Not a happy memory today, but this one refused to leave my mind once I started thinking of today’s post. As the title indicates, this particular woman needed to have a sign on her front door. Like so:
This particular memory is why I am very careful about who I allow to watch my son. Granted, circumstances severely limited my mother’s options, but I actually am getting ahead of my story here. This babysitter, I believe Judy was her name (same as my mother) told my mother she was a white witch…she brings shame to white witches everywhere.
No matter what you may believe about white witches, they believe themselves good souls doing good deeds and magic. I hardly think treating children like barely tolerated dogs qualifies. I also wonder if they’re different from Wiccans. If similar, woe to this woman when her times three comes back for breaking the “harm none” creed.
Her husband was a large, imposing man with tightly curled, almost fuzzy brown hair. Just as large as her husband, white-blonde Judy was just plain mean where her husband was quietly imposing. Their one daughter, a thickly built brunette with an attitude to match her parents. In essence, not only a personality blight to white witches, but overweight people as well.
My older sister (by about 5 years) was rarely there, and when she was, she got to go outside and play with Judy’s daughter. I thought I was about seven, but it’s possible I was in a half day kindergarten or younger. I remember thinking Julie (my sister) was in school. (Edit to add: My little brother was not born yet, so I couldn’t have been any older than 5 years old).
I do recall getting waffles or pancakes once or twice and being firmly told, “No, you waste it,” when I asked for a little more syrup. I don’t recall ever eating or even drinking anything else there. What I do recall is two shows I cannot stand to this day, pretty much forced to watch on a blanket set to the right of the television, in full view of her child-fattened-harpy-like perch on the couch.
*insert photo of platinum-blonde-fat-ex-biker-looking chick and boa-constrictor with caption “We eat babies”* Photo may look a little surreal and wordy…photographs developed directly from memory by a slightly inept visual artist tend to go a little wonky…and I don’t want to steal a certain stick man’s schtick.
I’m glad I only found out about her self-professed witchery in adulthood, tiny me definitely didn’t need child-eating witch stories floating through her head in addition to the child-eating snake ones. Yeah, they had a large boa, one they rarely pulled out. Their daughter told me it ate a baby her mother was watching, so they never let it out when kids are around now. Yeah. I believed her, with clear implications I made a healthy meal if it ever got out.
Redirecting attention span. The two shows I cannot stomach today are The Facts of Life and People’s Court; a direct result of sitting on a blanket not allowed to make ANY noise (and no toys) or get up for anything but the bathroom. The theme songs/tunes are unwillingly etched in my memory.
For a day or two another little girl and her little brother needed watched as well. That day was fun. She brought a netted bag full of Barbies and we got to play at the kitchen table. I heard something about Judy’s daughter stealing one of them and I remember Judy couldn’t get the baby to stop crying, so she tossed him halfway across the living room into his 7-year-old sister’s lap and told her to shut him up. Yeah, I’m pretty sure there’s a reason I never saw them again.
Another time I actually brought a toy, my Rainbow Bright horse. Their daughter invited me to play in her room that day. I found the braids in her Barbies’ hair beautiful. I asked her if she could braid the yarn-hair on my horse’s tail. She readily agreed but told me braiding takes a long time, so I had to leave it, but she would be done when I come over again. I agreed, all happy smiles.
She kept putting me off, saying it wasn’t done. Then it became, I never gave it to her, I never brought it, that pony was hers. Her mother got extremely irritated and defensive about my calling her daughter a thief (even though I never said that, I only said she promised to braid it and give it back and I still don’t have it). Meanwhile, the daughter told my mother I GAVE it to her or something.
I’m not sure how those two stories exist in the same world, but I never got that horse back, everyone tried to convince me I lost my horse, but knowing I wasn’t supposed to, I snuck a look in her room on my way to the bathroom. There was my horse, hair braided, sitting amongst her other toys. I remember her saying she had that toy all along, that’s when her mother backed her up and got belligerent about my calling her daughter a liar and a thief.
In essence, I understand why my mother gave up. They made it impossible to get without marching personally into the house, barging in the daughter’s room and taking my horse back and probably started a physical fight. My mother was smaller, but I wouldn’t bet against her. I saw her headlock a teenage boy a few feet taller than her before. I can’t remember why, only that he tried to bully her and she pretty much made him cry for his momma and sullenly check himself before she released him. My momma’s fiery.
