Wednesday, September 9, 2009

sitting on babies.

I never liked babysitting much. I don't hate kids. I'm not particularly terrible at supervising children as they watch hours of the Disney channel. I'll even allow two popsicles after dinner instead of just one. I'm just not particularly fond of spending inordinate amounts of time with other people's children when I could be doing something more selfish and more fun.
But last night, during four hours of child-minding, something happened to me that has never happened before.

I don't love playing House, where I am almost always assigned to be the "pet cat", and I can't really stand Hide & Seek anymore, mostly because I'm too large to fit in convincing hiding spots. I think that most Disney Channel original movies are creepy because the stars obviously deal with a lot of sexual tensions playing "brother" and "sister" to each other. But you know what? Partly because I'm a good person and mostly because I'm poor, I'll sit through a movie about incestuous wizards, or give piggy-back rides until my energy is spent. And in general, parents seem pleased with me and willing to ask me back.

Last night, I was introduced to a new family that wants me to babysit overnight later in September. We decided that in order for me to meet the children and make sure we were okay being around each other, the parents would go out for dinner one night and leave me with the kids. So I went over, met each of the kids (two girls and one boy), and settled into my "babysitter" routine. Things were going fine-- there was pizza and copious amounts of Disney Channel and I even got to flex my underdog (see: definition number 6) skills outside when I pushed the little four-year-old on the swing. This same four-year-old was having some sort of existential crisis; when I asked him, in pleasant, first-time babysitting conversation, when his birthday was, he responded, "In eight minutes."

There's got to be some depth to this child, who perpetually celebrates his birth eight minutes from the present.

When the credits finally rolled in time to some tinny pop music sung by pre-pubescent tweens at the movie's end, I rounded up the children and informed them that it was time for bed. The girls were quite understanding, and headed to their very pink bedroom to put on pyjamas. The ageless existentialist, however, put up more of a fight. He proceeded to hide beneath his fire-engine pillows, refuse to come out of his hiding place, and then, without warning, muttered a phrase I have never before had to wrestle with.

"I don't like you."

To say I was stunned is an understatement. Granted, the kid is only four (maybe), but he's clearly quite precocious, if he can read Sartre in his spare time.

I turned and left the room, asked his sisters to assist him in getting ready for bed, and was only mildly comforted by the ten-year-old telling me that he doesn't really like anyone, not even her. "But I'm the babysitter!" I thought to myself. "I let him have pizza, and popcorn, AND two popsicles! I even cut up strawberries for him and gave him ten, like he asked."
What had I done to deserve such slander?

After playing with his dinosaurs and listening to a Dr. Seuss story read by his sisters, the tiny existentialist settled down to sleep.

I spent the rest of my time watching The Beatles Anthology on both VH1 and VH1 Classics, alternating between the two during commercial breaks. Cable television is a perk of babysitting that hasn't gotten old since the days I used to stick flyers in neighbors' mailboxes, advertising my services for $5 an hour-- we don't have any sort of cable at home. But even with Ringo, Paul, John, and George serenading me on the screen, I couldn't shake the fact that a blond four-year-old expressed his dislike of me so directly, and with no remorse.

Ten o'clock came and the parents returned home, tipsy and tired, and I trundled off in my car, money pocketed and the prospect of another night with this child on the horizon. I don't know how I can change his mind, but I'm planning on bringing my copy of No Exit and hoping for the best.

Photo courtesy of Tim Zim


  1. Love it! If, perchance, you happen to still be acquainted with this 4 year old as he graduates from high school, or even manages to find someone he actually likes and, shock! horror! gets married, you should present him with the entry and express your joy that he turned out to be OK despite himself.

  2. Hahah, oh no! I'd love you if you were my babysitter, girl. Two popsicles?!?! I mean, come one, what's not to love?