When I was ten and Pandito was seven, we were finally allowed to stay home alone together for an afternoon. I had been staying home alone for at least twenty minutes at a time for a while and at last I was responsible for a second person’s life. It was a heady rush of power.
I’d been reading the Baby-Sitters Club books since first or second grade and I knew this was my chance to show the world the responsible young person I was. Never mind that we are siblings and saw each other every day, most of the time while I was torturing him in some new and inventive manner, today I was his baby-sitter and he my charge; Pandito would be entertained. We loved the freedom of being home alone and colluded, the way siblings do in moments of truce, to make our time really count.
About ten minutes in, we heard a noise outside and spent the rest of the time crouched inside the side entrance of our house holding golf clubs, certain a burglar was going to break in and kill everyone and steal everything. It was so fun. Maybe not the most orthodox way to entertain a baby-sittee, but it was thrilling to believe we were all that stood between a horrible criminal and our family home. I have never been so disappointed to see my dad home early as we scrambled into the living room to pretend we weren’t scared.
I just read an article in the New York Times in which a man talks about his son being uncomfortable navigating the streets of New York alone at twelve years old. Greensboro, North Carolina doesn’t offer the same perils as New York City, but this may be a little much. By twelve, I was full on baby-sitting other people’s kids. I was responsible for children around parks and pools. Pandito was on his own by then (during the day). Because I was scared of fire, strangers, things falling, myself falling, war, pestilence, and getting my legs stuck in the storm drains, my parents made a point to push me out into the world. They gave me freedom in small bites so I wasn’t too afraid to go where I wanted in life.
The world is a scarier place in 2012 than it was in 199….uh, you know, whenever it was not as scary. We know a lot more about all the tragedies that can befall small and not so small children. I don’t blame parents for being cautious, and have no authority since I have no children. But I spend most of my life being afraid of anything and everything. I am really glad that my parents didn’t heap their own fears on top, because I would probably still live with them. Or be the female Larry David. That was a coin toss they weren’t willing to lose.