Anyway, I never brought another toy. Yay boredom! I apparently complained about the boredom to my mother. I admit to using “I need to use the bathroom” as an excuse just to get up and move, if only down the hall, drink from the sink, watch the mice in their cage and trying hard not to remember they were for the child-eating snake.
Even those trips stopped after the worst day there. I asked to get up to go to the bathroom during nap-time (only place I took naps anymore). She told me no, I’m only making excuses to stay up. Well, I wet the blanketed floor, completely soaked through. I woke that way and when she found out, I remember curse words and insults, something about little dogs and behaving like animals as she grabbed a fistful of my hair and yanked me off the floor by it to the bathroom.
I struggled across the living room crying until she slammed me against the wall to growl more words at a little girl too frightened to comprehend them any more. I don’t recall anything else, cleanup or otherwise. For the longest time, because of her, I asked everyone for permission to go to the bathroom, no matter what.
A few years ago, I was visiting with family, my mother included, and we got to talking about trusting babysitters nowadays. Are you kidding? Nowadays? I know the nightmare of a bad sitter. I asked my mom if she remembered that woman, she said her name was Judy. I told the story above. It floored my mom; clear shock on her face.
“That really happened?!”
I stopped talking to take in her expression. I wondered how she heard about it.
“Oh, I’m so sorry! I didn’t believe you! We didn’t really have a choice and I thought you were just making up stories because you hated staying there.”
“That’s WHY I hated staying there.” I shook my head.
I didn’t remember telling my mother back then. I even repeated the baby-throwing story to assure her that, yes, she really did that too, and the daughter really did steal my horse. If your child comes home with similar stories, really think about other places, other people to watch them, even if it’s a little more inconvenient. Proof and prosecution aside, you can at least send your child elsewhere, just in case.
Yes, I survived, but that woman is a large reason why my behavior turned mousey around adults and why I occasionally paralyzed with fear of messing up what an adult wanted me to do. In fact, an argument that this babysitter paved the way to my molestation vulnerability (I wanted so badly to please adults and make them happy and never angry like that again) may hold more than a few legs to stand on. It also heralded the beginning of trying my hardest not to burden adults, even going so-far-as to meet my own grandmother’s questions regarding food and drinks with “I suppose,” which annoyed her.
I misused the phrase. Grandma, what it really meant was, “I don’t want to burden you, please don’t trouble yourself, please love me, I’m considerate and good” even if I was hungry or thirsty and wanted a great big hug so bad. That babysitter taught me that childhood enthusiasm was a bad thing and expressing basic bodily needs (hunger, thirst, bathroom) was annoying at best (no matter how nicely I asked).
So yeah, believe your children. They might be making up stories, but with stories like that, do you really want to take the chance? Poverty often leaves little choice (for single mothers in particular), but if your child comes to you with similar stories, please don’t dismiss it without thoroughly exploring ANY other options.
I know sometimes you just get stuck and the support to dig out is on indefinite hiatus. In that case, try to explain it to your kids; knowing they are financially stuck is preferable to thinking their stories fell on deaf ears. It’s definitely preferable to giving up and believing their parents trusted an abusive stranger over them, don’t care, that they’re a bad child deserving of such treatment, or all the above. In fact, making a plan with them may help things go more smoothly.
Now, on the flip side, I babysit; kids tend to like me a lot. Kids ask for me, specifically, over the years. I babysat two girls who came with trouble-maker warnings; they even locked a cousin of mine outside the house when she babysat them. They were angels for me and fun too! I occasionally get grumpy an unsociable, but I never take it out on the kids. Good babysitters exist, a few blessed my childhood over the years (most of them family).
As to the babysitting house of horrors…I almost feel sorry for the daughter. They doted on her the way the Dursleys treated Dudley, but I wonder if they got just as nasty or uncaring without others’ kids to neglect and abuse.
I still want my horsey back. I think I just wanted to like the daughter. I wanted a friend. So, it’s not really the horse, but giving it back, even after all these years. I’d probably smile, thank her, and give it right back. This time, I’m giving it to you. I sincerely hope your life was not nearly as awful as the day I wet my blanket-bed at your house.
How about you? Any babysitting-themed memories stand out, good or bad? Were you (supposedly) a terror-child to watch? Let me know in comments!