When I was 17, my friend Sophie and I took a week-long job in Yamba, babysitting five kids under five. I didn’t have any experience looking after children, but I had read a lot of Baby-sitters Club books. I was convinced our holiday would be like issue #8, Boy-Crazy Stacey, in which Stacey and Mary Anne go to Jersey Shore as mothers’ helpers. There’s a carnival, and ice-cream, and Stacey falls in love with a hot lifeguard named Scott, who ends up being about 900 years old and a total douchebag, but it’s okay because then she meets the guy she’s really supposed to be with and they get it on in the Tunnel of Luv.
Our mothers thought we wouldn’t be responsible enough to handle it. Obviously they’d never read a Baby-sitters Club book in their lives, because otherwise they’d know there’s nothing more reliable than a teenage girl. We ignored their warnings and prepared for our excellent week by getting our hair did and applying fake tan. I bought a white, soft-cup bikini (which, guys, I can’t even begin to list the reasons why I shouldn’t have bought a white, soft-cup bikini) and a carton of full-fat coke because fuck it, that week was for living.
The interesting thing about children is that they ruin everything. Within ten minutes of arriving, the oldest, Georgia, informed us that she was the boss and that we were stupid babies and that my midriff halter-top (again, guys, I shouldn’t have been wearing it) was ugly. I hadn’t been spoken to like that since I was five myself, and replied in the only way I knew how:
“Well, I don’t like your pigtails and I’m taller than you.”
It was on.
In Baby-sitters Club #4, Mary Anne Saves the Day, Kristy accepts a sitting job without asking the other girls if they’d like it first, which, as you’d know, goes against club rules. There’s a huge fight and the club almost breaks up because that’s how much everyone loves babysitting, whereas Sophie and I looked at our kids and instantly realised we’d made a huge mistake.
“You’ll be fine, you seem very responsible,” the parents said, and disappeared with about twelve bottles of wine.
So began our foray into responsibility. We dropped kids onto cement floors, and hoisted their heads into ceiling fans, and pushed them so hard on swings that they fell off onto piles of sticks and broken glass. We lost them at the park, and the beach, and the shops. Sophie got into screaming matches with Gabby, the three year old, who only referred to herself in third person (an early warning sign of narcissistic personality disorder). I had to deal with Georgia putting plastic spiders in my handbag every day (and I don’t even think she was doing a bit about The Sound of Music).
We tried to cover up our ineptitude to appear as mature as the kids’ parents assumed we were and our parents told us we weren’t. But of course Georgia—fucking Georgia—told on us at every turn. We assured the adults that any bad things the kids might say were part of a long standing “opposite-day” game we were playing. When Lily told her parents she almost drowned we pretended she meant it metaphorically, that she’d just become a little overwhelmed by all the fun we’d been having, and that the child-sized claw marks on my chest were actually from a bizarre ibis attack which occurred the same day.
Whenever our mums called, Sophie and I told them we were having a fabulous time, that it was the holiday we’d imagined. They didn’t need to know we spent most nights clutching each other and crying, or that the only time I even came close to a hot lifeguard was when one caught me trying to cover up the mess Tommy made when he tipped out his nappy onto Gabby’s sandcastle. The lifeguard—whose name I bet wasn’t even Scott—looked at my over-sized swim shirt (which I wore to cover the ambitious bikini I was now regretting) with disgust, and I had to carry a sand-covered poo home in my lunchbox.
Breaking point came when Lily, aged four, discovered her vagina, and decided to show us all the fun things she could do with it while I made lunch and the other kids looked on, curious. This put me in an awkward position. I didn’t want to tell her that playing with herself was wrong, because who am I to judge? But at the same time I didn’t want her parents to walk in and find me eating a sandwich and watching their daughter masturbate. I was very calm and understanding and all, “Oh hey, little friend. How bout you do that in private, or put on some underwear and we can watch Aladdin?”
These seemed like excellent options to me, but they only enraged Lily and sent her into an uncontrollable masturbating frenzy which didn’t stop until we bribed her with jelly beans.
“The girls gave Lily lollies and took her into the bedroom naked,” Georgia told her parents. Because she is the world’s worst human.
That night, we called our mums. We sobbed and told them how awful it was, how much we hated these people for being so easy-going and drunk and fertile, and most of all for ruining our perfect holiday and turning it into Baby-sitters Club #94, Stacey McGill, Super Sitter, in which Stacey takes on too much responsibility and quits due to shear stress before she has even earned enough money to take her boyfriend to a Broadway show, as was her original goal.
“Would you like us to come pick you up early?” Mum asked.
There it was—the sweet taste of freedom. I looked at Soph, who was experiencing the same feelings of shame and joy that I was. But in the end we couldn’t let ourselves be defeated by tiny blonde monsters. We’d come too far to go home now.
Instead, we did what any self-respecting teenage girls would do—we became vindictive. When screaming babies woke up at 5am, we rolled over and pretended we hadn’t heard. When we were given $50 to buy everyone lunch we pocketed it and said that Georgia—stupid, fucking Georgia—had lost it, so we’d need more. We used every childish tactic we could think of, and by the end of the week I think the adults were as happy to get rid of us as we were to leave.
“But Gabby doesn’t want you to go,” Gabby said, for some unknown reason.
I watched Georgia punch Gabby in the neck and for the first time I felt sorry for their parents. We had survived a week, but they were locked in for life.