My eldest will be fourteen this week. Now, I'm not about to say that I can't believe it or wonder where the years have all flown to. I have slogged through every minute of those fourteen years since I first assumed parental responsibility and my life was changed forever.
What does seem to have come round quite quickly though is the concept that my child has now reached the acceptable age for babysitting. I don't know if there is a legal age before which you leave children to their own devices. If there is then I have certainly flaunted it, having been nipping out during the day without all the children in tow for quite some time. But certainly in my neck of the woods, when a child hits fourteen they are suddenly and miraculously endowed with enough common sense to be responsible for other children.
Our own non family babysitter was fourteen when she first came and looked after my four, although half of them were generally in bed asleep by the time she arrived. At the time I thought she was terribly grown up in comparison to my own little angels, the eldest of whom was then nine.
Now that my daughter has reached a similar stage, she suddenly seems rather young for all that responsibility. Would she know what to do if her charges won't stay in bed or cry for their mum or someone comes to the door or the house sets on fire? Well, actually, she would probably just ring me and I would nip round and sort it out for her but you take my point.
She has been counting down the days until she can offer her services both to us and to our friends. She has been eyeing up likely candidates amongst her siblings' peer groups for a while. She is ready to make posters and advertise her services to the world. I am slightly more circumspect. I see a number of hiccups with her plan.
Firstly her own scant availability. What with rehearsals, shows, parties and sleepovers there aren't so many windows in her calendar. Then she has to coordinate with my requirements. Obviously, having trained her for this important task for her entire life, I get first shout when a babysitting requirement arises.
Then there are the practicalities. Will she be able to cope with a late night? Will I be able to cope with the following day? Will I have to be available when she is babysitting in case of disaster? Will I have to wait up until she gets home? How will she get home? The list of troublesome questions goes on and on.
Until her dance card starts filling up, I shall monopolize her services myself. She and her sister can share the responsibility of guarding their siblings as they sleep. My husband and I have long dreamed of the day when we could pop out to our local for a quick drink or a bite to eat on a whim without having to book the babysitter weeks in advance. However, I had failed to realise that by the time the big day came, we would either be too busy ferrying children or too exhausted to make actually going out feasible. I can't imagine that my new found freedom is actually going to make a huge amount of difference. Ah well. Perhaps when they've all left home?