Dear Mouthy Housewives,
Every birthday and holiday that rolls around, my son gets a few bucks in his cards, and I’ve been stuffing it in his piggy bank. Three years have gone by, and it’s added up to around $150 in small bills. I tucked the bank back in the corner of his closet and forgot about it. Today, I popped it open and found that the money is gone. We don’t have a lot of guests, we are fairly new in a big city without nearby family, and I’ve never had a playdate here. The only people that have been in my son’s room are:
1) the housekeeper, “Helen”
2) the babysitter, “Barb”
3) the babysitter’s 10 year old daughter, “Sticky Fingers”
I don’t think it was Helen. She came highly recommended and her whole family has worked for a good friend of mine in one capacity or another for almost 20 years. I don’t think Barb did it, either. Her references checked out before we hired her, and I don’t think she would risk losing her job. This leaves me with Sticky Fingers… for one, she’s a kid, and kids do stupid things. They are easily tempted. I teach high school, and boy, do I know how kids lie. I’m without a confession (she denied it) or hard proof, just my gut. Do I fire Barb for not watching Sticky Fingers more carefully? Keep Barb, but say Sticky is not welcome? Is the cloud of suspicion just so thick, that I have to fire everyone and start over?
Sincerely, Chump Change
Dear Chump Change,
Let me start off by saying that I know first-hand the emotions that come from having something stolen from you. Theft leaves you feeling completely violated and helpless, and it can take some time to recover from something like that.
That said, I think that, if you like this babysitter, you will have to get over it.
The truth is that you’ll never know who the bandit was. And even though my money is certainly on Sticky Fingers (that thieving little so-and-so), I kind of feel badly for her. I mean you, of course! But also her. Okay, mostly her.
You see, I am not surprised at all at the idea of a 10 year-old stealing. I am a little saddened by it, however. Call me “soft” or “ridden with childhood trauma,” but I happen to be of the belief that, if a kid is taking things, that kid is in need of attention or love. (Or, you know, in this case, money.) This certainly doesn’t justify her actions, but I think that if you put yourself in her shoes for a moment, you’ll actually be helping yourself in the end.
First, you need to make it clear-respectfully but terrifyingly so-that any misdeeds are absolutely not tolerated in your home. And if you do that well enough, the fear instilled within the young girl should be enough to keep her hands steady. (If not, laser beams, blow horns, dobermans, and booby traps will.)
Second, consider how you might help keep those hands of hers occupied while her mother is working. Surely she can’t enjoy having to tag along with mom. Do you have books or arts and crafts appropriate for someone her age? Or a closet with a window? Basement? Garage? Just spitballing here…
So. Do you love Barb or what? If so, you’ll simply have to figure a way to make it work. Just be proactive about keeping your belongings safe, lay down some iron-clad ground rules, and keep that girl busy.
(But if it happens again, fire that woman and her jerky kid without a second thought.)
And if you’re looking for some mid-summer fun to keep your kids
out of your hair entertained in an educational fashion, be sure to check out The Mouthy Housewives’ Tip of the Week: Surviving Summer Vacation!