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What to Tell Your New Babysitter

Photograph by Getty Images

It’s rude to have your cell phone out during a dinner with friends, so I slipped mine into my purse the other night. There was no chance the babysitter would be looking for me, right?

After the main course, I made a trip to the ladies’ room where I checked my phone four times in three minutes. I thought what every parent thinks on a rare night out: I’m sure the kids are having fun watching "Calliou," and please God, let them be asleep when I get home.

As I perused the dessert menu, my husband, who’s not as up on social etiquette and thought nothing of having his phone on the table beside his bread knife, noticed his phone was buzzing with a number he didn’t recognize.

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But I did. It was the babysitter — the brand new one who was with our children for the first time ever.

“Answer it,” I screamed to my husband, and all the guests in the restaurant. My husband excused himself so that he could hear (and also to get away from his hysterical wife), and I remained at the table with our friends. While we waited for my husband to return, I pulled out my phone and saw I had two “missed” calls.

(I assumed) that arming a babysitter with my cell phone and a fully charged TV remote control would be enough for three hours.

My husband was gone for two minutes, which was plenty long enough for my fears to mushroom from someone is really hurt to which hospital should we go to? When I couldn’t take it any longer, I left the table and found him outside giving the babysitter directions to the place where we keep our flashlights. (Note: I had no idea we owned flashlights.)

Turns out, the power had gone out and the babysitter wanted to let us know and get directions about how to proceed in our dark house with our two very freaked out children. While it wasn’t an emergency, it was a situation that I could have prepared better for and will do better in the future.

In light of our little drama around the blackout, I created a list of things to go over with all new babysitters. I’d gotten lazy, assuming that arming a babysitter with my cell phone and a fully charged TV remote control would be enough for three hours.

But no more — it’s a new day and here are the four things I will do before we leave the kids with a babysitter again.

1. Teach my children our phone numbers.

While our new babysitter had my phone number, she didn’t have my husband’s. When I didn’t answer my phone because of my impeccable manners, she had to rely on my 5-year-old’s memory for my husband’s number. Luckily, my kids love to play on the phone so they knew how to reach Daddy. I really should have left that information for her.

2. Write down where we will be.

On the off chance that both my husband and I had put away our phones, the babysitter would have been screwed. I’d already looked up the restaurant earlier in the day, so it wouldn’t have been hard to jot down the number so she could contact us there.

3. Show ‘em the flashlights.

Before you entrust someone with your children, show them where you keep the flashlights. While you’re at it, show them the first-aid kits and the fire exits. Give them a little “safety tour” just in case. Maybe don’t make her show you the “stop, drop and roll,” but give her the tools to keep herself and your kids safe.

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4. Give them neighbors’ information.

It’s a good idea to give your babysitter the information for people who are close by in case you can’t get home right away. Since the blackout night, we’ve contacted our neighbors to ask if we can share their contact information with our babysitters when we go out. It takes a village, but you have to tell your babysitter what the villagers’ phone numbers are.

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