Remember a time when reading about 11-12 year olds watching the neighborhood kids seemed like a plausible arrangement? Ah, youth.
It's a far departure from today's norm, where new parents often expect their babysitters to be professional child-rearing experts. (I currently have two nannies who alternate watching my 4-year-old and 9-month-old. Both have college degrees in early childhood development!) So when I re-read the first book in the series, Kristy’s Great Idea by Ann M. Martin, I thought I’d chuckle over outdated babysitting blunders. Only I've come to realize that maybe modern-day nannies could take a page or two from these preternaturally mature middle-schoolers.
Here are five times Kristy, Stacey, Mary Anne, and Claudia were suspiciously good, possibly magical, babysitting professionals:
They can turn raw carrot sticks into an in-demand snack food. My parents fill my kid up with ice cream ever time they babysit, but there are no such treats in the land of The Baby-Sitters Club. These 12-year-olds cut carrot sticks as kids squeal, “Yummy yummers!… You fix good food.” I don’t even know many 12 year olds today who are allowed to handle knives.
Their oratical skills can calm the most feral child. In one scene, when Claudia watches three preschoolers and an 8-year-old, they simultaneously erupt into epic temper tantrums, screaming belligerently, jumping on the couch, and pretending to shoot her. But wise Claudia is unfazed; she expertly calms them by sitting on the floor and reading Peter Rabbit aloud until they’re miraculously lulled into submission. Anyone who’s ever perused the Asshole Parent Instagram account full of illogical kids throwing unstoppable tantrums will appreciate the magical realism of this scene.
They are masters of schedule juggling. After arriving exactly on time, “because punctuality is important” to 12-year-olds, brave Kristy proceeds to not only watch the 3-year-old and 6-year-old she’s in charge of, but to invite over her friend Mary Anne and the two kindergarteners she’s watching as well. They take all four kids to play on the swings and even offer a medical assessment when one gets a boo boo.
They know how to run a small business. The Baby-Sitters Club is no shabby operation. They artistically design their own logo, create marketing materials, advertise in the local newspaper, and set up a hotline. It was the Care.com of the ‘80s, only with preteens instead of grad students.
All adults instinctively trust them to a degree that may or may not be considered irresponsible parenting. The phone is ringing off the hook with parents ready to hire these 12-years-olds without ever having met them. In one case, they’re booked to watch a 1-year-old with an ear infection and agree to administer eardrops—all over the phone, no interview required. Some mom simply had dinner plans and thought, “Hey, I got this flyer in my mailbox, can you come over tomorrow night and babysit my sick, crying baby? Great, see you at 7pm! No other information needed.”
Crazy, right? Sound off on your favorite Baby-Sitter's Club moments on Twitter at @QuirkBooks! And props to anyone who can name the books whose covers are featured in this article!