“Yes, of course,” were the words I uttered out loud at the age of 13 to a mother of two kids who wanted to hire me to be their babysitter. She had asked me If I had any experience watching kids before, and so I said, “yes,” which was sort of true. I had watched kids in the neighborhood I lived in, for five minutes, when their moms desperately had to go the bathroom. I had watched younger cousins of mine while their parents were in the kitchen flirting over glasses of wine. I had watched myself, a few times, when I was a kid and my mom had to run out to the grocery store. Which meant that, to me, I was more than qualified to spend Saturday nights as the sole protector of her two kids, ages 6 and 8, even though I was only 13.
When I’d go over to their house to start my babysitting gig at 7 p.m., I’d find myself as the third wheel when it came to board-game playing or TV watching with the kids. So, I started to do my own thing. I had just gotten my first cell phone, and Saturday nights became the time to call up all my middle-school friends and talk to them for hours and hours. At around 9 p.m., the kids went to sleep, and that’s when I raided the pantry for snacks and passed out on the couch until I heard the garage door open and the parents walk through the front door.
I was too young, too naive, and too inexperienced to be watching young children at age 13.
I was too young, too naive, and too inexperienced to be watching young children at age 13, which is why I think it’s crazy that parents hire babysitters that are too young just because they can pay them less or because they can’t find any other sitter and they are eager to catch that new flick at the movie theater or get away for an evening together.
My age minimum for hiring a babysitter for my own kids is 18. By that age, the person usually has their driver’s license (which is good in case of an emergency), has experience working other part-time jobs (like at a clothing store or a restaurant), has learned safety and people skills, and are hopefully a little more mature than a 13-year-old who just stopped having a babysitter of their own.
I want to hire a babysitter who has CPR training, who has been a camp counselor before, and who has way more experience watching kids than I did at age 13, because the last thing I want is to leave my children under the watch of another child, which is exactly what I still was when I got my very first babysitting gig.