Due to circumstances beyond control, I lost my babysitter, rather abruptly. We're a month away from the end of school, and Anna, being twelve now, is certainly old enough to keep an eye on David for the two hours between school ending and my coming home.
The problem is, this ties her down. She can't have friends over, and she can't go hang with friends. When you're twelve, that's pretty rotten. Luckily for me, my former babysitter's younger brother (who's nearly in high school) is a terrific kid that I know pretty well, and he's willing to step in and make some money. It's working out great. Since Anna's off and running with her friends right after school, he's spending most of his time with David, and David is having a blast.
On his very first day, he took David to our local playground, where he saw a good friend of his. They both played tag with David, who ran them ragged, and then headed back to the house. The babysitter's friend was even nice enough to push David on his skateboard on the long uphill part of the journey home. When they got back to the house, the babysitter and his friend promptly got their behinds handed to them in bowling for the Wii - not realizing that David is somewhat of a prodigy on this game. They all had a lot of fun.
And then I came home and David told me what a great time he had with the babysitter and his friend.
Yikes. I asked David to clarify: was the friend in our house?
Yes, he was. And he played Wii and we had fun, David said, jumping up and down with enthusiasm.
So I picked up the phone and I called the babysitter's mother, and explained that it was fine if he and his friend want to hang out with David at the playground, but I'm really not comfortable having a stranger in my house. The mother was in agreement and very understanding, reassuring me that her son's friend is a great kid and while she agrees about not having strangers in the house, I didn't have anything to worry about in this kid.
I thanked her for being understanding, she said she'd talk to her son, and he hasn't had friends over since.
I'm sure she thinks that being a single mother (especially one who's alone every other weekend), I'm nervous that this kid is going to talk about me or my house to a friend who tells a friend who tells a friend and I'm going to end up getting robbed or worse. And she's right, that plays into my thoughts a bit.
What I can't tell her is that even though she knows this other kid and he seems great (David keeps asking if he's coming back!), I don't know him. And sometimes, even when we think we know people, we don't, really.
And I have a son- a son with autism - who may not be able to tell me if someone abuses or molests him. He may not even recognize it as abuse. He's vulnerable, and not under the watchful eye of me or his father for those two hours after school every day. It's something that weighs on my mind not just now, when he's young, but for his foreseeable future as it stretches before him.
This kid may be a perfectly wonderful kid. He sounds like loads of fun, and he was kind to my son that day - which means a lot to me because kids his age are frequently unkind to kids like David. Still, I don't know him, and until I do, I can't trust him.
And even if I know him, I'll still be watching, and talking to David - casually, mind you - about everything they did. It's my job, as his mother. I'm his protector, because he doesn't realize he needs to protect himself.