Posts Tagged ‘babysitting’

When our children are young we represent their whole world. Our decisions effect where they live, what they eat, what clothes are on their backs, and just about everything else involving their general health and well being. I can remember taking my daughter to kindergarten for her first day. So small, with her little hand in mine. Her brand new lunchbox squeaked in time as the handle moved back and forth while we walked toward the school building. At the door, she hugged me tightly around the neck, and as I watched, she went inside. That was to be the first of many steps she was to take on her way to independence. Sitting in the car before turning on the ignition, I can remember feeling a sense of loss leaving my little girl there. A sort of knowing that there had been a shift in my universe, and things would never be exactly as they were again.

Was I to have become a teacher, I believe kindergarten or 1-3 would be the grades I would have chosen. They are so open to everything at that age, and unabashedly excited by the world. As the years pass we become accustomed to seeing the glorious blooms on the trees and stems around us this time of year. Sometimes we forget to actually take in their beauty or acknowledge Mother Nature for how much color, fragrance and life she adds to our worlds. Children, at least in my experience, see everything with fresh eyes. A bug crawling on their arm, which we would most likely flick off as an annoyance, a child would watch in wonder as it made it’s way through the maze of hair across their skin. They would gasp in fascination when it spread it’s tiny wings and lifted effortlessly into the air. A feat we humans will never accomplish without something either strapped to our backs or a plane around us, yet take for granted every time it is done by a creature who can.

Our job as parents is to make our children independent, self-sufficient, beings. If you think about it, it is rather a self-defeating process. In the end, we enable our little ones to fend for themselves, leaving us on our own to fend for ours. When they in turn have their children, if this is their choice, we are once again called into action. Babysitting is often the first and main job as a grandparent. Today’s parents, I don’t believe, lean on high school sitters like they did when I was growing up. A huge supplement for my meager allowance (in my eyes at least) came from my weekend babysitting jobs. Usually, not always, it was a pretty good gig. If at night, my favorite time to sit, the kids would need entertainment for a few hours, perhaps a story, and then they were off to bed. Most parents provided yummy snacks and a television so the rest of my job was simply hanging out for a few hours, eating popcorn, and watching scary movies. For this service I charged $1.50 an hour, the going rate at the time. Now this was not going to get me a suite at the Ritz Carlton but in those days a good night, plus tip, might gain me access to the local movie theater, or buy me a burger and a malt at Bob’s Big Boy.

One couple I babysat for frequently were the Oranges, Harry and Ann Orange to be exact. They were a thirtyish couple, both equally as round as they were tall, who had a penchant for dancing. The summer between my freshman and sophomore year, I made a lot of money thanks to those Arthur Murray dance lessons Ann had signed them up for. For as quiet a man as Harry was, he chose a mate in Ann who was a polar opposite. Ann was flamboyant, and animated, all kinetic energy and flapping ruby red lips. Harry, on the other hand, enjoyed long naps in his massive recliner and watching endless ball games or rounds of golf on the television. A match made in heaven. Where Harry was a comfort first guy, sweat pants and matching shirt, Ann loved to dress up. The woman never allowed her generous proportions to deter her from bold prints, short skirts or loud outlandish colors. Even at that age, I admired that trait in her. Back then, stepping up as a female and going against the grain wasn’t popular or accepted like it is today. At the time I thought Harry and Ann old, with nearly one foot in the bone yard. Not as old as my parents, who I was fairly certain were ancient, but still old by my teenage standards. Huh. Funny how much younger thirty something seems to me now. Together, the Oranges had produced Lily, an insipid little five year old prone to outbursts of ear drum assaulting screaming. Lily, who would have been better named something more fitting her temperament like Habanero or Beelzebub, was the demon seed. If she didn’t get whatever it was she wanted she would be begin hurling her toys at me, or even in one incident, actually took a knife out the drawer and pointed it in my direction. Had she been the only child I’d watched during my impressionable teens, I might have reconsidered bearing any of my own. Thankfully, that was only for one summer, and when I related the knife incident to my mother she informed Ann I wouldn’t be accepting any further babysitting assignments in the future.

Finding a babysitter was a far different process when I was in the business. Nowadays, parents vet sitters thoroughly before entrusting them with their offspring. Sophisticated sites are available where prospective “child care providers” can be found. The sites allow clients to browse resumes and contact references to ensure the candidate is thoroughly checked out before arriving at their doorstep. Back in my time it was more, “Doesn’t Jimmy have a sister who babysits?”. Numbers were exchanged, Jimmy’s sister was called and asked if she was available for Saturday night or if not, did she know anyone who was. The most vetted I ever was was when one man asked me on the way to his home, “Do you smoke weed?”. Assuming this question was by way of ensuring I did not light a joint while on duty, I assured him I did not. With this information under his belt, he pulled a huge joint out of his pocket and asked if I minded if he did. “Um, no.” Maybe I should have vetted him.

When my children needed a sitter I tapped from the well of the Mormon family who lived down the block. With seven children under that roof, four of them girls, they needed the extra income. Three of the four girls were teens and all three babysat at my house on one occasion or another. The mother was a bubble or two off, but nice enough. Very religious. Now, before you start leaving me notes, I don’t mean that religion is a bad thing but she was the type of religious person who insists on foisting her beliefs on you. I never picked up or dropped one of those girls off without receiving some sort of literature on how to save my soul. It occurred to me to tell her I believed that ship had sailed but didn’t want to to offend her. The middle girl, around sixteen was very shy. I can’t remember her name at the moment, but then sometimes I can’t remember what I ate for breakfast so don’t find this alarming. At any rate she babysat for us one Saturday night. My children’s father was a very handsome man, at the time in his mid twenties and I noticed our babysitter had not overlooked this fact. Women can read other women’s intentions when it comes to their men, I don’t care how old they are. When we came home that night I realized I didn’t have the correct change for her so asked if she’d mind stopping by the following day to pick it up. She said she’d be by in the morning.

It was a Sunday, and the children had gone to church with their grandparents. My husband was in the shower when the girl came to the door. I let her in, and went to the bedroom to retrieve my purse. Meanwhile, my husband had cut himself shaving and the blood had run down his chest. He thought it would be hysterical to walk out in the buff and scare me holding his hands up in the air like Dracula. Uh-huh. Lizzie, ahhhhhh there’s that old brain, was standing there when he rounded the corner saying “I vant to bite your neck” just as I came back in the kitchen. As you can imagine that was an interesting situation to explain to her mother. That was the end of that association.

So, I leave you with my babysitting stories for the day. Hope your weekend is filled with wonderful stories to tell. This idea below would have been perfect for my little monster.

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