Cassie of Minneapolis asks,
I’ve just been certified as a babysitter, but the list that they gave us for babysitting kits seems incomplete. What would you recommend that I pack?
First, congratulations on your certification. Babysitter training is like military officer school; nothing can prepare you for actual battle conditions, and successful generals have lots of tricks that aren’t in the manual.
There are three main goals in babysitting:
- Slack: This was supposed to be an easy job. You should be able to do your homework or play Minecraft while the kids play nicely or (even better) sleep. Never fear! With a little planning, it can be so.
- Containment: The little… darlings save up all the mischief they would like to get into until their parents are away, thinking that because they don’t live with you, they can escape consequences. You must show them the fallacy in their logic. Rule with an iron hand; leave the velvet glove at home.
- Deniability: You must make sure there’s no evidence of any innovative control techniques you employ, so that it’s your word against theirs, if they dare speak up. So, some things you do not want in your kit are handcuffs, pepper spray, chloroform, and duct tape. These leave traces.
Every babysitting situation presents a unique challenge. You can’t possibly bring everything you might need, so you must scout the territory and plan ahead.
Tour the house in advance. Check the sight-lines – where can they be that you can’t see them from your general HQ in front of the TV? Interrogate the parents to learn your opponent’s tactics. Has little Susie been eyeing Daddy’s new drill? Perhaps she’s planning a project to improve the ventilation between the bedrooms.
Look for things you can use. For instance, if there are sturdy ceiling hooks, you might pack the suspension harness. A few parents already have padded cages – bless them!
Straitjackets are handy, but your charges may have encountered them before, so don’t assume you can fool them into “playing wrap-up.” Have a plan B.
A few items you should always bring:
Mini wireless webcams, cleverly hidden, give you a spooky aura of omniscience that intimidates them into behaving themselves. Don’t forget to charge the batteries! (I don’t know how moms managed this before these handy devices were invented; you might ask yours.)
- Nylon rope. Not for tying them up (that’s only for experts); just to catch them. Practice your lassoing technique on a real moving target, like the dog or your brother. Not the cat; they like it too much.
- Bell collars. You’ll want the kind with the little padlock in the back. Remember, it’s when you don’t hear it ringing that you need to check on them.
- Really effective earplugs. That’s for when little Marcus watches Cars for the third consecutive time, or Spongebob or Dora (at all).
Apart from this, it’s hard to say what you might need. Your opponents will be creative in their mischief making; you must be creative in your response.