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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Swan

An Open Letter to Parents

Dear Moms & Dads of Adorable Young Children,

I love being your babysitter.  I’m so grateful when you ask me to come over and watch your kids for a little while so you can get away.  I know how often and widely your spouse travels, and that sometimes you need time to recharge, and I really like being part of your support system.  Thanks for trusting me with the most important little people in your life.

I’m concerned about what would happen to your kids if something happens to you.  In the eyes of the law, I have no relationship to them.  If you were injured or unreachable while your spouse was away, and if there are no blood relatives to care for them, the law won’t allow me to care for them.  Without naming guardians for your kids, they could be taken by the Police and Social Services.  I’m sure neither one of us wants that to happen.

I adore your kids.  I love being their jungle gym/confidante/co-conspirator in getting extra dessert.  I love them when they ask me for an extra bedtime story (one of my special talents), and when they create something beautiful at craft time.

Like you, I even love them when they tell me I’m mean for withholding dessert until they eat that last carrot.  Even when they hit their sister even after repeatedly being told not to, and even when they ride the skateboard in the house.

The kids aren’t the problem at all.  I can solve any just about problem they throw at me.  The trouble is–what if something happens to you?  In all my babysitting around town, I’ve never met a new family and been shown their emergency plans.  Plenty of us don’t have blood relatives within driving distance to our remote mountain town.  You’ve relocated from Boulder at best, which might as well be on the moon in bad weather, and often your families are farther away than the Front Range.  They’re in the Midwest, or out on the coasts.  And your spouse is always traveling, which is why you called me in the first place.

I don’t want anything bad to happen to you.  And I don’t expect that anything ever would.  You’re probably a competent skier or bicyclist, but what if something unexpected happened, and you didn’t come home?  What if you got attacked by a moose while out for a run?  What if you hit a tree and had to be taken to the hospital?

What if it was bad weather and getting late?  Who should I call?  Or what if I don’t call anyone, but the Police come anyway to deliver the news?  At that point, I don’t have a choice what happens next, and neither do you.

I’m a competent person; I could probably find your parents’ phone numbers written somewhere. But those numbers are not going to keep your kids out of Social Services if their grandparents are in Milwaulkee or Houston.  Even if it’s only for a night, you never want your kids in that situation where they’re with strangers when they most need the people they love.

So the next time I come over, I’d love to see the emergency contact information for your closest friends in Steamboat, and while we’re at it, how about a form nominating them as short-term guardians for your kids, just in case?

Go ahead and name a backup, so there are options in case your first choice doesn’t pick up the phone on the first call.  You can put as many people as you’d like on the list, and I think you should put anyone you think your kids would feel more safe and comfortable with than strangers.

You may have named guardians for your kids in your will, but your will isn’t enforceable until after there’s a death certificate.  You’re more likely to be missing or hospitalized, in which case your will would not be enforceable.  In the meantime, we would all love to see your signed documents nominating guardians for your kids.  A legal document, signed by you, notarized, and witnessed by a couple of unrelated people would be exactly what you needed.

I’m never going to think you’re overprotective if you give me heaps of emergency contact information.  I’m going to realize how much you love and care about your kids, and I’m going to be thankful because I know, as your babysitter, I’ll never be in a tight spot if something unexpected happened.  Your kids would be in good hands, no matter what.

So go out on that run or skate-ski or dinner with friends, and rest assured that I can take care of the rest.  You’re so prepared; you’re the greatest.

Thanks so much & see you soon,


P.S. If the idea of choosing guardians makes you feel overwhelmed, or if you and your spouse have thought about it before and disagree, we have plenty of ideas about narrowing down your list.  Most important is just getting it done for your kids.  Because the truth is, we don’t know what’s going to happen, but we can be prepared for an emergency.

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