So there I am, sitting at the kitchen counter in my parents’ house, when my eye rests on the cover of the local newspaper and a name jumps out at me.
When I was a teenager, a friend of mine and I were hired to babysit some kids over the summer. The friend did one month and I did the other.
It was the lady who hired us whose name I had just spotted in the paper as the head of some festival organizing group.
For some reason it is always a surprise when someone we met a long time ago is discovered to still exist. That’s how I felt seeing my old employer’s name, and the memories came rushing back.
You know how, as a teenager, things seem unbearably awful, but looking back on it you think “Pfft. That wasn’t so bad. What was the big deal?”
Yeah, well that is NOT how I feel looking back on baby sitting this woman’s children.
She was thin and blonde and stylish – you know the type – and she and her husband made a decent amount of money, so her kids had everything. Which made them terrible little brats.
The two girls were 3 and 7. I would be paid 100 bucks a week to watch them from 7 am until 5 pm Monday through Friday, and fix their lunch, for four weeks. My friend received the same deal for the other four weeks.
“The seven year old is old enough to report back to us now,” the mother cautioned us, “and she knows to come and tell me if anything goes wrong while you are taking care of her.”
Translate that as: Don’t hit my kids, and my daughter has been told to tattle on you if you make her unhappy.
My friend and I were not given any kind of power. We weren’t given any household rules, or any method of disciplining the kids. As far as I was able to gather from the children, they were spanked regularly. However, the parents made it clear that spanking from a babysitter was unacceptable, and no other alternative was offered.As a 17 year old, I didn’t know about time-outs. The parents didn’t seem to, either.
We weren’t even allowed to eat their food or help ourselves to a drink. We prepared lunch for the kids, but brought our own lunches from home.
Every morning I arrived at 7 to be greeted by two small kids still in their pyjamas eating chocolate pop tarts and sipping at cans of soda pop. Their greeting consisted of them looking briefly away from Elmo’s World, and then returning to stare fixedly at the screen again. Over the course of the day they would expect to watch Zaboomafoo, Barney the Purple Dinosaur, more Elmo’s World, and occasionally Teletubbies.
The rest of the time, they did whatever the hell they wanted.
The oldest one, the 7 year old, was the worst. She was bossy, spoiled, and lived to defy everyone. She had the power, and she knew it, because SHE was charged with watching me and reporting on me to her parents. If I tried to thwart her in any way, she responded by dragging her little sister into their parents’ bedroom on the lower floor (for some reason I was strictly forbidden to go upstairs with the kids, but playing in Mom and Dad’s room was fine) and lock me out.
Do you know what was in that room? Well, an en suite bathroom, complete with soaker tub, and an exercise machine which they liked to climb all over as if it were a jungle gym. Every time they locked me out I felt a mixture of relief that I no longer had to deal with them, and terror that the 3 year old would drown in the bathtub and the 7 year old would give herself a concussion on the exercise machine.