Journals

To the Babysitters of My Childhood: I Apologize

Once my lifeguard certification expired last May, it was understood that I needed to find a different form of work before my studies suck me in again come August. I have turned to what is most natural for this summer: agreeing to babysit for as many families as I have the opportunity to accept. Swimming pools replaced by trampolines, sunscreen by bug spray, whistle-blowing by time-outs. I love the children that I care for — the giggles, the unmatched genuineness, their exuberant, exaggerated personalities — but every time that a situation requires discipline, I cannot help but have a swelling ache of sympathy for the girls who used to watch over my siblings and me.

Of course, it was always after bedtime that these amusements came to our minds, after the sitter had taken the time to feed us, bathe us, and tuck us in (the poor thing, finally sitting in the love seat, pulling out a book, and taking in the first deep breathes she had experienced all night). There was an evil sneakiness that came with the lights switched off, and my sister and I, sharing a bedroom, were the ones to initiate the mission: signal baby brother next door and creep into the living room… without getting caught.

What feels like a test of authority to me now, as a caregiver, was simply a game to me as a child. An antagonist was needed for our main objective, and the sitter, regardless of who she was that night, always filled the part. There we would be, my sister and I, slinking across the carpet on hands and pajama-covered knees to peer past the doorframe. We thought we were incredibly stealthy: checking down the hall periodically, maintaining a steady breathing pattern through our mouths and using other techniques acquired through a seasoned history of hide-n-seek and its various editions.

More often than not, these adventures resulted in the sitter thundering down the hall, swooping us up to bring us back to our beds, and, through a heavy exhale, closing the door behind us. Unfortunately for her, however, just one attempt was never enough. Around our second or third capture we would receive the If You Get Up One More Time I’m Calling Your Mom spiel.

Rarely, our goal was accomplished, and even then the sole reward of an adrenaline dose eventually wore away. We found ourselves squeezed behind a couch, sleepy-eyed, and — with our youthful lack in the understanding of time — drearily concluding that we would be hiding there for the rest of our pitiful lives. During these extraordinary occasions, I was forced to make the executive decision to return back to base on our own. Finally.

It is memories such as these that are best replayed when I am kneeling in the opposite role with my fist to the floor, pretending to pick up a stray plastic toy when I truly just need a moment to bring myself out of shame for carrying little so-and-so back to his room for the third time. All in all, they’re just kids. Perhaps I am too young to understand whether or not their mischievousness is out of calculated trickery or innocent play (or, instead, perhaps I am too old), but in either case, I would like to believe that their small adventures are easing into their memories somehow, too, and that whatever faded image is left of me will be one to be proud of.

Have any stories of your own about babysitting experiences, or even about being babysat? Do share by clicking the “Leave a Comment” option above.

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