No one ever babysat us.

It has come to my attention that the going hourly rate for babysitting now ranges between $10.25 and $16. Our children are our future, and no expense need be spared to ensure their safety and well-being. Modern children, that is. All kinds of expense could be spared when we were kids. We really weren’t any of us worth that much. In the nicer neighborhoods, it was considered sufficient to hire someone to keep us from jumping off the roof or bursting into flame, and you could get that for pocket change.

Fifty cents an hour was the going rate when I was deemed old enough to babysit, and that was not very old. Nowadays a prospective sitter is subject to interviews and background checks. Nobody gave us background checks. We weren’t old enough to have backgrounds. Parents would readily entrust their legacy to a neighborhood girl as soon as her top front teeth came in. I was in some demand as a babysitter, but not out of talent; there were just too many babies. Some parents just stapled them to their crib blankets and headed on out, but our community was upscale enough that parents were made to feel remiss if they didn’t assign a sixth-grader to the task.

Teeth in: ready to go make some money.

I can’t remember anyone explaining to me how to operate a diaper. The subject didn’t come up for a while but at some point I was dealing with an infant that I couldn’t hear the TV over, and when I investigated, I could sort of tell that the problem was in the diaper vicinity. I was just wise enough to examine how the thing was folded and where the pins went before removing the old, but I didn’t have a clue what to do with the reject. The only instruction I had was a phone number for the doctor and I didn’t think the situation merited a house call, quite.

Seemed like most of the time I was in charge of babies, and they were already in bed by the time I showed up. It wasn’t so bad. The pot was always sweetened with a bag of potato chips and Coca-Cola in the refrigerator, both items that were not available at home, and some of the people had color TVs, too. Hours would pass by, I would fall asleep on the sofa, rumble awake when the key turned in the door, and get driven home with a snappy buck-fifty. Lest anyone think that this was real money back then, it was not. Even in comparison with no money, it didn’t seem like a lot of money. It was crap money even then. Minimum wage was $1.40. I’d have to work a dozen gigs to get enough coin to buy a crummy blouse. From Lerner’s.

I’m supposed to BE the baby.

I’m not saying I was worth it. Girls are supposed to like babies and want to play with them. I didn’t. If I had had children, I would have farmed out their care to a prepubescent girl for shit wages, too. There’s nothing I’ve ever owned that I’m not happy to let someone else take care of.

So paying up to twice minimum wage is standard fare for babysitters these days, but it can be boosted beyond that. Evidently it’s now normal to expect CPR and first-aid training. Neo-natal nurses go for a premium. Also a background in early childhood education or nursing. Sitters over 21 command more. Ditto if you want some housework done, or have lots of kids. You probably have to fill out forms to get Social Security taken out.

It was straight hourly rate back then, though. One time I babysat for five dogs whose owners had learned that it was cheaper in the long run to hire company for them than to leave them to their own devices. Five Great Danes. Five extraordinarily flatulent Great Danes. Generally I enjoyed dogs but my eyebrows never did really grow back proper. Another time I was left in charge of a grade-schooler who was in bed preparing to vomit. Being anywhere near a vomiting person was my personal nightmare. I don’t think fast on my feet, but I managed to locate a wastebasket for her. No clue how to go about cleaning up. I believe I mopped up with an entire box of bedside Kleenex and may have contributed to the wastebasket myself.

The parents felt bad when they came home. Real bad. Buck seventy-five bad.