January 5, 2001


Stories of babysitters, and what goes on while mom and dad are away that mom and dad never find out about. Including the story of two teenagers who decide to invent children to babysit, as an excuse to get out of their own house.

Ben Wiseman


We listen in on a ritual that happens in millions of families every week: kids getting dropped off at the babysitters. Six-year-old Dylan and nine-year-old Sarah explain what they can and can't get away with when they have a babysitter.

After that, host Ira Glass has a few words about Mary Poppins, who is the Gold Standard of all fictional babysitters. The movie Mary Poppins contains the classic modern song about babysitting. We hear several versions of the song over the course of the program. The first is by Chicago girl punk/pop band, the Dishes. (5 minutes)

Download song: "The Perfect Nanny, from Mary Poppins", The Dishes

Act One

What Big Teeth You Have

Lots of babysitting is done by family members. Hillary Frank reports on what can happen when a teenaged son is put in charge of his younger brothers. It's not pretty. Hillary produces the podcast The Longest Shortest Time, about early parenting. (14 minutes)

The Mary Poppins song in this act is performed by Jon Langford, with John Rice on mandolin. Jon Langford has a new album out this fall.

Download song: "The Perfect Nanny, from Mary Poppins", Jon Langford
Act Two

In The Event Of An Emergency, Put Your Sister In An Upright Position

The story of several huge companies that accidentally got put into the babysitting business in a big, big way because of snow on December 26, 1988. Every year on the day after Christmas, divorced kids all over America fly from one parent to the other. In 1988, lots of them got snowed in at O'Hare Airport in Chicago. Susan Burton and her little sister were among them. (9 minutes)

This story was turned into theĀ 2006 movieĀ Unaccompanied Minors.


“Minimum Wage Nanny” by The Simpsons