More Than Just a Babysitter

    “More Than Just a Babysitter,” New Era, Mar. 1985, 17

    More Than Just a Babysitter

    “Can Amy come over and tend we?” pleaded my four-year-old daughter.

    Us, tend us,” I responded automatically.

    “We’re being real good,” added her twin sister. “Pull-lease.”

    “Okay. Tonight after Daddy comes home, Amy can come over.” And with shouts of glee and clapping they returned to their play.

    Amy is our babysitter, but she’s so much more. She is my daughters’ best friend. At 15 she stands less than five-feet high, has long dark hair and an infectious smile.

    Why do my daughters and I agree that Amy must qualify as one of the world’s number one babysitters? I’ve pondered that question quite frequently lately as I’ve discussed babysitters with many of my young mother friends. And the answer: Amy is more than just a babysitter who comes to watch my three highly energetic daughters while I’m at a meeting or on a date with my husband. She is a wise young woman who is learning the art and joy of being a mother.

    While she is at our house, her attention is centered on my children, not a television program, her homework, or a telephone call to her friends. The children are her first concern, and since there are three of them under five, it takes practice to meet their demands, pacify their squabbles, and divide her time fairly among them.

    Part of her charm is a surprise grab bag filled with something different each time she comes. The bag is opened after Mom leaves, and its treasures are many: different dolls with blankets and accessories to mix and match, materials for a special craft project, a treat she’s baked for them.

    Her grab bag provides countless teaching moments for my children as well as some very fun playtime. Probably without even realizing it, she is reinforcing the gospel principles they learn in Primary and family home evening.

    If dolls are part of the grab bag treasures, the girls dress and undress them, matching colors and coordinating outfits. When it’s time for bed, the dolls say their prayers and are placed under the blankets. “Then the ‘mommies’ munch on the special treats Amy brought, and she invents bedtime stories.

    Crafts are a favorite with my girls. Gluing, cutting, coloring, and pasting can create some exciting treasures and lasting memories. And Amy’s imagination is loaded with lots of fun stories they draw pictures about. Naturally artistic, Amy has spent hours drawing pictures for my children. The children she creates in her stories usually have the same names as my children, and they are involved in the same activities my children love—from helping Mom to going to Primary. We finally got a large book of used computer paper for our children to draw on. The blank sides of the pages contain many of Amy’s drawings. Now whenever they thumb through to find new pages to draw on, they are delighted again and again by pictures Amy has drawn. Pages and pages are filled with letters of the alphabet where Amy has helped the girls practice writing their names.

    She knows dozens of Primary songs and lots of finger plays. I often hear snatches of new songs coming from their bedroom as they play. Many times when the girls quarrel, I say, “Can’t you sing me a pretty song instead?” And they can.

    My girls see Amy in other situations, too. Always their eyes light up and their faces beam as they point to their Amy in church, where she helps her mother tend her younger brother and sisters, or at a ward party where she is playing the piano. At night she waves as she rides by delivering newspapers, and the girls come running into the house shouting, “Mommy, Amy waved to me.” “Me, too,” echoes another. “Amy wave me,” and my two-year-old beams. Such a little thing, and yet it means so much.

    Amy’s influence is felt in our home long after she is gone. How grateful I am for the Amys of this world who influence the lives of my children so positively and for the mothers of all the Amys, mothers who are preparing their daughters for motherhood. My daughters dream of growing up so they can be like Amy. And I hope they do.

    When the neighborhood children get together you often hear, “My Amy is going to tend me tonight.”

    “She’s not your Amy; she’s my Amy.”

    “She’s my Amy,” whines another quivering voice.

    “She’s all our Amy,” answers another who is older and wiser. Happily they all agree and go back to playing.

    Yes, she is everybody’s Amy. She’s a mother’s pride and joy, a little girl’s best friend, a frustrated mother’s chance for retreat, a Young Women president’s dependable worker, a father’s little girl, and a future mother who is learning now countless ways to bless the lives of other young children—her own.

    Dolls and stitchery by Shauna Mooney. Photo by Wes Taylor.