The Worst Fictional Kids to Babysit

Kay Thompson's Eloise

Being a good babysitter is an uncommon gift. For the rest of us, the best we could hope for back in our babysitting days was that the kid just wanted to watch a movie and eat macaroni and cheese, and that the parents would come home before you actually had to put him to bed. But for every babysitting experience without incident, there was that one horrible little kid who kept climbing out of his window after you put him to bed, and who called his parents from a pay phone just to freak everyone out. Well, actually that was Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes. In the spirit of Calvin, here are some more fictional kids we’re glad we’ve never had to babysit:

Jack (Lord of the Flies, by William Golding). This kid is insufferable even when he’s not being a hegemonic ruler of a pack of demonic feral boys. He’s a snooty, mean fat shamer, and would probably complain about everything in a very high-pitched voice.

Eloise (Eloise, by Kay Thompson). You need a very healthy imagination to keep up with Eloise. You also need to know the ins and outs of the Plaza Hotel, or she will run you ragged. Not only is she more self-possessed and worldly than you in many ways, she also does not care for one second what people think of her. She will use her 6-year-old’s stature to disappear into a crowd of adults, and you won’t find her again until she returns to the hotel room to put Skipperdee to bed.

Ramona Quimby (Ramona Quimby books, by Beverly Cleary). Just watching Ramona be 8 would be too heartbreaking. Being 8 is a full-time job for her. It’s exhausting, confusing, and she always feels like just being curious is constantly getting her into trouble. How do you explain to her that she can’t pull another girl’s hair just to see if it’ll spring back up? You can’t, really, because there’s no good reason not to do it, and you know you would’ve done the same thing.

Matilda (Matilda, by Roald Dahl). She’s an old soul, and has the fortitude of an angel, but the fact of the matter is she’s telekinetic. She’s also smarter than you by a few light years, and if she had a mind to, could probably get away with robbing a bank and framing you for it. All while wearing shiny Mary Janes and a jaunty bow in her hair.

Pippi Longstocking (Pippi Longstocking books, by Astrid Lindgren). The thing about babysitting Pippi is that she would have literally no idea why you were there. Independence is all she knows. Not only does she live alone in a big house, she knows how to feed and care for herself, her monkey, and her giant horse. She has a chest full of gold coins that keeps her financially independent, but it also makes her the target of more than a few robbers. Thanks to her superhuman strength, she can protect what’s hers without breaking a sweat. She’s also a mischievous instigator who corrupts other children into leaving school to spend a day frolicking in the Swedish countryside having adventures that will create wonderful lasting memories. Maybe we could just become best friends, Pippi?

Alexander (Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, by Judith Viorst). Nobody likes a complainer, and there’s almost nothing you could do to cheer this kid up. Sure, everyone has bad days, but it sort of feels like having a bad day is a recurring thing for him. You would spend all of your time trying in vain to show him all the joy life has to offer. On the other hand, you could probably get away with just watching a bunch of movies with him until his parents came home.

The Pevensie children (The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis). You’d start playing hide and seek, but all four of them would disappear for minutes at a time, and then reappear claiming they’d founded and defended entire kingdoms. I’d get a pretty big case of FOMO.

What fictional kid would you least want to babysit?

  • mim

    Three fictional children who make Alexander seem like a sweetheart:

    1. The Dorset boy in O. Henry’s story “The Ransom of Red Chief.” He gets astride Bill, one of his kidnappers, and forces him to eat sand as a stand in for oats. No wonder Bill’s favorite biblical character is King Herod, who killed little boys.

    2 & 3. The Parsons children in 1984. The son lets loose with a barrage of hate-filled epithets at Winston, and fires a slingshot at him. His younger sister is even worse, setting fire to a prole woman’s skirt and denouncing Old Man Parsons to the Thought Police. You DON’T want to be minding those children.

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