Choose Your Babysitter Wisely

For three adventurous years, we lived in Keflavik, Iceland on the US Naval Air Station. That was where our oldest daughter, Clara, was born. When she was only a few months old, the base had its annual Navy Ball. This was a party held at the Officer’s Club to which everyone—officers and enlisted—was invited. The first year we were there, we discovered that the window for hiring a high school babysitter for the evening closed fifteen minutes after the end of the previous year’s Ball. We missed the window and had no babysitter.

We really wanted to go, so we asked our good friend, Lieutenant Bithiah Reed. She did not plan on going to the Ball because she was unaccompanied, which meant her husband was not with her on this tour. She was the toughest woman we knew. She was on an aircraft carrier for the war in Afghanistan. She was a SWO, a Surface Warfare Officer, which meant she could kick my butt on land or at sea. On top of that, she was the base psychologist. She knew human nature, child development, and took no crap from anybody. In short, she was the perfect babysitter. Right?

We first had to talk her into babysitting (red flag). She said she had no brothers or sisters and obviously had no kids, so her experience with children was limited. We p’shawed that with a reminder of her impressive military and educational credentials. Our little darlings were far easier to subdue than any terrorist. To ease her fears, we decided on a code system. We lived across the street from the O-Club, so we told her that if she was in trouble, we would look at our quarters at exactly 2000 hours (8:00PM). If the shades were drawn, all was okay and we would go back to having a good time. If they were open, we knew that she needed a breather.

At 1957 (7:57 PM), I excused myself from the table where we had eaten a sumptuous meal and headed out to the parking lot. The windows of our quarters were dark. The shades were drawn! Excited, I turned to go back in and enjoy the rest of the evening, but decided that we had told her 2000 hours, so I would wait.

As the clock struck the first chimes, the shades of our place flew open. A bit depressed, I realized we would not get to dance the night away. Maybe she just needed a break and we could come back later. Then the shades closed again. Was there hope? They opened. And closed. And opened. And closed.

Dot-dot-dot…dash-dash-dash…dot-dot-dot. S-O-S.

I ran inside, grabbed my wife, and headed home. LT Reed met us at the door with a screaming baby in one arm and an untouched bottle in the other. She tossed one to me and the other to my wife and was out the door before it could close. Clara instantly quieted down and was soon drinking happily. In thirty minutes, she was asleep.

After that, we relied on one babysitter for most of our tour in Iceland. He was a thirteen year-old boy who often got into trouble at school and drove his parents crazy when he was home.

But he had four younger brothers and sisters and didn’t know Morse code.

©2008, Mark Phillips

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 Women, it's true, make human beings, but only men can make men. - Margaret Mead

Mark Phillips is a Stay-At-Home-Dad and freelance writer. Along with raising his four children, he is developing a franchise called “The Vacuum IS a Power Tool.” It is designed to help SAHDs maintain that which makes us men, instead of hairy Mom-substitutes. He earned a B.S. in Communication/Theatre Arts and teaching certificates in English, public speaking, and psychology from Eastern Michigan University. After six years as a high school English teacher and Director of Dramatic Arts at Powers Catholic High School in Flint, Michigan, he changed careers and became a Stay-At-Home-Dad. or E-Mail

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