My babysitter has a crush on… guess who?

December 23rd, 2009  |  by  |  Published in Uncategorized  |  5 Comments

photo (2)Okay, so the crush isn’t on me. It’s on my 18-month-old boy, Nico. I can see what a woman would see in him: he’s thoughtful, sweet, gives great kisses, and needs lots of help. So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised to start coming home and seeing little works of art like the one pictured here lying around the house. She uses paint time as an opportunity to express her love for the little dude. If I’m not mistaken, there was one that said NICO ROX!

There’s only one problem: Nico is not my only child.

As readers of DadWagon know, I’ve got a 3-year-old girl who is looked after by the same part-time babysitter. But I’ve not once seen the sitter writing Dalia’s name, much less with a heart on it (even though Dalia is the one starting to learn how to read and write). It’s not just the love-note differential; the babysitter simply doesn’t like Dalia nearly as much as she likes Nico. We’ve had conversations about it. I told her it wasn’t really appropriate to favor one kid over the other. She told me she can’t help it. It’s a problem.

The favoritism started, of course, with the difference in the kids themselves. If Nico is all sweet cinnamon, then Dalia might be something like cardamom: complex, cool, slightly astringent. If she doesn’t want you around, she’ll tell you. She has not mastered “please” and “thank you” yet (Nico can’t really talk at all, so he’s got it easier there). This has caused my babysitter to, as I see it, write the girl off as a problem child.

My babysitter is probably not unique. She’s in her early 20s, and while she’s a fine caregiver, one does get the feeling that she started looking after kids because she likes being around cuddly babies. Who doesn’t? But there’s more to looking after kids than that. Not all kids like to hug. Not all of them are well-mannered. They should be pushed in the right direction, but not judged, I don’t think, with such finality at a young age.

So is babysitter favoritism common? I could see how caregivers, with no prior emotional attachments to the kids, would gravitate toward the most immediately rewarding kid.

If it is common, it is really that harmful? The oddly named Family Business School has a little study of parental favoritism, and finds that kids who report having had parents who picked sides become more estranged from their siblings as adults. Since we basically had two kids so that they could be friends and collaborators as adults, it would suck if that doesn’t work out. (Side note: for a completely odd Internet experience, go to the Family Business School homepage and watch a video of the school’s director, a Brit with picket fence teeth and all, down an Efes tallboy beer on a Turkish hillside and ramble on about the school and the history of Asia Minor.)

If anyone has had experience with this, let me know. Who knows, we may set up a poll to see if this particular babysitter should be fired. Crowdsource it, as my grandpaw always said, and ask the cloud.


  1. JT says:

    December 25th, 2009at 10:17 pm(#)

    That’s a really interesting question – I have no kids myself, but suspect that the sibling relationship has so many external and internal factors that it’s hard to orchestrate. Also, people change over time. What can be a very healthy relationship can sour later or vice versa. My non-professional opinion is that what matters most is how the siblings internalize perceived differences between each other or how people treat them, not the differences themselves.

  2. Nathan says:

    December 28th, 2009at 3:45 pm(#)

    Hey JT–You might be right about it coming down to the siblings’ own perceptions. It’s a bit scary to contemplate, but in the end so many of the things we do right or wrong as parents might not really matter: kids will either persevere or not, they’ll either screw up or not, and it may just depend on the kids, not the parents.


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