The Gay Uncle has been trolling the blogosphere recently, getting acquainted with the many parenting sites out there, which–not exactly being “in the demographic”–he’s never read before. While fascinated by all the delightful sounding recipes for “Russian Casserole” and “Vegan Pancakes” and by the myriad war stories of moms (and one or two dads) locked in brutal wars of attrition with their children over pretty much any petty issue imaginable, he’s really just looking for reviews and comments on his own book. While these have generally been overwhelmingly positive (thanks much to all the fans!), there has been an intriguingly consistent strain of critique: many people seem to resent or oppose G.U.’s suggestion that they occasionally get out of the house, and appear to have a real issue with the idea of EVER leaving their child with a babysitter.
Just to clarify, Gunc does not advocate pulling a total stranger in from a park or under a highway overpass to take care of junior. In the book, he outlines a complex process for finding an appropriate caregiver (Chapter 1) as well as describing a clear rationale for why leaving the house is important for parents as well as for their child’s optimal development. But there seems to be a national assumption that if you invite the nice teenage neighbor girl who you’ve known all her life into your home, she will immediately transform into a Satan-worshiping succubus, and will beat, belittle, and otherwise abuse your child. When he was a New York City preschool director, the Gay Uncle hired all sorts of teachers who, on first glance, may have seemed questionable–a pink-haired male Cherokee performance artist; a brittle upper-class woman from Bombay; a formerly homeless African American lady with tangled dreads; a fast-talking, chain-smoking, aging punk chick–but who he could tell, from interviewing them, calling their references, and observing them interacting with his students (all of which he recommends you do before hiring a sitter), understood how to speak and be with young kids, and had an inner sense of balance, caring and kindness. Think about your favorite babysitter from childhood. If you met her now, you might not hire her on first sight. But wouldn’t you be making a mistake?
Maybe this creepy caregiver consternation is shared only by a vocal on-line minority. G.U. is aware of the fact that our national news media certainly has a tendency to privilege stories of children-in-peril, often to a debilitating effect for new parents, who end up fearing that diddlers and kidnappers lurk around every corner. He is simply trying to empower people to break out of that cycle. Remember, you are not a perfect parent. Your child is not perfect. None of us is perfect. (Not even the Gay Uncle!) So you’re never going to find a perfect babysitter. But if you use the method outlined in the book, Gunc firmly believes that you’ll be able to find a number of them who are perfectly good enough.