When I was 12, I wanted to make some money, so I put a notice up on the bulletin board of a local grocery store advertising my services as a babysitter. I had never actually done any babysitting before and, in fact, never spent time with small children, but I’d read enough about it to figure I could pull it off. A few days later, I received a telephone call from a woman I didn’t know, who asked me if I would be interested in babysitting her five-year old daughter, Jenny. I agreed and she booked me for the following Saturday evening.

When I rang the doorbell, a woman of about 30 opened the door. I had a brief conversation with she and her husband and then she said that she would get “Jenny.” A couple of minutes later, she reappeared with the five-year old in tow and I just stood there and gaped.

Jenny was at least five foot three. Only she was dressed like a five-year old, in a short frilly pink dress, white ankle socks and patent leather shoes. I, always very short for my age, stood approximately four foot two in my socks.
And Jenny was not pleased to meet me.
She walked towards me, stopped, and said, “Are you ever short.”
I said, “Yeah, well, you’re pretty tall.”

There was an awkward pause and then Jenny’s mother indicated that I should follow her into the kitchen. She closed the door and explained in a hushed voice that Jenny had a problem with growth hormones, was taking medication to slow her growth, but that she was a very sweet little girl and I would get along with her just fine once I got to know her. And that if I needed to placate her, to give her a chocolate chip cookie.

I wasn’t convinced, but didn’t really know quite what to say, since there was nothing at all in my experience that I could apply to this situation.

The parents left and I was alone with Jenny for the next six hours. A five-year old throwing a tantrum is no fun to begin with, but when the five-year old is over a foot taller than you are, it’s really bad. When her parents came home, she was still up, completely wired-out on chocolate chip cookies, jumping up and down on the couch. However, they didn’t seem to find this at all surprising and asked me if I would baby sit the following weekend.

I said “No” and chose to remain poor until I was 16.

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