As a teen, I babysat like a mofo. (This also sadly points to my lack of a social life back then.) Thing is, I had no experience with children. At all. I was the baby in the family. My littlest cousin was barely three years younger than me. Sidenote: Her sister and I once locked her in a closet just because she was bugging us, forcing my aunt to threaten that Santa would bring us no presents that year. As I already knew there was no Saint Nicholas, I then proceeded to crush my other cousin with that life-changing fact. But I digress… Most of my schoolmates also had siblings just within a year or two of them in age. However, I do remember one friend whose parents had a baby girl when we were eight years old. I usually referred to little Jordan as “it.” I was confused because I assumed they named the baby after Michael Jordan… But she was a girl?

Yet when I hit fifteen, I suddenly became the Kid Whisperer to any parent that knew me. They innately trusted me with their progeny. I got paid like a mofo, too. That part was sweet. (Thanks again, Dad, for never making me save any of it. I could be a LA homeowner right now.) I guess I faked my lack of experience pretty well because I kept getting asked back, too. I even babysat for Jordan, as well as for her younger brothers not named Michael or Jordan II or any combination thereof (more confusion). But no matter how much time I spent with the little darlings, I was always a shallow breath away from full-on panic attack mode since I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. Is Natural Born Killers not kid-appropriate? Are two hotdogs and a fudgesicle not considered a well-balanced meal? Did I mention that I don’t know child CPR? It was this acute anxiety that eventually led me to believe that maybe – just maybe – I was being watched.

I could never shake that feeling. And I don’t mean being watched through the windows by some pervert neighbor. I mean surveillance. Like the parents had a camera in every room watching my every move. Perhaps that sounds a little crazy, but – heaven help us – if I ever have kids, that’ll be the first thing I’m buying when that test comes back positive. Or maybe the second thing. I really want one of those kid leashes… But seriously, parents were once teens, too. How can they so easily forget how stupid adolescents are?

So what kept me coming back? Hello, the money. I was sick for the Benjamins. And the kids themselves were a riot. Although completely inept to be their temporary guardian, this is also why I was so good at watching cartoons and digging up worms and doing monster cannonballs with those cute little tykes… Oh no, here come the waterworks. Moving on… Then there was the food. This just reinforces my belief that parents should absolutely keep cameras in the house; they would have totally valid reasons for it. Case in point? I annihilated the fridge every time I babysat. You’d think they were paying me in groceries. I couldn’t help it, though. Is it just me, or does everyone else on the planet buy the most appealing, most scrumptious, most delicious food? I also feel sorry for my childhood friends. Or rather, I feel sorry for their parents. Every time I had a play date, I would clear out the pantry within mere minutes. In particular, my apologies to the Wong family. I’m surprised they still even talk to me. I’m also surprised I didn’t weigh two hundred pounds as a ten year old.

Which leads me to house-sitting. When I’m just visiting someone – and they happen to be in the house with me – polite snooping is my main objective. I’m not alone in this, am I? I love checking out everything: books, photo albums, DVD collections, you name it. I’m fascinated by other people’s homes. I also have this weird thing with needing to know middle names, but that’s beside the point.

Yet when house-sitting, I don’t care anymore about what they have. Essentially their house is now my house is now a boring house. That’s when the freak out begins. I’m not spying on them, but are they spying on me? I blame every reality show that ever aired – Big Brother, The Real World, Dancing with the Stars – for this phobia of mine. What if they really do have a camera rigged somewhere to watch my every move? What are my moves? I begin to second-guess everything I do, trying to figure out if I have any – ahem – compromising behavior. Is it odd that I brush my teeth in the shower? Should I not belt out a teary-eyed version of “On My Own” while cooking breakfast? I don’t care to know the answers to these questions, so instead I morph into The Perfect Houseguest. Is the bed made? Check. Are the dishes washed? Check. Are the couch pillows fluffed? Check check. I even Windex the coffee table if I see condensation rings. (But I’m also OCD, so I’d probably do that anyway.) No one’s gonna YouTube me pouring out the finer details of my love life to the cat. I can wait. Just a few more days until I’m back home, and then I’ll unabashedly sprawl out on my couch, devour my pint of Cherry Garcia and sob uncontrollably while watching Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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3 Responses to “All Eyes On Me”

Keep up the good work, I like your writing.

August 25th, 2010

We totally had a camera on you the whole time, so it’s a good thing you were pillow-fluffing and dish-washing 😉


And for the great material to put on youtube.

September 2nd, 2010

I knew it! OK, Wolkan, everyone’s got a price – how much to keep this on the DL?

September 3rd, 2010