Babysitter is a nightmare

Dear Annie: I need advice regarding a recent nanny experience. I hired someone out of sheer desperation. I moved to a new town and have no friends or family around and am a single mother, and I had been with my 4-year-old son since March, one-on-one with no real breaks. I hired her from a reputable baby-sitting website that I paid to subscribe to.

However, I did not personally check her references and relied on the fact that the agency had posted that she was vetted. I know this will bring me much judgment and is an absolute no-no when it comes to motherhood; nonetheless, I did it. I left him for two hours with someone who works full time as a nanny and spoke and sounded pretty great. She came over, and they both seemed excited. I sent them to the pool and finally did my hour and a half of grocery shopping.

When I returned, I looked out the window to see how they were doing in the swimming pool. I was very perturbed to see him trying to swim away from her and her pulling him back by either his shirt or his legs numerous times. I then heard her say that no one would be coming for him. As I was beginning to walk down the stairs, I saw him hit her in the face, which was very warranted, in my opinion, and heard her say, “Do you want me to put your hands behind your back?” Then she proceeded to do just that — in a swimming pool to a 4-year-old. I bolted down. He was in tears, obviously. And we never saw her again.

My question is: What should I have done or said to her at the time? What am I to say to my son? I don’t want him to relive it yet, but I want to know his feelings. — Mom Trying Her Best

Dear Mom Trying Her Best: What’s done is done. We all wish we could have a time machine and erase any negative experiences that our children have had, but unfortunately, that is not life. Children and adults will all experience ruptures in their lives. The most important thing we can do is to repair the ruptures. Judging from your concern and letter, you are trying your best, so you are already way ahead of the game in the “good mom” department.

First things first, you must report this horrible woman to the agency and perhaps to the police. She should never be allowed to take care of children in any way, shape or form. Second, stop beating yourself up. You hired a baby sitter from a reputable agency. Third, and perhaps most important, is how to talk to your son about what happened. Tell him you are proud of him for sticking up for himself with the baby sitter, and reassure him that she will never be allowed back in the house.

If you sense reasons for concern in the future, don’t hesitate to seek the counseling of a professional child therapist to see whether there are steps you could take for both you and your son.

“Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now! Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to dearannie@creators.com.