We made the hard decision over the weekend to stop sending Andrew to his sitter. A decision like that doesn't just happen overnight, though--it was made after months and months of struggle and being unhappy with the way things were going. If it had been about picking up bad habits and the occasional "cuss" word, I could have tolerated it. Those things were happening, for sure, but Andrew was also, in my opinion, being bullied and harrassed by another 3 year-old, who just happens to be the sitter's son.
Andrew starting going to this sitter last January, after the retirement of his beloved Mrs. Baker, who had kept him since he was six weeks old and I went back to work. Mrs. Baker is truly like an extra grandparent, although it embarrasses her to hear that. Understandably, we were devastated when she decided to retire, but we understood and were lucky enough to find a new place for Andrew quickly. We were very excited about the new place to begin with--who wouldn't be excited about their child getting to spend time on a farm, visit and play with animals, and have a child his age to play with? It seemed like an ideal situation.
Now, understanding that "boys will be boys", and preschool kids have issues with sharing and getting along with others, I was still not prepared for the inevitable skirmishes. Andrew was not blameless, but we quickly squashed the one or two incidents of him smacking or pushing, and let him know that it was not acceptable to put his hands on someone else, even if the other kid did it first. Still, though, I heard stories about hair pulling, smacking, pushing, etc. on an almost daily basis. Not having seen this in action, I was told by both Andrew and the sitter that the kid was punished--time-outs, sent to his room, or smacked. Do you smack a kid when you're teaching him not to hit? Seems like a mixed message to me, but then that's HER kid and it's not my business how she raises him...UNTIL it starts affecting us at home. Our advice to Andrew was to stay away from him when he wasn't being nice, tell the sitter, and so on.
Andrew recently started acting out at home. He was not only mimicking things he saw the other boy do, but getting angry easily for no reason, refusing to listen to the point where we put him on a behavior plan with a nifty little chart, and just altogether seeming like a different kid. "Unhappy" just about sums it up. Several nights last week he became hysterical and sobbed for no reason or over small reprimands. When I asked him what was wrong, he choked out, "I didn't want _____to pull my nose and my ears!" Ummm...what??!?!? And then he showed me. I swear, that my son even had the restraint to not knock the sh*t out of that kid is a small miracle to me, because that's what I wanted to tell him to do if it happened again. But, I showed some restraint, too and texted the sitter to find out what happened; it turned out she didn't even know it had happened.
After a long weekend of several hysterical fits and Andrew being really upset at the thought of going back, I decided enough was enough. James called Mrs. Baker to see if she would come out of retirement until school was out (or sooner if something else comes up), and she didn't even hesitate before agreeing. I had the task of telling the current sitter, a.k.a. the mother of the demon spawn. She was understandably upset--probably most by the loss of income, but I suspect also that she knows it was her fault indirectly, through the actions of her son. I tried to leave it open-ended, saying that maybe after a break from each other we could come back, but who knows if she'll even agree to that at this point? I was left with mixed emotions--I felt BAD for making HER feel bad, but also a sense of sadness--when they played nicely together, they were really cute, and Andrew had referred to the other boy as "My friend ______." But I also don't want him learning that he has to be friends with someone who treats him that way and that there are no other options.
Last night, after his first real day back with Mrs. Baker, we had the best night we've had in longer than I can remember. No disagreements, no tantrums, the return of my HAPPY son. And that is what I need to focus on. With everything else stressful that's happening right now, Andrew did not need the extra worry or turmoil, nor did he need to have to worry all day, every day about someone beating him up and being powerless. It was a good decision.