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Verde Magazine

Verde Magazine

Verde Magazine

Opinion: Babysitting gone bonkers Pt. 2: Would you babysit Phineas and Ferb?

Talia Boneh

If you watched Phineas and Ferb as a kid, you know that in the show, Phineas and Ferb spend every day of summer building something new or pulling a new prank together. In every episode, their older sister (who is supposed to be babysitting) tries to get them in trouble, but Phineas and Ferb manage to clean up whatever they are doing just before their parents get home. Phineas and Ferb never get caught, but cut it closer and closer every episode. Their older sister always tries new tactics to try and get them under control but never manages to.

Ideally, after 104 days of summer vacation the babysitter has a handle on the kids, but sometimes it takes some time to find out what tactics work.

Picture two 6-and-9-year-old boys, “Sam” and “James”, respectivley. I had babysat them before, though it had been a while. Last summer, when I was with them they did not have the same kinds of rebellious ideas that they had this time. I would not go so far as to say they turned into Phineas and Ferb, but they had to have been somewhat inspired by them.

Last summer, when I was with them they did not have the same kinds of rebellious ideas that they had this time.

I got to their house around 5:30 p.m. and pretty quickly, we fell back into our usual routine: We played with Legos, ate dinner and then played some more. After dinner, the boys decided tha they wanted dessert. James climbed atop the counter without hesitation to grab a huge bag of assorted candies, and both James and Sam had a few pieces.

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As they continued to eat more I asked, “Is your mom OK with you eating this candy?”

Before Sam could get a word out James interjected, “Yes, of course, our mom always lets us eat candy after dinner.”

After another 10 minutes, a whole pile of discarded candwrappers was sitting on the countertop, so I suggested we put the candy away and play a game.

“No,” James responded. “My mom said I could have as much as I wanted.”

Quite worried that this was a lie, I turned to Sam who shyly admitted, “Well, she never said we couldn’t…”

Using my best judgment, I decided to take the candy and put it back in the cabinet. I then stood in front of the cabinet in case James would try to make a break for it while we decided which game to play. To my disappointment, it appeared the only game they wanted to play was “Let’s find all the candy in the house and run away from the babysitter.” James pulled a bag of Skittles out of the cupboard under the sink, opposite where I was, and started to eat them. When I took those away, he grabbed a bag of Hi-Chews from a different cupboard and ran away with them.

Yes, of course, our mom always lets us eat candy after dinner.”

This kind of disobedience is called testing boundaries, defined by Young Minds Network as “resisting instruction or rules given by parents and other authority figures.” The idea is that the kids will test the boundaries of what they can get away with and when the consequence becomes harsher than the reward, a boundary has been established for the child.

As a babysitter who had not seen these kids in a while and was not clear on any previously established boundaries, this was the perfect opportunity for the kids to test boundaries with me and see if they could push me further than they pushed their parents.
Playing these games was not really my kind of fun. For them, on the other hand, it was like they were on the playground.

After a quick game of forced “hide and seek,” I found Sam and James huddled over the bag of Hi-Chews in the laundry room like squirrels with a pile of nuts. The second they noticed that I had found them, James popped up and ran to the kitchen. “She’s not guarding the kitchen anymore, Sam. Come on!” he said.

It was like a two vs. one game of capture the flag in completely unknown territory. I was clearly losing. With the bag of assorted candy clutched under his arm, James screamed, “There are two of us and one of you! Hehe!” finally realizing his advantage over me.

I tried to keep my cool and my control over the situation. It would be so unnecessary to escalate an argument about dessert with a kid, I told myself. After a long and brutal losing streak in which I watched Sam and James run around the house making me play Monkey in the Middle, I managed to get Sam to help me because he felt bad for me. Eventually I had all three bags of candy behind me.

I found Sam and James huddled over the bag of Hi-Chews in the laundry room like squirrels with a pile of nuts.

Expecting James to then accept that it was time to go back to playing games, I was in shock when I heard the 9-year-old scream, “Ugh, you’re such an a**hole.” That was boundary test No. 2 for the night. Swearing at the babysitter is not something I’d consider within household rules. Trying to guess the parents’ boundaries had not worked so well for me earlier that night, so I just stood there, frozen. Deciding to ignore James’s inappropriate comment, we moved on to playing with some magnet tiles.

When the parents got home at the end of the night, I asked what their policy was with dessert. They didn’t have one. I could have sat there and let the kids eat candy all night until their little cheeks exploded. I was in disbelief. All that misery over nothing. If I had known the boundaries, I would not have had to bother telling these kids what to do all night. It makes me wonder whether Phineas and Ferbs’ parents would have cared about all their shenanigans.

All in all, I have nothing against that family and respect the boundaries they choose to set, but I learned a few lessons: (1) do not be afraid to ask the parents any questions about their house rules before they leave; (2) boundaries need to be set both with parents and babysitters they, are there for a reason; (3) I did not need to babysit for that family again until the kids grew out of their Phineas and Ferb phase.