Johnny, the little boy I told you we'd be looking after." Paul grunts, yawns, then smiles. As I leave the room I realize we'll be okay after all. For now anyway. "I hope his Mom will stay for coffee when she comes to pick him up." I whisper to myself. "We've so much to talk about and I don't like leaving things like this. The children are too precious."
Before I return to my coffee I grab a pen and paper on which to list questions I have and information I need. "Honestly, this should not be left up to me." I say.
Starting with the basics I make a functional parent information form for Johnny's mother to fill out, leaving lots of room for things like their complete name, phone number, employer, Johnny's complete name and date of birth, his health care number, doctors name and number, their hospital number, who I contact in case of emergency, and any other information regarding allergies, special medications, and medical problems. "I must remember to get her to write out a permission slip for his medication." I tell myself.
Johnny's mom will be here at four o'clock, so that gives me plenty of time to work out a child care agreement so we can discuss pay, hors of care, holidays, sick care and the like. And I must not forget to talk to her about haw she disciplines the little guy or how she feels about taking him on field trips to the zoo or the shopping mall. That means I'll need his car seat, so I write that down too.
Chances are that by the time Johnny goes home we'll have adjusted pretty well to each other. Perhaps he'll even look forward to coming back tomorrow - at least than we won't be total strangers and I'll have enough information to understand him and look after him better. For now though, it's time to find out what he likes to eat for breakfast. "Hey guys!" I yell down the hall towards Paul's room, "What do you say get something to eat."