More Adventures in Babysitting

The post I did last week about The Babysitter brought to mind some other babysitting stories I thought I would share.

My Brother the Babysitter:

My brother was the youngest of my older siblings.  He was 12  years older than me and my sisters were 13, 15 and 16 years older.  So, when I needed a babysitter and all the girls had plans, Jimmy got the job.  I don’t remember for sure, but I think he may have been my favorite babysitter.  If one of the girls stayed with me, it was probably pretty routine — we’d stay at home, they’d read me a few books, and then they’d put me to bed and tell me to go to sleep.  Boooooooorrrrriiiinnnggg.  But if Jimmy was my babysitter, if his friends wanted to go to a movie on a night when he had to babysit, no problem.  They would just take me along!  And Mama always said that when Jimmy was babysitting, it wasn’t unusual to come home late at night and find Jimmy and Sandra laying on the living room floor sleeping … in their clothes, no blankets or pillows.  That had to have been alot more fun for me than sleeping in my bed.  Almost like camping out, but without the tent!

My Favorite Babysitting Job:

As I’ve said before, when I was old enough myself I didn’t babysit very much.  But there is one babysitting job I will always remember.  A friend of mine had a standing once-a-week babysitting job and was going to be on vacation with her family for two weeks.  So she asked me to fill in for her for those two weeks.  The job was in the new neighborhood next to ours which was all beautiful long, low ranch-style homes, in contrast to the small 30-year old bungalows in our neighborhood.

All I had to do was feed the two little kids, give them their bath and then put them to bed.  They were very sweet, agreeable little girls so the job was snap.  But this was a very unique babysitting job in lots of ways.  It only lasted a couple hours.  It was early in the evening.  Because it was for such a short time, the parents paid double the going rate … a dollar an hour.  And it gave me a glimpse of a lifestyle that I thought only existed in the movies.

What was most unique about this job is that the parents were there the whole time!  When I got there the mom, who I remember as being beautiful and dressed in the classiest at-home style of the day, capris, would have an easy meal ready for the girls, which I would supervise them eating.  While I did that, she would start dinner for her and her husband.  Shortly, the handsome husband would arrive home from work in his suit and tie, carrying his briefcase.  He would immediately go change into perfectly pressed slacks and a sports shirt and then go to the patio to start a fire in the grille.

After the girls had eaten, I would take them in to give them their bath.  While I was doing that and putting them to bed, the house would fill with the wonderful smell of grilling steaks.  By the time I was done putting the girls to bed and was ready to walk the few blocks home, he had brought in those wonderful steaks to put on the beautifully set table where she had already put the rest of the meal.  He paid me and I left as they sat down to dinner.

Can you tell that this couple’s sophisticated lifestyle made my 13 year old self absolutely starry-eyed?  Don’t get me wrong, my parents provided a nice life for us.  But my parents were older … and Mama wore house dresses … and we didn’t even have one of those new outdoor grilles, mainly because we never ate steak!  Nope, we were more the pot roast kind of people.  And when Daddy got home from work, he would just take off his jacket and shoes and sit down in his favorite chair to read the paper and/or doze until dinner was ready.  (He was a general foreman in a manufacturing plant, so he wore slacks and a sport shirt to work.)

It’s interesting when you arrive at the time in your growing-up years when you realize that not everyone’s home life is just like yours.  This babysitting job was definitely one of those moments!  I was truly sorry when my friend returned from vacation and I didn’t have to go to that job any more.

My Most Unusual Babysitting Job:

There was a brother and sister who lived across the street from us.  He was a year younger than me and his sister was two years younger than him.  Most of the time Mike and Pat got along pretty well, but when they got old enough to stay at home by themselves apparently Mike would become an alpha male and boss Pat around, and even locked her in the basement one time.  So, their very smart mother thought of a solution.  She hired me to “babysit” for Mike them.  I was 13, Mike was 12 and Pat was 10.  Pat was fine with that because she liked me and besides it would give her an ally.  But, no surprise, Mike was beside himself that his mom would hire a babysitter for him — especially when the “babysitter” was the girl across the street who he went to school with and who was only a year older than him!  But his mom wouldn’t relent and apparently her plan worked.  I only “babysat” for Mike and Pat one time.  My guess is that from then on, all their parents had to say was that they would get a babysitter again if things didn’t go smoothly when Mike and Pat were left home alone. Problem solved.

