Don’t get me wrong! The babysitter had much to offer. Vivid colors. Constant motion. A world of entertaining information. But the child never spoke a word, knowing it seemed that the 24-hour-a-day, resident, on-demand babysitter, for which his parents had probably paid upwards of $1,000 would be unlikely to respond or care one way or another about what might happen outside of itself.
But at that price, wouldn’t one expect a bit more from a babysitter, like the capability to actually provide interesting interaction and even potential insight for the little boy into the life of another fellow human, which I believe is the elemental quality of a teacher or friend?
It’s been many years since my children (all three now around 40 years of age) have required or even appreciated a really good babysitter for themselves. None of them are married, so to them, hiring a babysitter seems a bit strange, at least for now, but they carry within themselves a pretty clear sense of what makes a babysitter really good, such as:
- An appreciation of the uniqueness of the child which leads to making a connection.
- A reservoir of interesting experiences that can be shared and converted into inquiries and explorations in response to the child’s own frame of reference.
- An ability to be delightfully unpredictable, inviting dramatic play and creativity with a minimum of props and costumes.
- The ability to read and respond to changes in the child’s emotion and mood in a manner sensitive to whatever is happening in the moment.
- A sense of responsibility that means family standards are appreciated and maintained, even when they might conflict with their own upbringing.
- And above all the natural ability to relate with and respond to the needs and tastes of a child.
All of these characteristics are only inherent in a human. No electronic device, regardless of its latest and greatest bells and whistles, can compete. Even a terrific, educational toy or a responsive pet can’t do for a developing human what other humans can do.
Certainly there are great digital books and videos and games, but there is no companionship, no mysterious or kind or wise other with whom to engage…while parents often are fulfilling their own needs for such relationship.
Sure, parents need their own time to explore and grow, but the roles of good parents and viable babysitters dictate that they supply a human when the need arises.