5 Babysitting Lessons I Learned from the Movies

August 26, 2011
Village of The Damned... kids!

Village of The Damned... kids!

by Maggie Kruger

So my sister calls me up the other week, asking a favour. Faintly, in the distance, I heard warning bells start to ring… Tubular Bells, one might say…

I love my sister, but when she asks for a favour it usually means one of three things:

1. She wants to come and stay with me for a weekend. (I love it when my sister comes to visit – we eat dirty pepperoni pizza and watch Matthew McConnaughy movies in our pajamas but I always end up eating too many chocolate biscuits).

2. She needs me to email her my chilli con carne recipe. (In fairness, it *is* an awesome chilli, but I can never find the recipe book it’s in so have to trawl through 3 shelves of books.)

3. She needs me to babysit my niece.

Before you all start to judge me, it’s worth mentioning that I adore my niece beyond all reason. She is cute, funny and unbelievably smart for someone so tiny.

She’s velociraptor smart.

That 3 year old watches you out of the corner of her eye figuring out your weaknesses.

For my part, I’m better with animals than with knee-high ninjas. I visit once every couple of months, bearing bribes gifts, and a pair of gerbils to distract her with, and I always make sure there’s at least one sensible grown-up nearby: sure, I’m the fun auntie, but I’m also the massively irresponsible one – think of the most responsible person you now, invert it directly, and that’s me.

Back to my sister asking a favour… The urgent tone of her voice would suggest that No, she doesn’t want to come visit. No, she doesn’t need The World’s Greatest Chilli Recipe. Yes, she needs me to look after the Small Bean.

This, THIS!, is my chance to prove to the family that I can look after her solo. (They’ve not let me do it since I admitted that before I babysat last time I had to look up how to change a nappy on eHow).  But I’m still terrified. I’ve seen Adventures in Babysitting. I’ve watched Uncle Buck. I’m still not entirely convinced Home Alone was a fictional story. I am scared.

So the night before heading down, in the name of research, I load up the DVD player and try figure out how the hell I’m going to keep Little Miss Monkeypants out of trouble for a day without losing my sanity.

Here’s what I learned…

1. Adam Sandler is a better role model than you might initially think.

Big Daddy, Billy Madison, Bedtime Stories – movies featuring irresponsible protagonists who, against all the odds, come good, and become responsible parent figures. Also, like me, they have a healthy appreciation of toilet humour.  I’m confident that if Sandler can do it, I can too.

Note to self: Feed toddler junk food at own risk…

E.T. was a slapstick comedy until Spielberg signed the sponsorship deal with Kleenex.

E.T. was a slapstick comedy until Spielberg signed the sponsorship deal with Kleenex.

Sure, it doesn’t look scary NOW…

Sure, it doesn’t look scary NOW…

2. The films I enjoyed as a child are unbelievably traumatizing.

I have happy memories of enjoying Disney movies when I was Jiminy Cricket-sized. I particularly enjoyed Dumbo, The Lion King and Bambi… in which case I’d clearly blocked out some devastating storylines: kids being separated from their mums, dads meeting horrifically messy stampedey endings… Walt Disney, you were a very disturbed man.

Then I put on The Dark Crystal, thinking Jim Henson would never create anything scary or upsetting, I mean, he was the Muppet Man!

Oh, what’s this? The Skeksis? How was I not scared by them when I was younger, given that I was hiding behind a bloody cushion watching it now??! And really, don’t get me started on ET. Saddest. Film. EVER.

With regret I found myself putting several titles back on the shelf rather than in my weekend bag.

3. Treat a toddler as you would a Mogwai.

GremlinsWell think about it… it just makes sense, doesn’t it?

4. If it’s a movie from the 70s, and it’s got a kid in it… avoid it!

Possibly a sweeping generalisation, but given that I have a majestically overactive imagination, I’m going to take a good guess that there are at least 3 films I should never, EVER watch before babysitting: The Omen, The Exorcist, The Shining.  I’m not saying Squidger is one of a pair of ghostly twins.

I’m not saying she’s possessed or in any way demonic. I’m not even saying she could have a 666 birthmark in her hair. I’m Just Sayin’.

5. Shrinking Children is not an acceptable play activity.

Honey, I Shrunk The Kids is not an educational tool for adults, apparently. Nor is Jumanji, The Spiderwick Chronicles, or Night at the Museum. In fact, I’d go so far as to say the carry-on in any of those movies is exactly the opposite of what a parent wants their l’il angels to be getting up to.

Anyhoo, I rocked up, gerbils and cake in tow. My sister and bro-in-law left. Me and Littlelegs had ourselves a wee Mexican standoff… and the day went well. She behaved beautifully. However, I was exposed to something that day that still has me waking up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night:

NB: Big up to @OpticaLiz for trusting me with her pride and joy, even though I’m the least responsible person in our family and I once threatened to put a cork up the baby’s behind to stop her pooing 😉 xx


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