Adventures in babysitting

Posted: Sunday, March 13, 2011

I got a chance to babysit this weekend, after a long time. It felt funny to carry the baby around on my hip — almost like toting a sack of flour. Wait, it really was a sack of flour! My sixth-grader had asked me to babysit her flour baby while she was in dance class. It brought back memories...

I remember the time my friend and I babysat together, the night we were terrorized by dogs. We huddled around the TV watching “The Wizard of Oz “with the young kids. Deep into the movie, the family’s big German shepherd started barking, growling and leaping at the front door. We peered out the window to see a ferocious bulldog charging the door from the other side.

I should mention that I don’t like dogs. Being in a strange house with a German shepherd growling on my side of the door and a bulldog barking on the other was not my idea of a good time.

Being smart, resourceful, terrified girls, we did the sensible thing. We called our parents. They suggested the Animal Control, who came out with a dogcatcher’s net to nab the bulldog. The kids abandoned “The Wizard of Oz” for the far more entertaining spectacle of watching the capture of a wild, probably rabid, bulldog.

Such a disappointment! The darn dog lay down on the stoop and allowed the dogcatcher to pat his head and lead him mildly away. The German shepherd inside retired to his doggy bed, and my friend and I felt like fools. We did get some validation when the parents came home and heard our thrilling tale. The father revealed his true identity as a policeman, reached for a high shelf, and pulled down his handgun.

“You should know where this is in case something like this happens again,” he told us.

Even as a young teen, I knew that his gun was the last thing I needed in that situation. I never could figure out who he thought we should have shot. My friend and I never babysat for those particular children again. Just call it the Babysitter Boycott.

It wasn’t the last time I encountered weapons while babysitting. I remember a 5-year-old child who showed an obsessive fascination for weapons. He spent the entire evening drawing guns, cannons, swords and crossbows in minute detail, while I drew rainbows and flowers beside him. Then he said, “I want to show you the machete.”

Expecting another drawing, I was stunned when I found him in the garage, climbing up on his father’s workbench, his little fingers inches from dad’s army machete.

“Let’s go back inside and draw more rifles,” I said cheerily.

Luckily my siblings and I didn’t have weapons in our house. We terrorized babysitters. We made our favorite babysitter give all four of us horsey back rides before we would go to bed. She would get one kid in bed and another would pop back up demanding one more ride. I don’t think we were ever asleep when our parents got home.

That’s how we treated the one we liked. Woe to the ones we didn’t like. One time all four of us ran through the house turning off all the lights. It was four to one — she never had a chance.

Another babysitter smoked. Being the passive/aggressive little brats that we were, we didn’t ask her to please not smoke in our house. No, we made “No Smoking” signs and hung them on the TV, which she was watching instead of giving us horsey back rides. Obviously she wasn’t paying enough attention to us, so we gathered up a bunch of marbles and dropped them on the terrazzo floor of the kitchen, screeching something about my little brother and broken glass. It was true, after a fashion — one of the marbles actually broke on the hard terrazzo. She finally came to investigate, but only during a commercial break. We never saw that babysitter again — the Babysitter Boycott works both ways.

I mustn’t forget the time the kid I was babysitting accidentally locked us both out of his house during a thunderstorm. But that’s another story...

• Peggy McKee Barnhill is a wife, mother and aspiring children’s author who lives in Juneau. She likes to look at the bright side of life.

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