For the last couple of summers, my daughter has dabbled in both babysitting and pet-sitting. She’s decided she prefers pet-sitting.

I guess I can’t be surprised. She comes by it honestly. As a babysitter for neighborhood children and my own four younger siblings growing up, I never completely warmed up to the idea of babysitting.

When I was gainfully employed by neighbors, I took the job seriously. I would show up cheerfully with games and coloring books in tow, and entertain and supervise the children in my care like a wee Mary Poppins. I would be paid handsomely and go merrily on my way, usually straight to the mall.

But babysitting my own brothers and sisters was another story. With a certain amount of shame, I must admit I wasn’t always the most attentive (or patient) supervisor of my siblings. This may have led to a few incidents while they were in my so-called “care.” Some days, we laughed and played. Other days, we fought and bought each other’s silence. It depended on the day.

For years, I’ve kept these secrets, so imagine my surprise to learn I am not alone. Apparently, there is a whole army of 80s kids who babysat siblings for long hours and no pay. Not only did we resent it, but we took it out on them.

On social media someone recently posed the question, “What did you throw at your siblings when you were younger?” I immediately hung my head, recalling the day I was feeding the family dog while babysitting and snapped. My youngest sister was pressing my buttons so I threw a can of Alpo at her. She successfully ducked the projectile, and I watched in horror as the heavy can nearly broke a window. Even more irate, I then launched a butter knife in her direction. Again, she was able to avoid the airborne strike.

Of course, my mother heard all about it later. Fortunately, she was well aware of my sister’s penchant for mischief, so she chalked it up to temporary insanity on my part and let it slide. No harm, no foul. That was the parental mindset in the 80s. We all just did the best we could and moved on, I guess.

As I scrolled through the responses, it brought back many memories of our battles. I laughed until I cried. Some were mild and others were wild, but all of the stories hit home. One girl even admitted to throwing a heavy can of cat food at her sister and denting a wall.

I had a feeling of solidarity with these people. A woman said she threw the Good Book at her sister, writing, “I threw a Bible, because she needed Jesus. Also a pair of jelly heels, a Shake Weight and the Dangerous Minds CD.” Boy, could I relate. I wished she was my sister.

The boys seemed more dangerous: “I once threw my brother at my other brother. Does that count?” one wrote. Another admitted, “I threw a marshmallow that was on fire. It landed in my sister’s hair and my dad slapped her in the head to put the fire out.”

Naturally, he found that outcome hilarious. The piece de resistance: “I threw kittens at my brother,” a boy admitted. It continued until the mom casually yelled, “No throwing kittens!”

For us, that was life in the 80s. When my parents weren’t home, our house was a three-ring circus. No one ever went to the hospital, thank goodness. But the maniacs on social media admitted to all sorts of crimes that actually drew blood. The perpetrators weren’t all boys.

“My sister threw a steak knife at me and nicked an artery in my ankle,” one guy wrote. “It was a small hole, but blood squirted out so we had to get the neighbor to look at it.” Another confessed, “I threw a fork at my brother and it stuck in his chin. It was the day of school pictures so he has four vertical dots visible in his pictures.”

Don’t ask me why, but that last one made me wheeze with laughter. Only someone who grew up with plenty of siblings understands the full range of emotions involved in such a confrontation. There is the initial rage and lack of impulse control, followed by a mix of shock, amazement, horror, fear and regret at what you had done. Finally, there is the sheer delight of knowing the sibling had survived and you would live to fight another day. Pictures to commemorate the occasion would be a bonus.

As an only child, my daughter does not understand the sibling bond. Elizabeth has zero fight or flight instincts, while mine were honed at an early age. She has no idea how it feels to have her hair pulled or her face flicked. She’s never been sat on, suffocated under a blanket or given a charley horse to the leg. Nobody repeats what she says until she flies into a homicidal rage or gives her wedgies. The cat doesn’t steal her clothes and the dog has never read her diary and then ratted her out to her parents and friends.

Anytime she witnessed her friends verbally or physically fighting with their siblings, she would look at me as if to say, “What is happening? Why are they like this?” She was genuinely confused. I would laugh, shrug and explain that’s what happens among siblings.

The stories continued online. A girl sprayed Windex in her brother’s face so he threw a bicycle tire at her. The wheel went around her neck so she fell off her bike and hit her head on the curb. I promise you she wasn’t wearing a helmet and there was no concussion protocol put into place in those days.

Instead, the Gen X-er recalled it with nostalgia, writing, “Good times!”

Our parents took this all in stride, as did I. But at times I would wonder, “Was there something wrong with us? Were other families like this?” Well, now I have my answer: yes.

“My brother chased me through the house with a chainsaw once,” a woman recalled. “I didn’t know the chain wasn’t on it. When I told my mom, she said I was being dramatic.”

What the boys served up in danger, the girls seemed to match in psychological torture.

“My sister chased me with a toilet brush around the neighborhood and made me laugh so hard I fell and peed my pants,” one woman wrote. “She continued to hit me with the dirty thing. I’m sure I deserved it though.”

A boy threw a pork chop across the dinner table and it smacked his sister right in the face. A girl wrote, “Hard coasters were thrown like ninja stars.” A sister admitted to flinging her prosthetic arm at a sibling during a fight, while a crucifix and an entire vacuum cleaner was launched by another young lady with anger management problems.

Reading the comments made me visualize each scenario, imagine what had led up to it, and wonder about the aftermath. Nobody got grounded but a few went to the Emergency Room. Nearly all got away with their crimes scot-free. It was a wonderful time to be alive.

Perhaps my favorite story was shared by a girl who said she tossed an open bottle of bubble solution at her brother. The twist? Perfect payback. Genius, really. He pretended it splashed him in the eyes and that he was blind, then kept the lie going for a long while.
Respect. I’d pay money to see an instant replay of that one.

And the beat goes on.

Kris Ferrazza is a former reporter, assistant editor, copy editor and columnist with the Courier newspapers. She lives in Waldoboro.