The first time Eva Fried* offered to babysit for my children I thought it was a great idea.
“Why should you pay for babysitting when you have me?” she asked one evening as I was getting ready to leave the house to attend a wedding. My kids had just answered the doorbell to admit a teenage girl. “I won’t even charge you,” she added. “It would be my pleasure.”
Eva is my next-door neighbor. Her husband passed away several years ago and her only child lives in Florida. She is very lonely, and when she isn’t knocking on neighbors’ doors looking for company she has her nose permanently pressed against her window pane. She knows the comings and goings of every house on the block, and is always doling out advice to both adults and children.
“Wow! Thank you so much!” I replied to her generous offer. Having her come over every now and then would save me a lot of trouble having to search for a babysitter, not to mention the amount of money I’d be saving.
It was a disaster. As soon as my children saw who would be watching them they became absolutely hysterical. Whereas I look at Eva with compassion and am willing to put up with her idiosyncrasies, my kids are afraid of her and her occasionally sharp tongue. I left the house amidst a backdrop of screams as Eva smiled and assured me that everything would be fine.
When I returned at midnight the house was quiet and Eva was sitting by the window. “You have a much better view than I do,” she said as I walked in. “Call me whenever you need me. The children were angels. All they needed was a little discipline.”
The kids, however, had a whole different take.
“It was horrible,” one child told me. “She yelled at us to get into bed and didn’t even let me use the bathroom.”
“I was so thirsty!” said another child. “She refused to give me a drink because I forgot to brush my teeth.”
“I never, ever, ever want her to watch us again,” said another. “We all went to sleep crying.”