The other day an aunt of mine posted a meme on Facebook that read:
You’re sixteen and it’s a Friday night.
What does it mean to you?
Her answer was: “Date Night!”
Apparently I was an ultra nerdy teenager because my immediate response was: “Babysitting.”
Not counting the many times I watched (for free) my ungrateful and obstinate siblings, I became a “professional” when I was just eleven years old. My first gig was for an older couple across the street who had a baby girl. I never knew if she was a late in life baby or a grandchild whose parents, for whatever reason, couldn’t raise her. I wasn’t permitted to ask about such things. Anyway, both of the parents worked at the casinos – one worked nights and the other days, meaning they didn’t need a babysitter most of the time. However sometimes they would both need to work a swing shift – generally during the busy hours of 8 PM to 1 AM, I would arrive after the baby had been put to sleep. All I needed to do was to be there. If the baby woke up and actually needed attention, I phoned my folks … HELP! If they weren’t home, I knew all the neighbors. Still … eleven years old!!! I can’t imagine anyone leaving an infant in the hands of an eleven year old these days. In fact, it’s illegal in most states.
Most of my jobs came from my mother. She had no problem pimping me out to anyone desperate for a cheap sitter. Today there are babysitting agencies. Before you hire a babysitter, you can check out her resume, her profile and even read her reviews. Back then it was Mrs. Brown asking Mrs. White for the number of a “girl.” Then Mr. Brown would be send to retrieve the girl while Mrs. Brown prepared the list of do’s and don’ts (no candy before bed, no television until homework’s complete, etc.) most of which would be ignored. After the children were in bed, the “girl” would get on the phone with her friends and eat every potato chip in the house. Woe to the Mrs. Browns of the world who failed to stock up on junk food before a sitter’s visit. Word spread quickly of no snack houses! As did word of lousy tippers, smelly houses or creepy husbands.
Besides babies waking up and needing real care, I only had a few frightening things happen while sitting. Once a hollow-faced man appeared in the window next to the front door. I screamed and he ran away. When I called the parents, they told me it was just Jim, the neighborhood crazy guy, and he was harmless. And then they laughed. Apparently they thought terrorized fourteen year old babysitters were a real riot!
Another time the telephone rang and I answered thinking it might be the parents. A male voice said “I’m in your basement and I’m going to come up and kill you!” I was about to run out of the house with the kids when the ten-year-old said. “There’s no phone in the basement.” Then he laughed and told me what a “stupidhead” I was.
However, for the most part it was boring and so I’ve never understood why so many movies have been made about babysitters. Take Adventures in Babysitting (1987), the sitter and her charges are chased up the side of a high-rise in Chicago by mafia thugs, save a runaway teen from a rat-infested bus terminal, and crash a fraternity party … to name just a few of their adventures. Then they had to race back to the suburbs before the parents arrived home. Of course, the parents were clueless and didn’t suspect a thing.
I imagine if I was a teenage babysitter today my review would read: Panics easily, eats you out of house and home, and bores the children to death.