Baby-sitting: Life lessons for children and parents
When I was 12, I started baby-sitting. My mom got me the job with the neighbors, and I was excited to earn money.
When I arrived at their house, I found out they had five children under the age of 7. Sadly, they didn’t have any junk food in the house.
No soda. No chips.
All my baby sitter fantasies were dashed. Still, it must have gone pretty well, because I baby-sat for them for years.
I learned two important things from that experience: get your own jobs, and ask the mom what you are allowed to eat. That way, she’ll show you where the good food is hidden.
When my husband and I hired our first sitter for our daughter Becky, we returned home to find the teen covered in baby vomit. She didn’t call us because she didn’t want to disturb our dinner. The baby had no fever and she was sleeping peacefully. She was fine.
Lesson: I could trust someone beside myself to take very good care of our little girl.
When Becky was 5, my husband and I hired a 16-year-old girl to baby-sit for our romantic evening out. I had heard this sitter was a sweet kid. I gave her explicit information including safety contact numbers, what time to put Becky to bed and which snacks could be eaten.
When we got home at 11 p.m., every light was blazing. The front door was unlocked. Becky was wide awake, sitting two feet away from the blaring TV, with a soup bowl of ice cream in front of her. She was grinning ear-to-ear.
“Gee, Mrs. Gamble, she sure is persuasive,” the sitter chirped.
Lesson: Get to know your sitter before you entrust your children to her.
My own baby-sitting nightmares still haunt me.
There was the little boy who kicked me in the leg, bit my hand and then called his parents to tell them I was hitting him, which was untrue. There were also the kids who tied me to a chair because they wanted to play cops and robbers.
I’m still not sure if I was the cop or the robber. It took hours to get free. It was not a good night.
I once baby-sat for a family that had two Siamese cats. That was the night I found out I was allergic to cats. By the time the parents got home, my eyes had swollen shut.
Lesson: Complete the job, no matter the cost.
Believe it or not, those jobs were not my worst. That title was reserved for the family that hired me for New Year’s Eve to watch a basement full of small children.
At the end of the night, they handed me $5.
That was a ridiculously low paycheck for six hours of work. I spread the word to all the teens I knew that this family was not to be trusted.
Lesson: Set a fair price for your work, and then get paid.
Hire a sitter is when she is 12 or 13 years old, right after completing the Red Cross baby-sitting course. The best ones are serious about taking care of your child — they take notes.
Enjoy the sitter’s availability until she gets her driver’s license.
After that, jobs are found at the mall.
When you find a good sitter, pay her in gold and pizza. Remember her birthday.
You will gain so much more than you pay out, I promise.
And the sitter will learn about capitalism and self-esteem.
See? It’s positively all-American.
Talk to Karen
Follow Karen on Twitter @KarenLeeGamble.