19 May 2015

Babysitting

Growing up in my East Yorkshire village, I was economically disadvantaged in comparison with my teenage peers. At fifteen, nearly all of them were working - on apprenticeships or otherwise employed. They had money in their pockets having truly entered the adult world. On the other hand, I was still at school, stumbling along in the sixth form to my A level exams. I had little money.

So for about three years I became a regular babysitter. It was very easy "work". The wives left me food and drink, the children rarely woke up and I could either watch TV or get on with some homework task.

At one house there were two little girls and in all the dozens of times I undertook babysitting duties there I don't think they ever woke up. At another house, there was a little boy with a brilliant first name - Neil. Once in a while he sneaked downstairs and sat on my knee while I read him a bedtime story. Like all Neils, he was a delightful child.

Years later, that same little boy had become a strapping young man and was working as an aviation technician with the Royal Airforce. He approached me unexpectedly in a pub, so pleased to see me though at first I had no idea who he was. Touchingly, he remembered those babysitting nights with great affection, sitting on my knee sharing stories..

In those now far off days there were no mobile phones so when the parents left the house there was no way I could get in touch with them. Furthermore, in those days of yore most of us knew nothing about paedophilia. It just wasn't on our radar. So the parents who employed me as a babysitter had no worries about leaving their precious offspring in the care of a hormone-fuelled teenage lad.

Nowadays, I am very conscious of sensitivities surrounding child abuse. I have seen it in people's eyes. They don't have to say a word. Yesterday I was near a primary school in north east Derbyshire just as the children were leaving and there were several parents waiting around. As I walked by, I studiously avoided eye contact with any of the children. It's too risky to do otherwise even though the prevalence of child abuse in our society has been massively exaggerated. Ninety nine per cent of men are disgusted by the idea of paedophilia and mean absolutely no harm to any children they encounter.

Tomorrow evening I will be babysitting again for a thirty something mother who lives across the road from us. She has two delightful little girls and a not so delightful absent husband who is in the final stages of divorcing her in favour of a German dominatrix he met on a business trip to the state of Baden-W├╝rttemberg in Deutschland. No doubt Cath will give me her mobile number and though she knows me quite well, I am pretty sure that the spectre of child abuse will have fluttered briefly on her mind's screen. That's how it is these days.

28 comments:

  1. I talk to children and never give it a thought. My conversations with them are usually limited to asking them either to shut up or go and annoy their parents.
    Where is the mother going to?

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    1. She's having a rare social evening with other school mums and isn't interested in taking off to Scotland in a camper van to photograph insects.

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    2. Bugger. Probably just as well,

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  2. In addition to what you say about 99 % of men being no threat to children, it is also an established fact that by far the greatest number of child abuse happens with someone the child knows... and (sort of) trusts, such as a parent, relative, teacher etc.. It hardly ever is the "mysterious stranger" who walks by a school to pick out his potential victim.

    Patience has never been one of my strengths, so babysitting was never something I considered doing myself. But I admire anyone who by their own free will works with children - I wouldn't want to do it.

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    1. i have always liked children and have a special affinity with toddlers. It is a big part of who I am. I know it's a long shot but was it one of your dining lady friends who stole Cath's husband away? Maybe she was wearing impressive warpaint!

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    2. Certainly not - none of my friends wears excessive makeup, and although of course I can not guarantee for what they do when we are not dining out together, I simply can not see any of them in the role of dominatrix... and two of them are happily married, anyway.

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    3. Okay, I believe you Meike! (PS I was only kidding!)

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    4. I know, Neil. Sometimes I just can't help myself and take things seriously when I actually know very well I shouldn't. Sorry! Put it down to me being not well.

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  3. I was such an awful babysitter, it amazes me that I actually managed to raise a kid of my own. I did fine babysitting my younger cousins, they were great kids, but some of the other kids were pretty scary.

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  4. What a great Grandpa you're going to be.

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    1. Steady on he isn't a grandpa yet.

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    2. And what a great grandma you will be Jan! Perhaps like the one in "Little Red Riding Hood"! ...And Adrian, you are right. Maybe it will never happen. I should have given our kids more explicit sex education.

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  5. You have some very precise history here. I was talking to my friends daughter on her way home from school. I was unaware that somebody drove around twice to check the situation and then reported to my friend.

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    1. Take care Red! They'll come with torches at night and stand chanting angrily outside your window..."Red out! Red out!"

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  6. I have read that most child abuse is done by a parent or step parent. Everyone is so hyper aware these days; when I grew up we ran around outside with not a care in the world.

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    1. Me too Terra. You had to beware of "the bogeyman" but he never came to call and we secretly guessed he was about as real as Popeye The Sailorman or Brer Rabbit.

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  7. I agree that parents need to be aware and tuned in to all that surrounds their children. Especially over-attentive adults. In other words, PARENTS should be the over attentive adults in a child's life.

    But, abuse and other terrible things did happen to children when we were young. One just did not hear about it much as it was mostly "swept under the rug", so to speak.

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    1. It is sad that there is so much suspicion. But I guess you are right Mama Thyme - the "old days" were probably not quite as good as we sometimes imagine.

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  8. Good post and thought-provoking. When Grae and I separated 21 years ago, I specifically chose a daycare wherein worked a male.

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    1. 21 years - that's a long time Kate - but you did a great job as a single parent. Did or do?

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    2. I shall answer for Kate: did and does.

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  9. My kindergarten teacher was a young man.....which was almost unheard of then (1980) and even more so today. And I LOVED him! He was great with kids and my very first crush. That's my explanation for why I always did like older men! Haha.

    These days, parents would automatically assume something was wrong with a man who wanted to teach such little children. It's a shame.

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    1. Social mores seem to drive men away from caring roles even though it may be in their natures to pursue such occupations. My own son and three of his friends were the subject of a "Guardian" article about men working in nursery schools. He doesn't do that any more by the way.

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  10. It saddens me that people think like that about others. It saddens me even more that they have cause to.

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    1. It saddens me that a meteorite could land on my head and kill me.

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  11. I know this is off topic, but you might like to google lenovo adware re our discussion last evening. This http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-31533028 might help.

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    1. Yes. I have sen that article Tykewriter. It annoys me that the John Lewis computer department didn't mention this issue when I bought the Lenovo laptop.

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    2. They must have known about it. Give ‘em some stick!

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