Originally Posted by eepster
I was 12 or 13 when I started babysitting.
12 or 13 seems to be the standard for beginning to let children babysit, but even then most mature and responsible 12 or 13 year old doesn't have the judgement yet and the experience yet to be in charge of a younger child. Many 12 or 13 year olds don't yet have the judgement and the experience to take care of themselves well enough.
When I was 12, I babysat for the neighbor kids, a 5 and 3 year old boys. I was really good (had been taking care of children very well since then, as well) and I was so much more mature and responsible than my friends at that age. One day, the family took their two boys to The Great Escape, and brought me along to help. There was a ride I really wanted to go on, but the Mother had to go use the bathroom, the Father was gonna take the 3 year old on a kid ride, and it was getting late. We only had time for one more ride before we had to go. The Dad put the 5 year old against the height requirement and figured he was tall enough to go on the ride and we all went our seperate ways, with me in charge or the 5 year old. Sure enough, the Dad had been mistaken and the 5 year old was not tall enough to go on the ride and I made the not so experienced and adult decision to leave him waiting for me at the gate while I went on the ride.
: I figured I could watch him while on the ride and if anyone grabbed him, I could yell for the ride operator to hear. And I was one of the smarter and more mature of the kids my age. It didn't occur to me that everyone else on the fast and scary ride would also be yelling and screaming and that, God forbid, anything had happened to that child, the ride would not stop fast enough for me to get off as fast as needed and that the ride operator wouldn't be able to leave the ride to chase after someone kidnapping a kid. Well, the ride ended, the parents came back and all was well, but to this day, I can't believe my lack of judgement, my reasoning I had as that 12 year old. Even the most responsible 12 year old is really still a child, and I don't think I'd trust my 13 year old son to watch my 8 year old little girl for more than a few minutes, not because I don't think he'd do the best job he could, or that I don't trust him in general, or that he would be reckless or anything, but because at 12 or 13, kids just don't have the ability to see the whole picture the way an adult would.