Dear Annie: I recently called a friend to see whether her college-age daughter, "Tiffany," could baby-sit for my 1 1/2-year-old granddaughter from 6 to 8 p.m. on a Saturday so I could attend a reception at a local club. I didn't hear back at first, but three days before the event, I finally talked with Tiffany, and she said that she would be available. We discussed exact times, and I asked what she would charge. She didn't have a set rate but thought $10 per hour would be fine. Having not paid a baby sitter for many years (I'm a new grandmother), I said that I thought the rate should be $5 per hour but that I would check with my daughter to see what she pays. My daughter confirmed that the average rate today is between $10 and $15 an hour. Thus, I planned to pay the $10 per hour (and thought I would probably give a tip, too), but I did not have a chance to call the sitter back until the morning of the event.
Her mother answered the phone and said that other plans had come up for her daughter, and the mother had told her to go with the "other plans" because I had not gotten back to her on the rate. I was hurt and in total shock, not only because our families are very good friends but also because I did not think that the rate was a deciding factor. My husband is in an assisted living facility, and I spend a great deal of time with him, which ties up most of my days, which they knew. The mother is forever telling me to take time off and have some time to myself, which I thought that I was doing.
My questions to you are: Who is wrong? Should I feel hurt? Was I wrong to not get back to her until the morning of the event about the rate? I was disappointed and hurt that the mother had not advised her daughter to call me, because she is forever saying that she tries to teach her children how to be responsible. I feel that I was let down and can no longer trust this family. — Heartbroken and Hurt Grandmother
Dear Heartbroken: Three things are certain in life: death, taxes and flaky baby sitters. You must really make a point of expressly confirming details with your sitter. I don't blame Tiffany for thinking that you didn't want her to baby-sit anymore. Think of it from her point of view. The last thing she'd heard from you was that her rate might be too steep and that you'd look into it. She probably assumed you'd found a cheaper sitter or decided not to use one after all.
In any case, I think you've taken the whole incident too much to heart. Your friend did not mean to hurt you. It seems as if this carried the weight it did for you because you were really looking forward to a night to yourself — a rare occurrence. I would encourage you to make such "me time" less rare. Get out and socialize. You can't be properly supportive of your husband if you aren't supportive of yourself and your own needs.
Dear Annie: Please do not use the term "golden years" when referring to a person's retirement. Do some research about ageism in our language and what to avoid saying in order to make progress in this area. There are articles on the subject online. Euphemisms are not helpful in making progress. — An Oregon Reader
Dear Oregon Reader: Thank you so much for bringing that to my attention. I hadn't realized how that phrase could come across as condescending, but you can bet I'll keep it in mind now.
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