A cul-de-sac nearby was filled with young families who often went out together. The moms would watch for me to get off the school bus, and see if they could hire me first by being the first one to call when I got inside my house.
I had regular customers.
Sunday and Thursday nights, I babysat for couples on bowling leagues.
Tuesday and Friday during high school wrestling season, I had a regular gig babysitting for one of my teachers who moonlighted as a wrestling ref. I also watched his three boys (they were angels) during football season home games.
Saturday nights, I was always busy - either couples had a night out, or I was watching two girls while dad played in a band, and mom went as his groupie.
Kids I babysat would knock at our door and ask if I could "come out to play".
I even had a couple of marriage proposals, but my suitors still needed booster seats at the dinner table, so I had to decline their offers.
I organized neighborhood scavenger hunts and was full-time kickball pitcher.
I loved kids. I rocked.
One day (I was probably 15 or so), I got a call from a new family. Could I sit for them, Friday night at 6? They had a movie and dinner double date planned with another couple.
Cool. I show up at their house at the appointed time. I meet the lady of the house, and her three boys. New kids either play it one of two ways the first time you sit - they either are shy, and hang back and see how I behave, or they're outgoing and start showing off, so I get a preview of coming attractions.
These boys (aged, 5, 6 and 8) were of the latter variety - there was instant laughter and roughhousing.
The kitchen was a shambles. I was instructed to cook them some frozen food - I figured I'd tidy up a bit after the kiddies were in bed, just to be nice...and maybe earn myself a tip, or a callback.
Don't call me a suckup - I had a well-developed entrepreneurial spirit then.
Mom and Dad leave, and dinner preparations are taking place. The boys are talkative and rambunctious. They all want my attention.
One reason kids liked me is because I actually played with them - I didn't call my friends on the phone and ignore the children in my care.
We played cards and board games. They ate dinner, and played some more.
Bedtime approached - I accompanied the boys up to their second-floor bedroom - it spanned the entire length of the house, and was fronted by dormer windows. They even had their own bathroom.
They got ready for bed, and wanted me to read stories.
The typical kids I watched would have been ready to settle down for sleep.
Not these fellas. Instead of nodding off, they began jumping on their beds and running rampant all over their room. Toys were played with and discarded, or even, thrown, aside.
Wrestling matches ensued. Names were called. Bad words were uttered. Chaos reigned.
I was losing control.
Looking at my watch, I saw that it was 10pm - surely, the parents would be home in an hour, at the latest.
They stayed out ALL NIGHT.
This was in the day before cell phones. But there were pay phones in most public places. They didn't call to tell me they'd be late. I received no phone call reporting car trouble.
I was on my own here, caring for the spawn of Satan.
I think they finally fell into their beds, exhausted, at about 3am.
When mom and dad returned at about 6am, happy and soon to be hungover, they handed me a wad of cash...the most I ever earned in a single babysitting gig.
In 1972, $20 was a lot of money.
I deserved more - hazardous duty pay was in order here.
I declined all future offers from that family - those kids needed more intense supervision than I could manage.
Aren't you glad I didn't write about the abusive parents who sent their kids to bed at 6pm? That dad propositioned me while driving me home from watching his very frightened children.
Or I could have written about the little girl who, a week before I started watching her, had found her grandmother dead in bed one morning. Let's just say she kept her eye on ME more than I had to on her - and if I ever looked like I was nodding off, she would freak out?
Or the future terrorists I watched who threw wooden blocks at the TV set (when TVs still had tubes and glass screens), and who hurt each other all.day.long?
Or the seven-year old, who, in great detail, told me what mommy and daddy did in bed at night?
Babysitting is an education in childrearing and family dynamics. Even though the pay sucked, I am grateful for the many, many positive interactions I had with those kids.
Mama Kat, thanks for letting me take this walk down Memory Lane - too bad The Boy is too old for the childish pursuits I remember so fondly - I could use a little adoration today.