Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Sitters, and Tigana Presents

Sunday, Mary and I were both scheduled for the same session, so we obviously needed to make arrangements for Tigana and Kasia. The hotel had a first rate family center which in turn put us through to an excellent babysitting service. As soon as they were notified of Kasia's health problems, the service recruited a pediatric nurse to cover for us, and Mary and I were able to participate in the conference without worrying too much about Kasia. (One of the challenges of having a child who experiences frequent seizures is that one obviously can't leave them with the local 14 year old…)

When the nurse arrived, however, I got some weird vibes – after 15 years supervising student teachers, I have a pretty good eye for what makes a successful teacher/day care worker, and this nurse wasn't demonstrating any of those characteristics. I also found myself explaining more about the seizures and what to do about them then I would have thought necessary, but as the session started in 20 minutes, and as she was to spend most of her time with the kids in the hotel's family center (which had an absolutely first rate staff!) I decided to go with it. There comes a point where one can become too obsessive…

When we returned to our hotel room after the conference had ended for the evening, however, we found Tigana doing aerial somersaults on the hotel bed, Kasia crying in the corner, and Law and Order on the TV. Now, I am the first to recognize that parents will often have the knack of walking in at the exact wrong moment, and that there might be any number of explanations for what we encountered – perhaps Kasia was crying because the sitter had just confiscated the TV remote from her in order to restore the kid's programming, and perhaps Tigana had just that second decided to begin jumping – but on the face of it, it does appear as if the sitter were watching the TV while the kids were left to their own devices. Nevertheless, Tigana hugged her goodbye, to which the sitter responded with shock, another sign that this was not one's usual sitter.

The next morning we phoned the agency back and asked if the sitter the hotel staff had originally recommended was available for the next day (we had another joint function for Monday). The next day when I took Tigana and Kasia to the family center, one of the staff approached us with a neutral, "How did it go with the sitter last night?" and I recited my concerns. The staff member confessed that she had felt there was something off too, because the woman had insisted on being called "The Nurse" rather than 'the sitter', and yet had commented on the need to have something handy to stick in Kasia's mouth if she had a seizure. "Even I know that's wrong! They haven't taught to do that for 20 years." And went on to comment that the woman hadn't interacted much with the kids while in the family center. I strongly suspect the nurse had the attitude that as "The Nurse" she was 'on call' in case of a medical emergency, but not otherwise responsible.

The sitter the next night, in contrast, was fabulous! The hotel staff got it right when they recommended her. Again, the moment I met her I knew I was in the presence of a superb teacher (though in point of fact her calling is as an opera singer, which immediately endeared her to singing-obsessed Tigana). This time when we got back to the room, not only had she gotten Kasia to bed (the first time in her life she had gone to sleep without first nursing!) but Tigana was sitting quietly, working diligently on a art project, which was itself far more creative and artistic than the usual sitter stuff – I mean, it really was good!

But getting back to Sunday's panel, the symposium Mary and I were both presenting at was on work/family dilemmas within academia. Tigana had previously written and presented a piece on "Why kids are more important than work" to Mary's social responsibility course as part of "Take Your Daughter to Work Day" back in December. So, when we realized that Tigana would be traveling with us to this conference, Mary asked her if she would like to present her 'paper' at the symposium Given the topic, and the informal nature of the discussion, Tigana's presentation was a fitting opening to the session, and well received, so although Tigana wasn't listed in the program as a presenter, I think she should include it on her CV, should she ever actually have one….

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