On Being a Babysitter
Inspired by William Cowper, The Connoisseur
by Katie Peterson
No college-aged girl is a sincerer friend to quiet calmness, or more desirous of promoting it, than myself. Merriment of every kind, provided it be confined within due bounds and in suitable timing, is, in my opinion, an essential element of vitality; and I am never displeased, if I can contribute to the harmless recreation, by being myself the instigator of it: but in good truth, I have neither a disposition, a constitution, nor a temperament, that will enable me to roughhouse or run mad like a ruffian; I do not see any reason why I should be teazed and manipulated in mere children’s sport, for no earthly reason, but that I am what the world calls a Babysitter.
The four children under my caretaking entertain an odd opinion, that a Babysitter is not in fact a forbidding creature: at least that she has not the sense of feeling in common with the rest of adults; that a Babysitter may be deceived to run in circles to the point of exhaustion; that you may thrust surprise fists into her legs, or sneak chew-candies from her purse; in short, that you may take all too many liberties with a Babysitter. I am at a loss to conceive on what foundation these rascal youngsters have grounded their perception of me, though at the same time I am proof of its correctness, as well as of its absurdity.
These diabolical youths have not only found out the alarming weaknesses in my attempts at supremacy, but have likewise communicated their discovery to each other: so that, if they happen at any time to be wanting something forbidden (which I take all possible care to distract them from), they immediately dispatch schemes to their faithful allies, to beg the favour of their siblings to help mutiny against Katie-Monster.
Upon these occasions, while I am employed in cutting apple slices and celery sticks, my iPhone is suddenly stolen away by one hooligan, and either stuffed in the dirty laundry pile or exploited for calling abuses. If I reach for the precious device, two delinquents will whack me from both sides with oversized picture books, while a fourth jingles my car keys from the other room. To save my phone and my keys from being abducted forever, I am obliged to bring down the cookie jar from the top pantry shelf; to the great advantage of the young adversaries, who stuff prized chocolate pieces from the off-limits cupboard into their mouths while my back is turned. The last time I found myself in this distressful circumstance, the eldest girl, a crafty scheming child, stepped indomitably up to me, and promised to restore my phone and my keys, if I would let them feast on double-chocolate chunk cookies. I instantly opened the top, and was reunited with my most valuable possessions; but to my dismay, failed to prevision the antics of extreme sugar-highs that were to come later that afternoon.
Whether due to my perceived inadequacies as matriarch, or the habitually high sugar levels of these four devils, afternoon sport, for our coterie, conjures its own collection of stresses. Beyond precedents set by previous outings, the rambunctious youngsters plot to aggravate me. The youngest boy hides his sister’s Croc sandals in my purse, causing the latter to burst into tears, and strike my shin as punishment for the misdeed; the ruckus so distracts my appareling obligations to the others, that the eldest waif claims abandonment, and refuses to join the basketball undertaking without reconciliation in the shape of my most vibrant shade of lipstick; meanwhile, the first-born son’s coat having been violently torn at the shoulder during a game of handball, rejects violently the entirety of the garment. The Croc Thief continues in expressing dire concern for the preservation of their youthful health, but this proves no matter: I am shoved out the front door by a train of mutineers in bunny slippers, rollerblades, and sporting my valued cosmetics bag; all of us sans coats.
As my disposition would emphasize, I am not, nor will I ever be, an aficionado for the rowdy game of basketball; though, as a responsible babysitter, I am obligated to remain near to my responsibilities, however extreme their rebellion against me: this requires my prostration to the role of Kobe Bryant, shooting guard, at every game, on no merit but that I stand greater than four feet and ten inches. I am, therefore, imprisoned directly in the middle of the game, forced to turn in circles while the young athletes dart around me, concerned with nothing but protecting my extremities from the ball’s devastating impact. No longer ago than last Wednesday, my post was happily abandoned when a rollerblader knocked to the ground another athlete in bunny slippers, who burst into wails and tears: for a responsible Babysitter tends to skidded knees. But in grossly ignoring the necessity of devotion to my role as Monkey in what had become a game of monkey-in-the-middle, my head was struck with the soaring basketball.
I allayed the protuberance above my eye with the pressure of my palm, blocking my vision from not only the crying child sprawled on the driveway; but also from the arrival of one half of my employing couple. He walked straight to the front door without varying his gaze; and before I had opportunity to attempt an explanation for the chaotic scene, order had been miraculously restored. The four youngsters quietly followed their father into the house; not a glance exchanged back at the pitiful Babysitter.
These misfortunes, or others of the same kind, I encounter weekly. I am naturally quite a peaceful animal, and not easily ruffled; but as so I am ill-fated to stand in daily apprehension of being submitted to these aggravations, dreading my quiescence even in anticipating the rascals conspiring to harass and torment me.
I cannot help blaming, with a sigh, the child-rearing tactics that so taint these children’s behaviour. If they were kept from portraits of the rebellious and misguided in books, videos, and magazines, they would never learn to be so; if my employers did not grant exposure to such loud forms of entertainment, those of violent war games, rowdy sporting events, or action television, my own suffering would not be demanded in such detestable activities. Shunning the likes of Dr. Seuss and J.K. Rowling to endorse a more suitable literary canon, including only literature that imposes quiet, obedient, and pleasing behaviour (I think of Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress as the first of such), and eschewing the racket of contemporary media, will allow parents to cultivate their progeny into the finest specimens of prudence and agreement: as it is much too hopeless to restore them to a semblance of reality, I find the four children under my keeping most unfavorable for pleasant afternoon company, and my current employment detrimental to my well-being.
I shall be happy, therefore, if by your means I may be permitted to inform any other employer in need of a Babysitter, that as inferior an animal as my present employers think I am in this profession, it is not impossible but by a little more sympathetic consideration, than I have hitherto met with, I may be humanized into a respectable employee. As an inducement to a harmonious family to relieve me from my present uneasy circumstances, you may assure them, that I am rendered so exceeding qualified by the very severe experiences I have undergone, that they may mould and fashion me to their familial needs with ease; and, consequently, that by hiring me an employer will save himself all that trouble, which a family of any quality is obliged to take with a disagreeable Babysitter: that, so far from disapproving a family, I shall be mighty well-satisfied, if the children content themselves with reverence to me: that, if I happen at any time to request their obedience, they shall think me authoritative enough to be rightly served; or, if I call for quiet calmness, that they will softly take up the sober literature which they were certainly intended by nature to enjoy. Add to these accomplishments, that I think not much of children’s rowdy play but can entertain agreeable children without ever departing from my relaxed disposition.
I am, Sir,
Katie the Babysitter