Last week Rebecca and I babysat for Chandler and Tiffany. Chan had a birthday, so Tiff wanted to take him out to a movie to celebrate. (The movie was Inside Out, and they really enjoyed it, btw.)
It’s been a long time since I babysat, but thanks to Becca, we managed all right. I think Chan and Tiff’s boys would agree.
As we took care of Chan and Tiff’s boys, I kept remembering back to my babysitting years.
You may know two of my brothers, Chandler and Kesler, because they’re part of our Bookroo crew. But what you may not know is that we actually have a HUGE family! I have seven brothers and two sisters, for a total of 10 kids. I’m the fourth child. So when I say I haven’t babysat in a long time, that doesn’t mean I haven’t babysat my share of babies.
I was never paid to babysit. For us, that was just part of being in the family. The older kids babysat for the younger kids. It wasn’t an unusual or extra chore. It was just a responsibility–just part of the way we did things. My dad jokes today and says we were just “earning our keep.”
We started babysitting early, and it didn’t end until we left home for college. Babysitting might be for an hour while mom or dad ran errands, or, for the oldest child in the home, now and again it might be for a whole weekend. A full weekend of babysitting wasn’t as horrible as that may sound though. First, with 10 kids each spaced 2-3 years apart, you always had help from the next sibling in line. And second, Grandma often stopped over to check on us, and she usually made dinner.
Quick side note here. One of my favorite, but most uncharacteristic, memories of my Grandpa was during one of those babysitting weekends. I was probably just 12 or 13, so not the child in charge, but Grandpa stopped by the house around 8 p.m. Grandma must have been out of town, and he told us she recommended he come check on us. His interpretation of checking on us turned into a quick trip to the video store. He helped us pick out not one, but two full-length movies (I still remember them: The Count of Monte Cristo and The Musketeer). I think that is the only time in my life I ever watched two movies in a row. But what made it uncharacteristic was not that we watched two movies–Grandpa loves movies–, but that he was so cute about coming over to help “babysit.” That’s not something my grandpa would normally get excited about.
If grandma wasn’t making dinner, babysitting meant grilled cheese. I didn’t learn until leaving home after high school that what Tanners call a grilled cheese sandwich is something less. In our house, grilled cheese sandwiches meant broiling an open faced slice of bread spread with Miracle Whip and topped with a slice of cheese. I wouldn’t choose to eat it today, but there was always something fun about grilled cheese sandwiches when I was younger. We usually got to stay up a bit later on babysitting nights, so that may have been part of it.
More generally, as far as babysitting goes, the whole weekends didn’t happen often. Mostly, babysitting was for a few hours or a night. We learned a lot from it, and I was grateful for those early years of practice when we stopped at Chan and Tiff’s the other night. Without that training, I may have felt clueless when their little guy wouldn’t sleep. Or I may have struggled to understand the toddler’s need to read a few books together as part of his bedtime routine.
Instead, I knew that when the baby was restless I needed to walk around with him–even if I’d rather hold him on the couch. When he cried angrily after refusing to sleep in his crib, I knew that he’d calm down if I walked him outside for a few minutes.
I’m glad the years of training as an older brother kicked in right away.