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July 01, 2018

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I was getting paid actual American dollars to babysit when I was 11, and allowed to walk to the neighborhood store, at least six blocks away, when I was no more than 8. Friends my age all have similar memories.

Childhood changed in a generation, and if I were a conspiracy theorist, I'd say there was a cabal out there trying to erase any evidence of the shift.

I am betting on your memory not hers. I have been witness to Grandma swearing she would never allow to my current 5 year old situations that I absolutely watched her allow when the current 12yo was 4. Down the memory hole it goes.

I also babysat at 11 and 12. No one would hire my 12yo now. They'd call the cops first.

When I was 8 I began helping out in the babycare room at the breastfeeding conferences my mother presented at ... When I was 9 I began doing afterschool babysitting ... When I was 11 I began doing evening and weekend babysitting ... when I was 13 I had a year-long babysitting job that went from 9am Saturday morning to 9pm Sunday evening. (Yes. The mother was single and in law school: that's when she got her studying done: I was in charge of her two kids, the house, meals, cleaning, homework etc. I earned enough to pay my own way for spending the summer in Europe). ....

I've stopped arguing with my mom about whose memories are accurate...there are some things we'll just never agree about! But I, too, was babysitting at 11 (3 kids! when I had zero experience and no younger sibs!) Everything turned out fine, but I def wouldn't hire my 11 y/o self to look after my kids. I didn't grow up watching much tv, but the kids I sat for did, and when the 5 y/o wanted to watch Dukes of Hazard and got bored half-way through, I told him, "you said you wanted to watch it, and now we have to watch it until the end." Because I wanted to see what happened!

I've let 11 year olds baby sit my kids! But I live in an apartment building and so do all my teen and preteen babysitters and they always have their parents in the building to help them if things get crazy. The only time that happened, though, was when my husband forgot to change the toddler into a disposable diaper and...there was quite the incident with the cloth diaper. I'm still kind of grateful that that neighbour is still my friend!

I think I was 10 or 11 when I was allowed to bike to the library (1 mile, half of which was on a rural state highway that has a very narrow shoulder, and a steep ditch leading to a swamp on either side.) That was about 20 years ago. Last time I was home I was pleasantly surprised to see kids from our stretch of the road still walking/biking down it, and cars slowing down to go around them.

Lately I keep my eyes peeled when I see younger kids adventuring by themselves. Not to keep an eye on them, but to bite the heads off of any nearby adults that try to insinuate they shouldn't be by themselves. I've only once had to tell a busybody "They're fine, leave them alone." It worked.

Fascinating discussion!

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