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I was very blessed in that my parents lived forty-five minutes away and loved to watch our kids. But because they lived so far away, the kids usually spent the night. We all loved that, but sometimes it wasn’t convenient for someone to go get the kids, or for my parents to bring them back. Therefore, sometimes we needed a babysitter.

Good babysitters are hard to come by-we all know that. The good ones are expensive and usually booked out. Then of course their shelf life is limited, as they start to date and get involved in school activities and get jobs. Truly a good babysitter is a pearl beyond great price!

Faith came highly recommended by one of my church friends. Faith’s family attended our church as well, but I didn’t really know them. However my friend said Faith was eighteen, very responsible, and loved kids. I thought to myself, what could possibly go wrong?

I left a package of spaghetti and a jar of sauce with a pan on the kitchen counter. I asked Faith to make everyone spaghetti around 6PM, then the boys could change into their pajamas and watch a movie until 8PM. I gave them baths before Faith arrived, thinking bath time would probably be pushing it. I gave her my cell phone number and asked her to call if she had any questions or problems.

We returned home at 10PM to a living room full of bed pillows and blankets. The boys were still up, running around the house. Faith was sitting on the couch, calmly watching TV. I had lots of emotions running through my head, but none of those words were probably appropriate to say to Faith at that time. My husband paid her, and I took her home.

On the way home I began to ask a few questions. My first question of course was why weren’t the children in bed, per my instructions? Faith apologized and said well, they didn’t want to go to bed and asked if they could watch another movie. I also asked about the mess in the living room, which Faith again apologized and said the boys didn’t want to pick it up. I was beginning to see a pattern.

When I came back, my husband had put the kids to bed. I walked into the kitchen, which was not in too bad of shape, except for the marbles all over the floor. The empty bowls were in the sink, along with the pot and colander used to cook the noodles. The jar of sauce and noodle box were empty and in the recycling bin. Again, except for the marbles, this room was not too bad. I reasoned that the boys probably didn’t want to put away the marbles either.

The next day I talked to the boys about they babysitter, fully prepared to read them the riot act on what happens when you don’t mind your babysitter. However, the boys told a different story.

According to my seven year old and my four year old kids, Faith did not know how to boil spaghetti noodles. Since the boys had watched me do it for so many years, and Nathan could read, they went into the kitchen and prepared the spaghetti themselves while Faith watched TV. They also put the box and jar in the recycling bin, spooned out the bowls, and took them into the living room to watch TV with Faith. Then they put the bowls in the sink, along with the pot and colander.

I asked the boys about bed time, but they claimed Faith never told them it was bed time, and she never told them to pick up the pillows and blankets. At this point I ended the conversation, admitting defeat. I mean, why bother? It didn’t sound like Faith actually took care of the kids, it sounded like they took care of themselves.

I called my friend the next day and told her what happened. That’s when she admitted Faith had never actually babysat for her kids-she knew Faith was looking for extra money and wanted to help her out.

I tell you this story to make you laugh and to be grateful you don’t have good friends like that. But how to find a decent babysitter? I did a little Googling and this is what I recommend:

1. Start with your children’s daycare, preschool, or Church School. More often than not, these folks have been screened very carefully and may have gone through training. Your child also knows these people, so it will be a lot less scary for them.

2. If the above avenues are dead ends, try sitter websites such as Care or Sittercity

3. If your children are older you might consider hiring a neighbor or church member to watch them. You may not feel a background check is necessary in this case.

For all sitters though, I recommend leaving a list of house rules and emergency contacts. Your neighbor may not want to watch your kids, but she’ll be much closer to home probably wouldn’t mind being contacted if you’re not available. I also recommend calling home a couple of times during the evening, just to make sure the sitter’s still in charge and there are no issues. A good time to call is when the sitter is supposed to be getting the kids down for bed. A call from Mom or Dad may be just the incentive needed to make bed time go more smoothly.

I recommend Mom driving the sitter home, rather than Dad, to eliminate any potential appearance of anything inappropriate. If it has to be Dad, I recommend taking a child with you, or recording the entire car ride on your phone. We live in a crazy world, and no one wants anything said or done to be misunderstood. I would use this ride home to debrief the sitter and find out what went right and what went wrong (if any).

Don’t forget to ask your kids about their babysitting experience-what did they like and what did they not like? Did they get free reign of snacks? Was the sitter on the phone the entire time, or did he/she play with your kids? Did they go anywhere or have any guests over to visit? I once had a sitter pile my kids into her car and take them to her boyfriend’s house, simply because I said she couldn’t have her boyfriend over to our house. Ask very specific questions to make sure you’re getting the whole story.

Please comment and let me know your thoughts on this post-have you ever had any babysitter horror stories?