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The first use of the term "babysitter" was recorded in 1937, but it wasn't until 1947 that it was used in the verb form to "babysit". Babysitting only became common in the mid-twentieth century. It was a way for teenage girls to earn money. Prior to this, if a couple were affluent enough to afford to go out, then they had a live-in servant to look after the children. Those without servants generally lived near or with family or extended family who could then help with the children.
From babysitting sprang many other types of sitting such as pet sitting, house sitting, and care for the elderly. We have engaged sitters for our cats. As with human children, we would leave feeding and care instructions, emergency phone numbers and our vet's information. Sitting is sitting, whether for humans or pets, allowing the parents to have that much needed night out, and pet owners to take their vacation without worrying about the "kids".
All this talk of babysitting brings to mind one of my favorite movies of the 1980s - Adventures in Babysitting in which Elisabeth Shue stars as Chris Parker, the babysitter.
The movie begins with Chris getting ready for her big date, who cancels with some lame excuse about his kid sister being sick and he has to look after her. With nothing else to do, Chris accepts a job babysitting for Sara Anderson. Add her brother Brad, and friend Daryl into the equation and chaos ensues. A quick trip into the city for ice cream ends up a hair-raising adventure of a blowout, eluding criminals, facing down a street gang, and rescuing Brad's sister, Sara, as she clung to the outside of a skyscraper, narrowly missing Brad's parents at the party. Chris' mad driving skills get them home with moments to spare, and no one was the wiser.
What did Chris get out of this? Well, she found out that her boyfriend was cheating on her, and met someone new when Sara had to use the bathroom and they ended up at a frat party.
All's well that ends well, don't you think?