The Babysitters

I remember the nights my Mom and Dad went out and didn’t take us. I would stare at the “Charles Chips” can in the corner next to the brown console TV with the record player on the top in anticipation of delight. After dinner we would get a bath and put our pajama’s on, then I would return to the closest seat to the brown mottled can of salty delight waiting on my parents to leave. I would even volunteer to help clean up so they would leave faster.

Any other time one, or both, of my parents would leave I would continue whatever I was doing and not even notice the screen door slam shut. But on “Babysitting night” I would escort them to the door and send them off with my best goodbye; then run to the sofa and wait with my hands in my lap. I waited because kids didn’t get into food bags, cans, or containers. An adult did that. I assume today that was because after a day of picking every orifice on our body it wasn’t biologically safe for me to handle food. That would sort of spoil the thought for adults. So I would wait on my bowl of delight and my glass of soda.

We also had to wait on the TV. We didn’t have remotes. There was a dial that thunked through the 3 channels we had reception on. Later “Cable” came and the dial really thunked around the 360 degrees. The only time I remember changing the channel is when my dad told me when to change the channel and what channel to change it to. Kids didn’t play with the TV either, nor did it get turned on until the TV Guide was perused for the show to be watched. We only knew how to surf at the beach.

So after Mom and Dad were gone the Babysitter would fill up the bowls, turn on the TV and sit with us watching the show. Our babysitters didn’t have cell phones and nobody but Mom and Dad used the “house phone” unless there was an emergency. Mom would call halfway through her night out, just around bedtime, just to make sure we didn’t turn into heathens in their absence. When the show was over and the snacks were gone, it was off to bed. The babysitter would put us in our bed, say goodnight, and head downstairs to clean up. I know this because when I got older I was allowed to stay up a half hour later than my younger siblings. So I got to help clean up and put myself to bed. I was “older” now!

Once in a while I would wake up and hear my Mom and Dad come in, usually around midnight I think. I would pretend I was asleep. I didn’t want to risk losing the next night of “Charles Chips” and “Soda”. Not to mention a bad report meant a bad experience when I woke up. My parents were patient on occasion with their discipline. Keeping the babysitter happy was essential.

There were many teachable moments, learning opportunities, and latent understandings in the “babysitting” experience back then. They all involved a person, expectations, and consequences. I’m not sure technology can accomplish those things and society today has me thinking I’m right about that. I am positive technology can’t accomplish those goals without an adult and some structure. So don’t be surprised when you’re “gifted” child who uses a computerized device at 2 years old, reaches unheard of levels of completion on computerized activities at age four, and can read a prompt for a popular characters game sight at age five without assistance. Also don’t be surprised when they wear T shirts to bed, you have to tell them things more than once, or they can’t go to sleep with a TV on.

Times change and the world provides many new distractions for bored parents and kids. I don’t know if playing the latest shooting game in silence with your child constitutes interaction. I’m not sure sitting eating dinner together or watching a “Reality Show” together while your 11 year old competes with you on texting skills is really quality time. I am sure that the person who sits with a child and listens, goes outside with a child and directs an activity, or interacts with a child with a toy in their hand, not a phone; they will be the person that child respects down the road for taking the time. Surround your child with family and friends and put the devices in their place. There are millions of real memories awaiting you just outside the computerized world.


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