Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Babysitting in the USA

Babysitting is a right of passage on this side of the Atlantic, much as it is in Ireland.  Any girl with a bit of cop-on and maturity will find herself baby-sitting for half the neighbourhood in no time.  Such is the case with my first born.  Needless to say, like all things American, they take it to a whole new level over here.  The kids all do CPR training in their final year of Middle school, around thirteen years old.   It’s amazing to think she could execute a perfect Heimlich manoeuvre when I still don’t trust her with the kettle.  She can also save a choking infant,  resuscitate an octogenarian having a heart attack and err, coordinate a full emergency police and fire evacuation from a smoking building.  That last bit wasn’t exactly on the syllabus but it was how she spent last weekend.

It all started out innocently enough when a friend asked me if she was available to mind three boys.  The baby was three and the other two were ten.  My daughter was not only available but delighted to do it.  She entertained them as requested and bedded the little one at the required time, teeth clean and bed time story done.  The two bigger boys had been given permission play a new Halloween game.  It’s called Ghosting.  The concept is lovely.  The kids leave a bag of candy on a friend’s door step with a note saying “You’ve been Ghosted!” Then they hide in the garden and watch their friend’s delighted reaction.  Said friend gets a lovely bag of sweets and must pass on the good luck by Ghosting somebody else in the neighbourhood.  This new Halloween tradition ran very smoothly in these parts last year but this year it has morphed slightly.  The kids (ten year old boys in particular) have discovered that it’s much more fun to Toast a neighbour than to Ghost one…
My daughter OK’d the making of the toast.  She even reservedly OK’d the re-toasting of the bread when it wasn’t cooked enough but that’s when it all well wrong.  The first thing to howl was the fire alarm.  She had never heard anything so loud – squawking - waoh, waoh throughout the house.  Her first instinct was to get to the baby who would by now be doing a fair bit of squawking himself.  She remembered her training.  Regardless of what caused the fire alarm to go off; when it happens, it’s one out - all out and then reassess.  As she scooped up the screaming baby and swept out of the building with the two truculent ten year olds she also managed to grab the handheld phone which was ringing anyway at this stage.  Outside she answered the phone and was relieved to speak with the fire emergency department.  “What is your fire code number, madam?” the lady repeated at my daughter a second and third time after the poor girl said she had no idea.  The noise only got louder as two police cars arrived on the scene - Miami Vice style - lights flashing, sirens adding to the symphony.  They ushered everybody clear of from the house to make way for the Fire truck which arrived within seconds - its sirens adding an extra dimension to the now ear-splitting chaos. 
Neighbours gathered and my daughter although mortified to be in the middle of the emergency was fantastically impressed with the manliness of the EIGHT fire fighters, as they bravely tore into the house and opened every window there was.  Two men, dressed in full fire-battle dress, gingerly manoeuvred the smoking toaster out of the kitchen and into a cordoned off area of the garden.  Only at this point was my daughter able to phone the mother of the house and retrieve the fire code number.  Eventually the fire brigade alarms were switched off, the police sirens were put on pause and the house fire alarm was shut down too.  At this point another high pitch whine entered into the drama.  It was the burglar alarm informing her that “security had been breached,” in other words a window (or ten) had been opened.  The phone began to ring again and so, naturally she answered it.  “This is Intruder Alert security, Madam.  Please give me your four digit Intruder clearance code,” they asked. 
“Would you settle for the fire code?” my daughter tried but the operator wasn’t impressed. “I’m sorry, madam but without that code, I’ll have to send a couple of police cars over to you.”
“All right,” she sighed, looking at the street full of flashing red and blue lights.  “If I could just get back into the house, I’d make tea for everybody but I’m afraid there won’t be any toast.”


  1. Brilliant! brilliant!!! loved it! still holding on to my tummy, laughing! poor poor A!

  2. I hand it to Alana--she sounds much more calm than I would have been! Actually, when I forgot to open the flue to the chimney a few years back and had the lovely idea to start a fire for my then babes and myself, I ended up in the same position. We were all laughing so hard, it was difficult to even speak to the firemen...