When I was younger, and before I got a proper job, I did babysitting to earn a bit of extra money – it was mostly for my cousins, and family friends every once in a while. I actually ended up with a regular ‘gig’, which was looking after four children, aged between 3 and 10 from 6am to 1pm (yes, really) every Saturday morning. For this I got paid £20, which was pretty awesome for me!
I must have been about 16/17 at the time, and whilst I was fairly grown up for a boy my age and could generally look after the kids, it was pretty hard work. I had to get them up, make them breakfast, dress them, entertain them, and feed them lunch and tidy up a bit by the time their Mum returned from work. I did enjoy it though, they had ‘Cable’ which was a novelty, so mostly I put on MTV and that was my soundtrack to each morning.
We didn’t often go out as a group, it was hard enough to keep them under control in the house – let alone going outside and crossing roads. We did occasionally wander to the local shops and buy sweets, but that was it.
One Saturday a local church was running a ‘Blue Peter Bring and Buy Sale’ – the kids desperately wanted to go, and begged me to take them. It wasn’t all that far, but the prospect of trying to keep them all in check in a busy hall was terrifying, they’d been particularly challenging that morning so, against my better judgement we walked to the Church.
As I suspected, it was BUSY, and before I knew it all 4 of them had disappeared from view. I quickly managed to find them.. well, THREE of them, the youngest, the 3 year old was no-where to be seen. I felt sick, and utterly panicked. She’d just gone. I didn’t know what to do. In hindsight I should have alerted someone, got people looking..
I didn’t want to cause a fuss, I couldn’t admit that I’d lost a child, the embarrassment was too much to think about.
So, thinking she’d be somehow like a homing pigeon, I took the three children I hadn’t lost, back home.
I got round the corner, expecting her to be stood at the front door.
I’ve never felt so sick inside. The thing was, this was before mobiles and being able to contact people easily – I wasn’t entirely sure where her parents worked. I knew the Dad drove lorries, and the Mum possibly worked at the local Hospital, I thought calling their Mum would be a good start – she was less likely to shout at me. I dug out the Yellow Pages and found the number for the hospital, my fingers shaking as I tapped in the numbers. It was picked up almost straight away by the switchboard.
“Er..” The words just couldn’t leave my mouth..
The doorbell rang, I quickly hung up the phone to see who it was – I opened the door – there stood two teenage boys, with the three year old.
“She said she lived here, she was at the shops” one of them explained.
“Oh, Er…” I stumbled “Erm, er.. Thanks!”
She hopped inside, and the boys skulked off. The relief washed over me – and I didn’t know whether to shout or cry.
I did neither, I made them lunch and didn’t mention a thing when their Mum came home.
Thank fuck I’m a better parent than I was a Babysitter… Ish 😉