Don’t Hire Sleeping Beauty to Babysit:

When our children were very little we sometimes hired the girl next door to babysit.  One time when we came home the door was locked (we normally didn’t lock our doors) so we knocked and the babysitter didn’t come to the door.  When we knocked again and she didn’t come, Hubby went to a window and looked in.  She was sleeping on the couch.  We knocked and knocked and could not wake that girl up.  So we did the only thing we could think to do … we went next door to her parent’s house and called her on the phone.  At least the phone woke her up.  Any surprise that we didn’t use “sleeping beauty” any more?  And it didn’t hurt our relationship with the neighbors because I don’t think she liked to babysit anyway.

By the way, in case you’re wondering why we didn’t use a key to let ourselves in … we didn’t have one!  This was around 1970 and we lived in a very old house in a small, safe town.  We didn’t need a key because we just didn’t lock the doors.  The babysitter must have gotten scared and locked them.

Our Own Babysitting Service:

I don’t remember how we first met this family, but they had four daughters and all four of them babysat for us at some point.  They were great girls and terrific babysitters.

Case in point, one time when we came home we immediately knew something was wrong because there was an unfamiliar car parked in the driveway and it seemed like every light in the house was on.  We went inside to find out that DD had gotten sick.  But rather than call us, the babysitter had called her mother.  So her mother hod come over, taken care of sick little DD with the efficiency you might expect from a mother of seven children, and DD was cleaned up, feeling better and back in her bed on her way to sleep.  Not only that, but because her mother was already there, all we had to do was pay the babysitter and then her mother took her home!  Any questions why we used these sisters as our babysitting service until the last one went away to college and the babysitter “well” dried up?  I think I did mention to Mrs. R. one time that I wished she would have more daughters.  She laughed.  I guess that was a “no”.  A great family who when you hired a daughter, you got the mom too!

Ralph, the Babysitter:

When our kids were almost old enough to stay by themselves, but not quite, we hired our only boy babysitter, Ralph.  He had been recommended by someone I worked with, and he was a mixed blessing, depending on who you asked for an evaluation.

Gunny loved Ralph as a babysitter because Ralph would play whatever Gunny wanted to play, like Stratego or Monopoly.  But DD was used to having girl babysitters who naturally tended to play whatever she wanted to play.  So DD was not impressed.

Ralph was our last babysitter and I think at least one of our children would say he was the best!

The Future-Marine Babysitter

Both of our children babysat.  And there was one family whose first choice for a babysitter was always Gunny.  They had two very adored adopted children — a sweet little boy and his bratty younger sister.  This little girl would fool you if you just saw her in public — she was a beautiful, fragile-looking little blonde.  But apparently she had another, not as sweet side to her personality, and it was used on babysitters.  Gunny told us one time that she had picked a little desk up over her head and would have thrown it at him if he hadn’t been quick enough to grab it first.

I think successfully babysitting for that very strong-willed little princess was probably one of the things that made Gunny a great Marine!

I think that babysitting provides many life lessons for those who babysit and even, sometimes, for those who are the babysitt-ees.

6 Responses to More Adventures in Babysitting

  1. Linda says:

    Oh, this brings back so many memories. Even then, I wasn’t really good with children; but every girl of our generation was expected to be a babysitter. So I put in my time. Maybe that’s why I never had kids. Or it could be because I didn’t get a husband in time. 🙂

  2. Sandra says:

    You’re right, Linda. We were expected to babysit whether we knew much about little kids or not! It just wan’t my cup of tea, except when I got paid. I liked that part. 🙂

  3. Hilary says:

    Fun idea for a post, Sandy. I also have fond memories of being babysat, fewer of my kids’ babysitters and the odd one of my older son doing the babysitting. I used to make sure I was available too when he was looking after kids. It was as much for his sake as for the little ones. No matter how capable, twelve is still very young to face a problem situation alone. Seems so long ago now…

  4. Sandra says:

    I know, Hilary. I considered myself a back-up for my babysitting kids too.

  5. Tim King says:

    Sandra, I think your “Favorite Babysitting Job” is my favorite babysitting story. You say this was a once-a-week thing? I wonder what that couple did the rest of the week. Their home life was probably as stressful as any of ours. But once a week, After they paid the babysitter, they probably had a romantic dinner, just the two of them, and then— Well, who knows what came next. Sounds like a pretty cool weekly tradition. I wish I had thought of it when our kids were younger. Might’ve saved a lot of family stress. 🙂

    -TimK

  6. Sandra says:

    I totally agree, Tim. They may have been very regular people for six days a week — but, oh boy, that seventh day! I hope they had a long, happy marriage in which they always made time for each other. A great example for all marriages.

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