I was out for a walk a while back when I stopped to chat with a neighbor. Neither of us knew each other very well, having only had a few conversations on subjects such as the weather, the overbearing city council, and her cute, grade-school-age twin boys.
It was likely because of this slight acquaintance that she blurted out with mild hesitancy, “I have a question for you. Do you babysit?” She then laughed and asked, “Actually, how old are you? Maybe you’re way past doing that.”
I told her my age, which confirmed that yes, I was a bit past the normal babysitting age. We both shared a good laugh over the humor of the situation, chatted some more, and then I moved on, flattered both that she underestimated my age and the fact that she would consider me trustworthy enough to watch her children.
This incident came to mind after I stumbled upon a recent article in The Telegraph which asked, “Where have all the teenage babysitters gone?”
Intrigued, I read on to find that the standard revenue stream for young people is heading the way of the dinosaurs, largely because many parents are afraid to entrust their young children to the care of those in their early adolescent years. Instead, they seek adults like myself to do the work:
“Georgie Jones, of Putney-based babysitting agency Like Minders, says there has been a change in attitude. ‘There is a definite trend in parents wanting more experienced support. Everyone is more aware of what could go wrong because of the internet and hearing stories online. Plus, we are more risk-averse in general.’ Like Minders employs sitters who are over 18 and fully vetted. ‘Child safety comes ahead of anything else,’ says Jones.”
While I can certainly understand that parents want to leave their children in trustworthy hands, it also seems a bit of a shame that the societal tendency toward over-caution is depriving young people of the classic resume builder. Taking care of young children is a challenging and often stretching task. By bypassing young teens for the job, we not only deny them one of the few sources of income available to them in a workforce governed by multiple regulations, but we also deny them the opportunity to accumulate greater responsibility and foster their own maturity.
Of course, it is perhaps this lack of responsibility and maturity that may be driving parental disinterest in hiring the neighbor teen for babysitting in the first place. Today’s teens may not be prepared to babysit because they were once the ones who could not be entrusted to anything but adult supervision. In essence, the bubble-wrap mentality with which they were raised becomes a tightening noose which hinders them from breaking free and practicing responsibility.
Is it time adults recognize that children are capable of far greater responsibility at vastly younger ages than those at which we begin to give them freedom?
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Flickr-Tom Caswell (CC BY 2.0)