Today we’re going to go back in history, right back to the 20th century.
World War II was being fought – the fathers were at war, or AWOL and/or in Mexico and the mothers were busy working and raising their families.
Amidst World War II, almost as history-defining, the term babysitting emerged into the then-current day life.
Nobody knows exactly how it began, but it was discovered that sitting on children was an effective way to make sure they stayed out of trouble – and it also gave you time and a comfy place to sit while catching up on the darning. Baby won’t stop crying? Sit on it. The baby is warm and safe and you have a spot to rest.
Little Timmy has found his feet and won’t stop running around the house, pulling the cat’s tail and smearing poo on the walls? Gone are the days where you would be milking the cow, kneading the bread, stoking the fire, darning the socks and trying to contain little Timmy. Sit on him and the problem is solved. Although it didn’t solve the problem of getting housework done.
Much like a hen brooding over its eggs, these new-style babysitters believed that sitting on a child was beneficial to its health and temperament. They already knew that the time-tested method of locking the child under the stairs or in a cupboard most likely stunted growth, so the next best option – nay – the only option was to sit on them.
Unlike the mother’s who believed that their little brats were angels, babysitter’s knew that those children were inherently evil and not as cute and endearing as their parents liked to believe. So they persisted in sitting on these children, believing that they would turn into better people, or at least stop them from trying to smother little Betsy next door with mudpies.
There were trials run to see if sitting on prisoners in jail would be effective, however the trial was a disaster when it was discovered that prisoners could get quite stabby when sat on.
It’s not known when sitting on children went out of fashion. Perhaps it was when World War II finished and parents found bum imprints on their children, but whenever and however it finished, the term babysitting stayed in our vocabularies to this very day.
One thing is for sure, the word ‘babysitting’ is a strange word.
Much like refraining from using your hairdryer while in the shower and not putting your hand in boiling water, it’s not advised that you sit on children to contain them – especially not babies. Exception for little bastards 5+. Also, please ask for permission first when attempting to sit on the child of a person you don’t know.
Cover image uploaded to Wikimedia by Paulis. Die Gartenlaube (1864) b 684 1.