January 2012

(This is my hip hop group made of/for babies.  “Babies doing hip hop,” you say, “That’s impossible!”  Well, we live in a world where LMFAO is a thing, so clearly anything is possible.  Sample rhyme: “got rhymes in the fridge/momma gets them out/purees them up smooth/and I spit them out”)

We have a special baby sitting issue.  The relatives who wait by the phone for us to need a sitter live too far away to be of any practical use, our friends mostly have kids of their own, and we don’t want to pay anyone.  We just occasionally need someone to sit in our house while the baby sleeps at night so we can go get dinner.

When we’ve needed to go out, we’ve been able to wrangle a pal to come over and watch our terribly high maintenance baby (just kidding — people should pay us to hang out with her because she’s that awesome).  As she gets older we will want time to do things like see “The Hunger Games,” and need to get a real baby-sitter plan.

This has led me to reflect on my time as a baby sitter.  I didn’t have a real job until I was seventeen because I was making that cash watching kids.  I charged $2 (or $3?) an hour.  The generation after me realized that you could charge way more than that — more than the minimum wage — to be trusted with the well-being of someone’s child.  So, kudos to you gals.  I blame my lack of money smarts on “the Baby-Sitter’s Club” books, because this is what they charged.  They were perpetually in the eighth grade.  I should not have followed their financial advice.

I started when I was 11, which is a younger age than most people seem to let their kids be alone in the house these days.  Initially I watched cousins with my older sister, but eventually I split the duties of watching neighborhood kids with my sister and two sisters who lived across the street from us (note: the moms were apparently not crazy about my sister and me because we didn’t do any housework)(additional note: $2 an hour).  I babysat my younger cousins often, but I liked to spend time with them off the clock, too, so they don’t count.

I was maybe not an excellent babysitter.  I’m not a natural with kids.  Also, baby sitting was BOR-RING.  I spent three summers (when I was 12 through 14) watching two girls every weekday for $20 a day.  I was like their big sister, which means we fought a lot.  I brought blank VHS tapes and would sometimes tape MTV all day (we didn’t have cable, and MTV had Pearl Jam videos). I tried to take naps whenever I could.  I ate what appeared to be a never-ending can of sour cream and onion Pringles (I convinced myself that the parents had no idea I was eating their snacks).  The youngest, who was two that first summer, did a pretty dead-on impression of me playing Candyland where she’d lie on her side and count out the moves like she was doing it in her sleep (also, Candyland is boring).

When I was in high school I had a regular gig watching a girl in my neighborhood.  I adored her.  She was funny and interesting and had good books.  We watched PBS in the afternoons (they did not have cable, and I think the snack situation was pretty grim).  She loved my jokes about the dumb shows (ugh, “Wishbone”) and I think that I taught her to be a wiseass, judging by the way she eventually made fun of everything we watched together on PBS.  You’re welcome, her parents.

She was probably my only positive baby sitting experience.  Instead of detailing my other kids, here are what my “Baby-Sitter’s Club” book titles would have been:

Kelly and the Girl Who Woke Up Screaming and Then Got Out of Bed to Pray

Kelly and the Girl Who Recited all the Words on the Pages of ‘Berenstain Bears” Books that Were Skipped Over Because They Are Boring (Due to this and other incidents, I later renamed this book ‘Kelly and the Girl Who, In Hindsight, Was Probably Autistic’).

Kelly and the Father Who Would Be Asleep in his Room the Whole Time and No One Mentioned it Until the Mom Came Home

Kelly and the Time She Didn’t Pick up a Kid from the Bus Stop Because She Was Caught Up in a Good Game of Freecell at Home

Kelly and the Time She Got a Friend to Pick Up that Same Kid at the Bus Stop Because She Was Running Late So She Could Try Out for Her High School’s Production of ‘Godspell’ (Should I shorten this title?  No, I think it flows naturally, too)

Kelly and the Mystery  Mother (this is about a single mom with a special-needs child who never told me her own name, just refered to herself as her child’s mom.  I had no experience whatsoever with special-needs kids, but all the girl and I would do was watch movies.  I don’t think she spoke any more than my 15 month-old does now.  It was always strange to me that I was trusted to watch her, but I guess when you’re desperate for help you just grab the closest chubby preteen milling around.  Also I was probably to be trusted, and my parents were four houses away).

Kelly and the Disappearing Bag of Chips That Were Eaten by Someone Not Me

Kelly and the Secret Reading of Some Mom’s Copy of ‘the Bridges of Madison County’ (this seemed really scandalous to me at the time)

And so on.

I think when I do have to hire a young person to babysit I will probably get someone in high school or older.  Although people trusted me with their kids when I was in middle school, they could have done better.  I was just there for the snacks and hated kids a little (I was a kid myself).  I do not trust the equivalent to 11-year-old me with my daughter.

I have spent the last two weekends in New York, and due to comments about my Southern politeness, thinking that 40 degrees is cold, and eating New York-style pizza in New York, I had to think about what Richmond does better than New York.

I came up with buttermilk biscuits.  Suck it, NY!  Richmond FTW.