Babysitting. Something about which I have vivid memories; a teenage part-time-job. And now it’s come full circle, as what seems like five minutes later, I’m all grown-up and paying a teenager to mind my kids.
Having had three childminders (counting the runaway one) and about forty different creche minders (high turnover), I didn’t expect that leaving the kids in the care of a babysitter would feel like a big deal. But it really did.
First of all, we had to convince the kids. I explained that Sophie from across the road would be minding them last Friday night, but it would be after they went to bed. Clara wasn’t so sure about this, and asked me to tell her about Sophie. So I told Clara her age, where she goes to school, what her parents’ names are. Clara’s response was “Mum, you’re telling me all about her family and her school, but I want to know about her – what is she like as a person?”
Hmm, now I was stuck. Although Sophie lives across the road, and I chat to her parents when we bump into one another on the way in from work, my last direct interaction with Sophie was when I gave her money for her communion.
So I had to be honest with Clara “Emm, I don’t really know Sophie as a person…”
Clara’s response was a not unexpected “Well mum, if you don’t know her as a person, maybe you shouldn’t be asking her to babysit?” Indeed.
Eventually, imparting the information that Sophie has really long hair, probably likes One Direction and goes to the school that Clara will eventually attend, swung it for us – all systems go for Friday night.
Roll forward to the day itself – the next hurdle was payment – how much? Is it an hourly rate? Has it gone up since the £2.00 an hour days? Do we pay more after midnight? And we need cash – I’m guessing fifteen-year-olds don’t carry credit card machines.
And what about food? I remembered there were usually KitKats when I was a babysitter. We should get some KitKats.
And other bars. I want to be the house with the good food, the people who babysitters choose when they have their pick of jobs on New Year’s Eve. Not the house with no food and no coffee and no heating (there was always one like that)
OK all set. Almost, A little bit nervous. Last minute tidying. I don’t want to be known as the messy house. Now all set.
Sophie arrives, I babble. I show her the remotes and the heating, tell her that the kids are in bed. She asks their names and ages – oh yes, good question. She asks for our phone numbers – yep, I should have thought of that. She asks us what time we’ll be home – I am caught off guard but rally, sounding like I know exactly what time we’ll be home.
Why is it that as a teenage babysitter, I was shy and awkward around the adults who hired me to mind their kids, and yet as the adult in this exchange, I suddenly feel like the awkward teenager again?
Perhaps it’s the fact that it is uncharted territory, or because Sophie is more confident and competent than I was at fifteen.
Or maybe it is just a surreal experience, pulling thoughts and emotions in different directions. An experience that is stirring memories of many long ago Friday nights spent eating KitKats and Penguins and drinking Maxwell House coffees while curled up on an unfamiliar couch that never felt quite right. Watching The Word and Tales of the Unexpected, trying to stay awake until the parents’ tipsy return. How can I be the adult in this equation now, it was only five minutes ago.