We’d only been gone from the house for about 20 minutes when the text from my neighbor came through.
“Hey! Jack and I stopped by to play with Alex, and Jack just ran right in. In case your babysitter says something about a weird guy and his kid coming over!”
I’ll admit it: I was annoyed.
Don’t get me wrong; my son loves playing with this neighbor. They’re around the same age and have a great time together. But while I always try to make an effort to check in with them before sending my kiddo over, they have a habit of just sending their little guy right on over — and he has a habit of running into the house as soon as the door is open.
I actually like these neighbors, and I like their kid. I especially like that our kids like each other. But let’s just say I’ve never loved the random drop-ins. In this case, a simple text beforehand could have prevented my teenage babysitter from having to send a child she wasn’t responsible for back to his own house.
Still, now wasn’t the time to deal with all that. So I sent a simple reply back.
“Oh yeah, we just left for date night,” I wrote,”and Alex really hasn’t been feeling that well anyway. We were hoping he could get some rest tonight. Maybe they can play next weekend instead?”
The response came through just moments later.
“Oh yeah, no problem,” my neighbor replied. “We have someplace to be soon anyway. We’ll leave here in just a minute.”
… In just a minute? They were still there? In other words: My teenage babysitter was being forced to host a man in my home she didn’t know, and his kid?
I texted her immediately, apologizing for the intrusion and asking if she was okay. She said she was, and I promised they would be leaving momentarily.
Already, I could picture the scene playing out in my head. Jack had probably come over first, which was likely why the babysitter answered the door in the first place — because it was a little kid knocking. When she opened the door, Jack probably pushed his way in immediately without saying a word, as he’s done a million times before. Then his dad probably rolled up sheepishly a few minutes later to make sure his kid had made it over safely, as he’s also done a million times before.
I totally understood how my young, people-pleasing sitter had likely wound up in this situation, but I was irritated at my neighbor for putting her in it in the first place. Particularly as I thought about how uncomfortable I would have been as a teenager, if some man I didn’t know had suddenly shown up with his kid while I was babysitting.
But whatever, it was over. I’d made it clear that now wasn’t the best time to play, and he’d said they would be leaving. I could talk to him later about boundaries and maybe the need for warning texts before sending the kids over to play with one another.
Imagine my surprise when we came home several hours later to find Jack still in our house — while his dad was nowhere to be seen.
“Yeah, he kind of just left him here,” our sitter told me.
I was horrified. I apologized again, profusely, and paid her extra since I now felt obligated to compensate for the bonus kid. Then I sent her on her way, trying to figure out how to deal with what felt like a huge overstepping of boundaries.
The house was a disaster, Alex clearly hadn’t gotten the down-day he’d needed, and my neighbor had apparently decided our babysitter was up for grabs.
I explained to Jack it was time to leave. He ignored me. I tried to gently lift him up off the ground so I could walk him back home, but he leapt up and ran into Alex’s room, closing the door.
So I texted my neighbor that he needed to come and get his kid. When he did, he seemed to find the whole thing funny.
“Yeah, I couldn’t get him to leave when I tried earlier, either!” he told me. “So I just decided to go hang out and enjoy the quiet at my house; let them play, you know?”
No, I didn’t know. I couldn’t imagine leaving my kid at someone else’s house when they weren’t home — with a sitter I didn’t know, and without even checking to see if that was okay first.
And in case you’re wondering, no — at no point did he offer to chip in any money for the three hours he’d left his kid with our sitter.
Somehow, I managed to keep my cool, knowing that nothing I said in that moment would likely be productive. But I think he knew I was frustrated. I also think he knew that if his wife had been home, she would never have pulled the same move. (Apparently, she was out with friends that day, and he decided to leave his kid with our sitter to get a few kid-free hours to himself — how nice for him!)
Here’s the thing: We have totally shared a sitter with friends before. But that’s always been planned and discussed well in advance. Furthermore, while I tend to call the parents of my son’s friends before showing up at their house to play, if we did ever knock on a door to find a babysitter instead of parents there, I’d turn my kiddo around and tell him they’d have to play another day.
But hey, maybe that’s just me.
I still haven’t spoken to our neighbors about what went down, though I know I need to. I don’t want to ruin our relationship with them, and I want our kids to be able to continue their friendship — but I can’t shake the nagging feeling that this whole thing just crossed a line.
I know it needs to be addressed. The only problem? Building up the courage to actually address it …