Maybe it’s because I’m an older girl–babysitting never was “fun” or something I wanted to do. My mother wasn’t a morning person, so by the age of 7 I was tasked with getting breakfast for my younger brother and by 9, making sure he got off to school. By age 10 I was staying with him in the evening when my parents went to parties at the neighbors (would they be arrested for child neglect today?).
When I came to the door, often the kids would greet me with "We don't want you, we want Karen!"
By 13 I started babysitting for a couple of neighbor families. It was the only way a 13-year-old girl could earn money. I didn’t mind babysitting for the Gages because little Todd was about 6 months old, so once he was asleep I spent most of my time reading. The only thing that made me nervous was the cabinet full of hunting rifles, but because it was locked and Todd wasn’t ambulatory, I realized it wasn’t a concern.
When I babysat for the Glatzers, there was a lot more work. Peter was about 5, Suzy was 3, and then Jonathan came along. While they were good kids, it was an active household. There were snacks to be given, games to play, and diapers to change. The Glatzers had a stable of sitters, including me, Cindy, who was a classmate from down the block, and Karen from across town. I was the sitter of last resort, possibly because I ran a tight ship, and frankly, I don’t have that warm and fuzzy personality that kids gravitate to. The Glatzer kids thought Cindy was OK and Karen was the best. Karen had a sweet, playful personality. When I came to the door, often the kids would greet me with “We don’t want you, we want Karen!”
The Finegold family (not their real name) was another story entirely. The parents were an unpleasant couple and not well liked in the community. I’m not sure exactly why, but they were extremely unpopular with the adults in town. At least once every year, someone would plant a cherry bomb and blow up their mailbox, and I remember my father, who was normally very strict about such transgressions, would mumble something about how he didn’t feel much sympathy for the Finegolds.
I was one of the few, if not the only, teenagers who would sit with their three kids, who had a reputation for being out of control. Mike was 11 or 12 and a bully. Barbie was 10 and developmentally disabled, so needed extra supervision. Kevin was about 8 and followed his older brother’s lead. If I could keep the household from descending into utter chaos and prevent all from injury, I considered it a successful evening. Somehow I made it through.
My favorite memory of that time was one evening when Mike brought out and played a 78-rpm record called “The Great Crepitation Contest of 1946, Battle of Thunderblow.” This famous “fart” record was considered very edgy at the time, and I know the kids weren’t supposed to play it, but we had a great time. (It’s still pretty funny, although not as edgy, and you can hear it online.)
The day I turned 16, I gave up babysitting for good. No longer the sitter of last resort, I worked for a CPA after school, doing payroll bookkeeping for a movie theater. I wrote out the names and amounts in a ledger using a fountain pen, and made sure everything balanced. Not really that exciting, but I’d enjoy making up stories in my head about the people who worked in the theater, knowing only their names. Goes to show that I was cut out for writing, and not for babysitting.
I have recently retired from a marketing and technical writing and editing career and am thoroughly enjoying writing for myself and others.