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I Babysit, Not Because I’m a Man

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Babysitting, for me, was never about the money. It probably helped that I was a twelve-year-old girl and didn’t have any bills or expensive desires. For me, babysitting was about teaching.

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I was a decent babysitter. I was responsible, knew the 2004 version of CPR (back when it wasn’t chest compressions only), could heat baby formula or macaroni in a microwave, and I had a lot of spare time on the weekends.

The best part about teaching, however, is that some of the best things to be taught aren’t necessarily educational. For example, instead of reading a book about nature, the girl I babysat and I would teach each other how to do an impression of a rabid gorilla and chase each other around the room, banging our fists on our chests.

Sydney was seven, young enough to respect me when I was just twelve, yet old enough to be a best friend to me. She looked up to me in all my wisdom, because my mom let me shave my legs and hers didn’t. But she still thought she was very grown up, at times.

“I have a boooooyfriend,” she said to me with dimples on her multicultural face one night as I was tucking her into bed (and falling asleep myself).

“Really? What’s his name?”

“Um, well we hold hands but we haven’t kissed yet.”

“You don’t know his name unless you kiss?” I asked, confused.

“Well he told me to call him Buzz. Like Buzz Lightyear. He’s really cute and he has brown hair and we sit next to each other at school because his last name starts with J like mine so…”

I smirked because when I was twelve I thought a little seven-year-old was much too young to have a boyfriend, or to even know what a boyfriend is. After all, I knew back then that in order to have a boyfriend, you have to hold hands in the lunch room and it’s not official until a teacher tells you to stop. She was much too young for that, surely. She had much to learn.

But I taught her about boys, so in the end she would be fine. I taught her that men burp, women do not. Men fart or scratch their armpits, and girls do not. Boys love to pick their noses, and of course, ladies do not.

In one of the most memorable Friday nights of my life, we spent the evening jumping on the couch and yelling and burping, but it was quite appropriate because after every rib-breaking belch we’d announce, “Because I’m a man!”

“Cause I’m a man!” Sydney echoed, and I was as proud as I could be, because I had passed my great knowledge of manners on to my little neighbor.

When Sydney’s parents came home that night, they invited me to stay for pizza rather than just sending me on my way with the usual $40. We sat down to eat, and I was salivating because the pepperoni had bubbles of grease and the cheese was sticking to the box in globs, just like I like it.

Sydney’s parents asked how the night had gone and if Sydney had behaved (I always said she did, because I scratched her back and she scratched mine).

As I was answering their questions, I compacted globs of pizza in my mouth, mid-sentence. The attention was turned away from me when Sydney let out a burp that made her mother cringe and her father bite his lip with contained laughter.

“Sydney, now what do you say?” he asked, expecting an, “Excuse me, Daddy.”

“I burp because I am a man,” Sydney said proudly, sitting up tall with her little shoulders stiff, and she grinned at me.

Sydney’s parents looked at me, having figured I had been up to no good.

“Wow, Katie,” Sydney’s father laughed, “you’ve got a lot to learn about taking care of kids. They’re impressionable and she might not know the difference between being silly and being serious. Sydney, don’t do that at school, okay?”

So I guess the best part about babysitting wasn’t the money, no, and it also wasn’t teaching. It was being taught.

I could have learned then the valuable lesson that we can burp in front of our friends, but never adults. We need to always remember who our audience is and act accordingly.

I may have learned that it is easy to take advantage of someone who looks to you as a role model, and have a hell of a time getting the innocent in trouble.

But really all I learned from all this is that I guess even men don’t burp, after all.

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About Katharine M. Sparrow

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