Mama Madison: Babysitting is a wake-up call

Why not get trained?

Last spring, my neighbor came bounding up to my front door to deliver some exciting news. Her daughter, a law school student, had just gotten engaged.

Wow, I thought, how was it possible that the ponytailed teenager who lived across the street was old enough to go to law school? Or to be getting hitched? Wasn't it just yesterday when she was babysitting my kids?

There are few things in life that will make you feel as old as finding out the babysitter is getting married.

But just this past week I discovered what one of those few things is. It's realizing your own baby is old enough to be a babysitter.

I think I was eleven, too, the same age as my daughter is now, when I first took the lives of children I was not related to into my own hands. They were a family I didn't yet know well, with a four-year-old daughter and two sons, one six, the other not quite a year old.

I remember being a bit apprehensive going over for that first evening job. The four and six year old didn't seem too scary. But as a sixth grader, the idea of being responsible for an 11-month-old seemed pretty daunting. His parents didn't seem concerned though, and after telling me to help myself to the impressive supply of Hostess snack cakes in the pantry, they left the name of the restaurant they were going to on the fridge, and said they'd be home by midnight.

As it turns out, my anxiety was warranted; within 20 minutes of my employers walking out the door, the baby fell down a short flight of stairs. Panicked, I called my mom who came rushing up the street. She took a look at the goose egg on the little boy's forehead (which if my memory serves me was more like the size of something an ostrich would have laid), helped me ice it and recommended I keep him up for at least a few hours to make sure he didn't have a concussion.

And then she went home. My mom was not much of a worrier.

I spent the rest of the evening carrying the baby around the living room while trying to keep his two older siblings entertained with non-stop games of Operation and Twister. I finally put everyone to sleep around 10, grabbed a Twinkie and turned on The Love Boat.

I figured I might as well enjoy some part of what was likely to be my first and last babysitting gig.

When the parents came home a few hours later I explained to them what happened. We went upstairs, checked on the kids, who were thankfully all breathing and rouseable.

I was shocked when the parents then asked me if I was available the next weekend; those kids became my steady Saturday night employment all through middle school.

Hopefully things will go a little less stressfully at the onset for my daughter, who just became a card carrying, certified baby sitter after taking a one-day course at the Red Cross this past week.

She loved the class and now knows quite a bit about rescue breathing, age-appropriate game playing, and spoon-feeding. She also learned how to change a diaper, bandage a skinned knee and feels, if push came to shove, she could deliver back blows and abdominal thrusts in a choking emergency.

She's even pulled together business cards and smartly rejected the tagline suggested by her brothers-"Hope's Babysitting Service: For a babysitter who won't actually sit on your baby".

Yes, I think she's far more prepared for her first job that I was at the same age. But just in case, I will sit by the phone all evening, ready to rush down the street if she has any concerns.

Worrying must skip a generation.

Oh, and want to know something else that makes you feel really old? It's finding out the baby you used to baby sit now has his own baby.

In a fit of nostalgia, I just Googled the 11-month-old boy who fell down the stairs on my inaugural night of childcare so many years ago. And it looks like that goose egg didn't get him down. He's in real estate, married and, based on Facebook photos, appears to have a young son himself.

It's a shame they don't live in town. My daughter could give him her card.

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