There are actually two stories that I have to relate on this topic, although one kid wasn’t as bad as the other (probably because I only baby-sat for her once, rather than multiple times). First, the milder kid story: when I was in college, there was one semester when I was overloading my classes so I couldn’t really pull off an actual part-time job. Instead, I worked for a baby-sitting agency. How it works is that the parents call the agency, request a sitter, and the lady at the agency calls her sitters to find out who’s available. It was great because it was totally flexible; I could turn down jobs if I had an exam the next day, or take it if I knew that the kids would be asleep early enough that I could study while I was there.
One night, I had a baby-sitting job that was two suburbs away (I was living in Memphis at the time). The parents were aging hippies; they struck me as the type of people who were too busy using recreational drugs and “finding themselves” to bother having kids until they were in their late 40’s. So they had one daughter, a 6 year-old named, and I swear to God I’m not making this up, Happy. This was not a nickname for anything, the actual name on the child’s birth certificate was Happy. And as one might expect, she was the most miserable brat I had ever encountered in my life. She screamed, she cried, she threw temper tantrums for 5 solid hours. I couldn’t get her to go to sleep, either, she was still awake and screaming when her hippie parents came home.
So on the way home, I passed through the suburb between the town where the hippies & their evil offspring lived and Memphis. This was a town where the cops are known to be horrendous assholes. I was speeding, but I don’t remember how badly – I think I was doing 55 in a 40. I got pulled over, and I was kind of resigned to getting the ticket because I knew I was wrong, and I knew that cops in this town never let anyone off with a warning. The cop came up to the window, and I told him the story of my night – the bratty kid named Happy, the hippie parents whose house smelled like patchouli, my resulting migraine, and the fact that all I wanted to do was go home & go to sleep. He actually let me go. I couldn’t believe it. In fact, everyone in Memphis who I told this story to didn’t believe me when they found out where I had been pulled over. The thing is, I’ve gotten out of tickets before (and since) this occasion, where it was probably because I was cute and flirtatious and all that. But on this particular evening, when I had been withered down to nothing and looked like hell and didn’t have an ounce of flirty left in my exhausted body, I think I was just fortunate that I happened to come across the only empathetic cop in that entire town.
The other kid was one that I baby-sat in high school. Actually, I should just leave the kid out of this and mention that these were definitely the Worst Parents I Ever Baby-Sat For. The dad was in his mid-50’s and very wealthy. I’m not exactly sure what he did for a living, but he traveled a lot, and he was gone almost every weekend. The mom was in her late 20’s, classic example of a trophy wife, and she liked to go out drinking with her girlfriends on the weekends when her husband was gone. I should mention Mom’s standard outfit for these particular evenings: Aqua-Net teased hair, purple spandex top, matching purple spandex mini-skirt that barely covered her ass, matching purple eye shadow (all the way up to the brow, baby), whorehouse red lipstick, and stilleto heels. Keep in mind this was around 1991, and hair metal was still pretty big in Mississippi. She looked like something out of a Whitesnake video. She usually came home so falling-down drunk and coked out of her mind that she would give me anywhere from $50 to $100 for being there for 4 or 5 hours. (She’d then offer to drive me home; thank God I only lived 4 blocks away, because I would never have gotten in a car with that woman.)
The money is really the only reason I kept baby-sitting for them, because the kids were horrible. Well, the 3 year-old was fine because he was too young to understand how dysfunctional his family was; the 9 year-old, however, was a terror. I think his behavior is most likely what is classically defined as “acting out.” Here’s a list of stunts this kid pulled during my time as his baby-sitter:
* He rode his bike into the garage where the handle “accidentally” scraped the side of his dad’s black Mercedes. (The scrape spanned the entire length of the car.)
* He would dangle himself from the 2nd-floor landing and threaten to drop if his wishes weren’t granted immediately. I finally figured out this game and just walked away. He’d eventually pull himself up.
* He would open and slam his bedroom door repeatedly, then lock himself in his room when I went to tell him to stop. I eventually found the parents’ tool box and removed his bedroom door knob completely, so he couldn’t lock himself in anymore. (I noticed in my future baby-sitting jobs that his parents never put it back, either.)
* He set his own tree house on fire. My friend Allison was baby-sitting that night. She was inside with the 3 year-old and didn’t know anything was going on until the fire truck pulled up in front of the house.
* He ran a permanent magic marker down the big screen TV. It was one of those old-fashioned projector-type screens, the TV was totally ruined.
* He spilled a two-quart jug of grape kool-aid all over the white leather couch and white carpet in the living room. (Another example of how the parents were jackasses: why on earth would you have a white living room when you have 2 little boys in the house?)
Eventually, the entire family moved to Arkansas, and I assume found some other baby-sitter to torture. I was sad to lose the extra income because it paid way more than my other high school baby-sitting jobs, but I was grateful at the same time. By my calculations, that kid is about 21 or 22 years old now. I wonder how he turned out. I also wonder about the mom, if she ever grew up and cleaned up her act. Who knows. It’s interesting to imagine, though.