Resourceful babysitter is quite an icebreaker
By Jane Flanagan
At a preschool event some weeks ago, a woman Id never met introduced herself and told me that my son Rusty, 41/2, was over at her place having dinner. She knew Rusty well, she said, and he and her 2-year-old daughter were good friends.
This happens a lot.
Thats because Veera, my babysitter, is a woman about town. She and Rusty pop over apartments in Tribeca, the Financial District and south Battery Park City. Veera befriends moms, other babysitters and dads; Rusty plays with younger kids and older kids.
You could drop Veera in alien territory with no means of survival and she will make friends. I know, because I did.
After 9/11, we relocated to New Jersey for three months. Veera hates the suburbs and doesnt drive. I was anticipating unhappy, endless days when theyd have nowhere to go and no one to see. But within 48 hours the phone began to ring. One of her new friends was a babysitter who looked after two young boys and drove an S.U.V. Soon they were traveling to Chucky Cheese, elaborate out-of-town playgrounds and libraries.
This love of adventure, however, is only one reason why choosing Veera to babysit was one of the best decisions Ive ever made.
I still remember the day I met her. I had just about decided to go with another candidate, when Veera arrived, the last of the interviewees. When my doorbell rang, I looked out the peephole and didnt see anyone. I opened the door and dropped my glance by a foot. There was Veera, four-feet, five-inches tall.
I liked her instantly. But it wasnt until I introduced her to Rusty, then age 2, that I discovered she was a genius.
On her agency application, when asked why children like her, Veera responded, Because Im small. They think I am one of them. Rusty does think she is a playmate, but not because she is small. On her first day on the job she played with him on the floor for eight hours. (I barely had the patience for two.) Im sure she would rather have been out with other adults and kids, but she decided this was the way to gain his trust.
At the time, Rusty hated separating from me. New babysitters always evoked extensive shrieking. When Veera came that first day, he wanted nothing to do with her. She didnt plead or coax. She simply sat on the living room rug and started playing with his Thomas trains. Five minutes later, he was sitting beside her.
Motorcycles being one of Rustys great loves, Veera used them to all kinds of ends. One, for sheer pleasure. Early on she told him she rode one to work everyday. Shed find a motorcycle parked outside our apartment building and tell him it was hers. My husband and I, unaware of our new babysitters predilections, had to turn and look twice one Friday night when driving to the Holland Tunnel. Rusty spotted a motorcyclist out the window and said, thats Veera.
As a mother, I often tangled with the 2-year-old Rusty. One winter day I insisted he wear his hat. He refused. Back and forth, back and forth, we went. Veera stepped in. Wear your hat, she said. We have to ride our motorcycle. You need a helmet. He put it on.
Recently Rusty acquired an annoying plastic duck whistle. I quickly began drafting rules on the limited amount of time and places he could use it. When he showed it to Veera she said, Do you have one for me? Oh good, we can bring them to the pond to call the ducks.
Im looking forward to this summer. If its anything like last year, strangers will stop me at the playground and say, Are you Rustys mother? I just met Veera. They are over there with my kids.