I just finished typing a 3-page Babysitting Instruction Manual (4 pages if you include the spreadsheet of after-school activities I have stuck on my fridge) for my parents who are flying out to watch my 3 kids for 7 days while my husband and I go on an “orientation trip” to London in preparation for our December move.
After reading it over, I’m a little embarrassed to give it to them. I mean, they did raise three children of their own and have clocked in hundreds of hours of grandchild babysitting, they kind of know what they’re doing. If the kids miss soccer practice or forget to pack a snack to school, it’s not the end of the world.
All they really need is one instruction: Keep the kids alive.
That’s really all that matters. My parents are doing me a huge favor by flying across the country and watching my three crazies for an entire week, I don’t need to ask any more of them than to just please, keep all three children alive.
Keep them out of the hospital if possible too, but I realize this is not always within anyone’s power (see my Screwed Up post), so really, just living and breathing (preferably unassisted) is all I’m asking.
But I know my parents take their responsibility seriously and don’t want me to get upset if the kids eat the wrong foods or watch too much tv, and between the time change and the fact that my iPhone isn’t set up to work in England, they can’t exactly call me up to ask me any questions.
So I decided what they really need is not an instruction list of what they have to or should do, but instead a permission slip of what they are allowed to do. Which is pretty much anything. Here’s what it looks like:
Grandparent Permission Slip
I, ________________ hereby give my permission to let __________________ do whatever it takes to preserve their sanity and maintain peace and quiet in the house, so long as they keep all three children alive.
Specifically, I give the Grandparents named above permission to:
- Let the kids eat whatever they want. While we normally save dessert for special occasions, Grandparents can promise and deliver sweets all day long if it will get the kids to behave. Bribe away, folks.
They don’t like any of the dinner options you suggest? Give them a PB&J sandwich instead. Heck, give them an ice cream sandwich. Take them to McDonald’s for all I care. Ignore their protests that this place is too unhealthy and only for long road trips in the middle of nowhere - make a new rule that it’s for grandparent babysitting days too. MMMmmmMMM… you’re lovin’ it.
- Let them eat whenever they want. They’ve already brushed their teeth and are in bed and suddenly get hungry? This is no time to worry about dental hygiene or sticking to your guns. You are minutes away from adult-only time, just give them a scoop of peanut butter and get on with your evening.
- Let them have as much screen time as you want. We normally have limited, defined times for when the kids are allowed to watch TV or go on the computer – mostly so they know the rules and don’t nag us 24/7 for screen time. But we will be 8 time zones away. Knock yourselves out.
When the 4-year-old comes home from preschool and asks you to do a puzzle with her or play Chutes and Ladders, feel free to say, “How about a video instead?” She will love you forever and you will save yourself a half-hour of brain-numbing monotony – that’s what I call a win-win. I’ll leave some extra batteries for the tv remote on the counter.
- Let them go to bed whenever they want. I personally don’t care how much sleep they get this week, it’s not my problem (but it in your own interest, you might want to have them all in bed by 8 on a school night. Just sayin’).
- Bathe them only when you can no longer stand the smell. The 7- and 9-year olds will probably voluntarily shower every morning before school without any assistance, but feel free to hold off on the 4-year-old’s bath until she starts attracting flies. If it strains my back to bend over and wash the shampoo out of her hair, I can’t imagine how painful it is for someone in their late-sixties. Her parents will be in England, maybe this is the appropriate time to introduce the concept of the “European shower.”
Emergency Contact Information: 9-1-1.
Good luck, and thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!
Parent/Guardian Signature Date
In short: Mom and Dad, you have our permission to do whatever it takes to make this babysitting gig as painless, whine-free, and tear-free as possible. Homework, hygiene, rules and rest are all monitored and enforced on my watch. Your only job is to keep the kids alive, and to enjoy yourselves enough to volunteer to do this again someday :)