As I mentioned in my last post, I wasn’t a great babysitter. Neighbors figured if I was teens, I was surely qualified. Wrong.
The first night I cared for little Shawn and Annette down the street, I had to call my mother in to help. The little guy had cut his finger. Blood all over. Toddler screaming. His sister making it stereo. I couldn’t tell whether he had cut his finger off or what. Plus he needed a diaper change, and I had no clue how to do it. Mom cleaned up the tiny cut on Shawn’s finger, kissed it, bandaged it, took care of the diaper and soon had both kids calm and happy. Magic.
Then there was the great Jell-O explosion. I don’t exactly remember what happened anymore. I think I was typing my homework at the kitchen table. The kids wanted Jell-O, so I said go ahead and help yourself, which you don’t do with pre-kindergartners. Next thing I knew, there was red Jell-O on the dark green sofa, on the light green walls, on the beige carpet, on the curtains, on the kids and even on me.
“Oh my God,” I gasped, looking around at the destruction. I sank onto the Jell-O-stained carpet, horrified. A real mother would have changed and bathed the kids and cleaned up the mess with appropriate cleaners, but I had no idea what to do. I dabbed at the Jell-O on the walls with paper towels, making the stains worse than they had been, and I left the kids covered in red goo. It’s amazing that I still got my 75 cents an hour—and was invited back again, with strict instructions not to give the little ones anything to eat. People assume that by the time you’re 16 you can babysit. Not true. Not if the only babies you have ever been around were made by Mattel.
(copyright 2012 Sue Fagalde Lick, excerpted from my upcoming book, Childless by Marriage, pre-order information coming soon.)