Caution: Teenagers

I babysat starting at the age of eight.  I babysat all the time – in elementary school, in middle school, in high school, in college.  And I was really bad at it.

– To the parents I offered: cheap child care; my own ride home; a stream of good news about finishing homework, consuming vegetables, and missing their mommies and daddies

– To the kids I offered: unlimited sugar snacks; non-existent bedtimes; make-overs; loud music; dance parties

I was in high demand.

In the Spring of 2003, I met a family whose parents would be out of town for seven days.  They needed me to live at their home during this time with their four daughters: 8-year-old twins, a 10-year-old, and a 17-year-old.  I was 20-years-old and happily accepted the appointment.

On the first night we had slumber-party-fun: made dinner, gossiped, played cards while watching movies, and went to bed.  The next day I picked them up from school and the same drill.  Then, the three younger girls and I retired upstairs for bed.  The eldest daughter let me know that a couple of her friends were coming over and they would be hanging out in the basement.  [Cue ominous music.]

On the third floor we slept and slept and slept.  I slumbered beautifully in an angel food cake cloud of down comforters and down pillows.  In the morning I took an amazingly relaxing steam shower complete with bath products that seemed to be made of rainforest dreams.  Everything was just so lovely.

I wandered downstairs to make breakfast for the girls.  I smelled it before I saw it: the kitchen stank like a frat house on an early morning walk of shame.  In the graveyard of beer cans I saw empty ones, half-full ones, warms ones, shot-gunned ones, mismatched ones.  If this were the ’90s I would have called this party a “rager,” and I would have wanted to have been at it.

I had never encountered a babysitting problem I couldn’t fix with gummy treats, tickles, princess stories, or heat-induced drowsiness.  But teenagers are dangerous.  They lie, they drink beer (apparently), and worst of all they know the difference between real authority and fake authority.  Her tactic was to throw a party, get in trouble, and make an enemy out of me, so my strategy had to be the exact opposite.  I bagged up the evidence, made blueberry pancakes, and put on some dance music.

If that party was supposed to be a challenge, then I raise you infinity plus one hundred.

10 thoughts on “Caution: Teenagers

  1. my first job was babysitting the summer of 1982. i was 12. they were both boys, i don’t remember their age only that they were brats. They locked me out of the house, they drank out of their mother’s liquor cabnet, they found their mothers…um…private toys, threw food all around the house. worse yet, they didn’t seem to have a breaking point. there wasn’t anything i could find that would make them behave anything short of beating them with a lead pipe. until one day, i brought over my tape recorder. i recorded every thing they did with some narration to describe what some of the inhuman noises were. then i sat them down and played the tape for them. still smug smiles on their faces, i told them: “Now that i have the evidence, i’m going to play this tape for your mother when she gets home tonight. The only way you can stop this tape from making it’s way into your mother’s hands is if you clean up this entire mess and go to bed right afterwards.”
    “But, it’s only 4:30?” whined the oldest.
    “And it will take you roughly an hour and a half to clean this house. So bedtime will be at 6pm.”
    “How long will bedtime be like that?” asked the youngest.
    “I’ll be watching you for another month and a half. Monday through Friday. Sometimes on the weekend.”
    They both apologized and immediately cleaned the entire house. I finished out the summer and their mom asked me to come back next summer to help. I would have rather slit my wrists. I mowed lawns the summer of ’83.

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