Dawn has officially joined the Baby-sitters Club. Mary Anne is her new best friend. Dawn’s mom and Mary Anne’s dad, who were high school sweethearts a long time ago, have started dating again. Life’s pretty good for Dawn! Well, except that the Connecticut weather is way too cold for her California sensibilities, and she doesn’t have a job title in the BSC yet. But… baby steps.
Dawn goes to Mary Anne’s to help M.A. redecorate her bedroom, and brings some stuff from the California house – posters, a lamp, some throw pillows. They’re having a blast until Kristy comes over. Kristy, clearly jealous, butts in and tries to edge Dawn out. The three of them spend the afternoon helping Mary Anne, but it’s clear to Dawn that Kristy would rather have Mary Anne to herself. ~Trouble in paradise!~ Kristy continues to be kind of snippy to Dawn the next day at school and Dawn can deduce that Kristy is jealous and thinks Dawn is hogging Mary Anne. Kristy and Dawn each feel left out at times, with Mary Anne caught right in the middle.
Dawn is the first BSCer to baby-sit for the Barrett family – Buddy (7), Suzi (4), and Marnie (a baby). Their parents are recently divorced and when Dawn arrives they all seem kind of dirty and droopy. Mrs. Barrett is gorgeous but disorganized and gives Dawn virtually no instructions before running out of the house to a job interview. Oh and the entire house is a total pigsty. Dawn is disgusted. She decides to make a game out of it and challenges the kids to help her clean as fast as they can – first the living room, then the kitchen, then the playroom. By the time they’re done it looks like a different house. But the kids aren’t so easily managed after that. Despite asking him not to “play guns” while she’s around, Buddy challenges her. She eventually gets them to behave long enough for her to get their hair combed and tidied. Then they all commiserate about being children of divorce. Buddy and Suzi admit they still keep hoping their dad will come home. When Dawn acknowledges that probably won’t happen, Suzi gets upset and runs upstairs. She wets her pants and Dawn finds her later and helps her. Mrs. Barrett is thrilled to see the house tidied when she gets home, and insinuates she wants Dawn to move in and be a housekeeper/nanny. Except that Dawn’s twelve. So…
Back to twelve-year-old things. Dawn needs to patch up her relationship with Kristy, so she invites her over after school to hang out – just the two of them. Kristy agrees, and they start out awkwardly but get along fine once they get a snack and hang out for a while in the barn on Dawn’s property, swinging from a rope through the air and landing on hay bales. Not my idea of fun, but it works on Kristy. She asks if Dawn would like to be the Official Alternate Officer of the BSC, who can take over for any absent club member. Dawn happily agrees.
Dawn has been baby-sitting for the Barretts a lot and, while she likes the kids, she finds that every time she shows up the house is a mess – and the kids are a mess. They’re always unkempt, sometimes unfed, and quite disorganized. On this particular day, Dawn has the challenge of getting them fed and dressed, helping them pick up their rooms, and making sandwiches and brownies for a picnic at the Pikes. It takes everything in her to get them there on time and in one piece. At the picnic Dawn passes out brownies to everyone, including Marnie – but then Mallory rips the brownie out of Marnie’s hands and informs Dawn that Marnie’s allergic to chocolate. Dawn is shocked that Mrs. Barrett never told her about the allergy, and then angry – about that and the fact that Dawn is doing the work of a housekeeper but only getting paid for being a baby-sitter.
The next time Dawn sits at the Barretts, she confronts Mrs. Barrett about the allergy thing, but doesn’t get any farther than that. Mrs. Barrett tells her that if Mr. Barrett calls, Dawn should never let him talk to the kids, say he can see the kids, or say that Mrs. Barrett isn’t home. It sounds kind of scary. And then she tells Dawn that she’s “the glue that’s holding [their family] together”, which is KIND OF A LOT OF PRESSURE TO PUT ON YOUR TWELVE-YEAR-OLD BABY-SITTER. Dawn is understandably freaked out. Buddy and Suzi have started treating her as a mother figure and Dawn can’t help but think that Mrs. Barrett should be doing a little more of the mothering.
Dawn’s mother hosts a picnic attended by the Schafers (including Dawn’s maternal grandparents), the Spiers, Kristy, David Michael, Mrs. Barrett, and Buddy, Suzi, and Marnie. Dawn, Mary Anne, and Kristy watch in fascination as Mrs. Schafer and Mr. Spier act lovebird-y and Mrs. Schafer’s parents (who disapproved of Mr. Spier back in the day) get to see how well he’s done for himself. Dawn and Mary Anne daydream about their parents getting married and them becoming stepsisters.
Mary Anne baby-sits for the Barretts and finds them to be terrors – she doesn’t know how Dawn does it. When Dawn sits for them again, the kids a cranky since it’s been rainy, but then something awful happens – Buddy disappears. Dawn can’t find him anywhere. Finally she calls Mrs. Pike in a panic, and Mrs. Pike organizes a neighborhood search. No one can find Buddy, until Jordan Pike comes home and says “Buddy’s not home – he’s at his lesson!” to which Dawn is like “WHAT FUCKING LESSON?!” Suzi claims Buddy doesn’t take lessons, but Jordan is sure he saw Buddy get into a car with someone, so Jordan just assumed he was going to a lesson (Jordan himself was on his way to a piano lesson). Mrs. Pike and Dawn have had enough – it’s time to call the police.
The police get in on the neighborhood search, with German Shepherds and everything. They question Dawn and Jordan Pike. Eventually Dawn gets a phone call from Buddy – he’s at a gas station pay phone and he says he’s with his dad and they’re on the way home. Mrs. Barrett gets home before Buddy and is dazed to realize that she’d mixed up the custody weekends and that Mr. Barrett had just taken Buddy (not Suzi or Marnie). When Buddy and Mr. Barrett eventually get home, Mr. Barrett explains everything to the police and they give him a warning – and give him and Mrs. Barrett a warning to better work out their custody for the sake of the kids. This is the final straw for Dawn. She has to confront Mrs. Barrett.
Dawn very maturely tells Mrs. Barrett that she can’t baby-sit for her anymore, because of the disorganization, the pressure of housework, and the fact that Buddy and Suzi are starting to treat Dawn like she’s their mother and Dawn doesn’t think it’s healthy. Mrs. Barrett is dismayed but begs Dawn to reconsider – what if she tries harder to be organized and pays Dawn extra for household chores? Dawn agrees to sit three more times on a trial basis – if things don’t get better, Dawn is done.
(I gotta say, Dawn has never been my favorite baby-sitter – not even top three – but she handled this situation fantastically. Get your shit together, Mrs. Barrett!)
Next up in Book #6: Kristy’s mom marries Watson Brewer and Kristy moves across town! Good thing the club decided in this book to raise their dues a little bit so they can pay Kristy’s brother to drive her to and from meetings. Otherwise, who would boss them all around?