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One of the classic comedy plots, most often seen in cartoons. A babysitter is left in charge of an infant (who, despite being so young, turns out to be incredibly mobile). As soon as the infant's parents are off-stage, the babysitter begins a gauntlet of pain and anguish of which, somehow, the infant is the ultimate cause.
There are some common variations. The baby may wander away from the home, with the babysitter giving chase. In others, the baby itself turns the home into an obstacle course of doom using the furnishings, appliances, water pipes, electrical outlets, and pretty much everything else in the house. Or it is possible that the baby is unusual in some way, and thus is physical dangerous, and will inadvertantly (or not so inadvertently) hurt the babysitter in the course of "playing". Regardless, in the end grievous bodily harm comes to the babysitter (and quite often the home itself is wrecked)... but the baby itself is safe and sound, and utterly unhurt.
When the parents—who frankly should be locked up for negligence—return home, they are either totally unaware that anything untoward has happened, or chastise the babysitter for something trivial, like tracking mud on the carpet, not knowing that he's suffered massive Amusing Injuries keeping their child safe.
A version of the story (below) goes right back to ancient Welsh folklore - making this trope Older Than Print.
Note that the "babysitter" need not be an actual babysitter, nor the "infant" an actual infant. This trope works any time a supposedly responsible individual is left in charge of an innocent, and ends up paying for it physically.
- In a subversion, the short film Jack-Jack Attack (special featured on the The Incredibles DVD) features a normal blonde girl named Kari babysitting Jack-Jack Parr. Jack-Jack proceeds to teleport about the house, defy gravity, chew through a wooden "cage" (actually an inverted playpen), phase through walls, set the house on fire, and shoot Kari with lasers. This actually happened WITHIN the time-frame of the movie, off-screen. The poor girl's frantic calls to Helen, and the ease/eagerness with which she handed the kid off to a complete stranger that belatedly identified himself as the replacement sitter, tied into the main plot as well.
- In The Lion King 2, Simba entrusts Timon and Pumbaa to watch his daughter Kiara—something they don't know the first thing about. Considering that their attempt to raise Simba as shown in The Lion King 1 ½ wasn't any better, either.
- When Kala discovers and rescues Tarzan from the tree house.
- Ice Age is this in a nutshell.
- Galaxy Angel, season 3, episode 14: The Angel-tai are turned into children due to Lost Technology disguised as candy, and the Twin Stars must play the babysitters. The danger here, though, comes less from wandering into danger and more from Ranpha and Forte's frankly sadistic tendencies.
- Ash's Pikachu from Pokémon became this sometimes when little Togepi wandered off. Misty actually did notice something dangerous the egg was doing and managed to rescue it from being killed a couple times, though.
- It also happened once with Pachirisu and Happiny.
- A similar incident happened to Pika in the Pokémon Special manga. Here, the role of baby was taken by Kitty, Yellow's recently caught Caterpie who Yellow told Pika to look after while she went on a quick errand. Kitty then decided to follow a drifting leaf from one danger to another, much to Pika's horror.
- Pictured above: Tatsumi Oga from Beelzebub gets regularly electrocuted by his foster son, who just happens to be the Anti-Anti-Christ... to the point that once Baby Beel accidentally almost blew his arm off.
- One chapter of Nagasarete Airantou has Yukino take care of the
illegitimate childnephew of her mother's Big Badass Bird of Prey friend. Yukino is a Friend to All Living Things, but even she becomes this trope.
- Estonia from Hetalia ends up being this to the mochis.
- A flashback in One Piece introduces the reader to Curly Dadan, Luffy and Ace's foster mother. Forced into taking care of the brothers under threat of imprisonment for her banditry by their grandfather Garp, she wonders whether or not jailtime would be worse than putting up with the D children.
- Conan Edogawa from Detective Conan once was stuck taking care of a two-year-old whose Widow Woman mother has hired Kogoro to protect her from a stalker. The kid is actually very sweet and friendly, and hardly if ever throws tantrums... but they're also extremely hyperactive and prone to slip away from Conan's reach; as such, Conan has lots of difficulties keeping up with them.
- This is how Arisu Sakaguchi from Please Save My Earth is introduced, as she barely can handle her little neighbor Rin Kobayashi when she babysits him. However, it turns out there's quite the reason behind that.
- Poor Tomoka from The Prince of Tennis ends up like this when she has to take care of her infant little brothers.
- The DCU comic book Elseworlds 80 Page Giant was pulled from the shelves for "Letitia Lerner, Superman's Babysitter", a sequence by Elizabeth Glass and Kyle Baker in which a baby Clark Kent survives various cartoonish hazards, including accidentally microwaving himself, thanks to his invulnerability... And in the mean time, the titular Letitia ends up as this - i.e., an attempt to keep baby Clark from biting on electric cords finishes with her comically electrocuting herself. The story was later reprinted in Bizarro Comics.
- It was also pulled for other things, like the implication that the Kents hired the babysitter so they could have a quiet night together. Also played with a bit at the end where the Kents get home, see the wrecked house, compliment Letitia and ask if she's available next week, even promising to pay her double if she is. Another thing that irked the censors was a scene where little Clark gets himself a drink of milk straight from the udders of a cow.
- Speaking of The DCU, this showed up in Young Justice a couple of times: once when Wonder Girl and Arrowette babysat a child who was hypnotized by a children's video into attempting to kill them, and again when the young and old superheroes switched ages, forcing the now-adult sidekicks to babysit their now-child mentors. During the midst of the latter situation, Wonder Girl even mentions the former one, lamenting how she'd promised never to babysit again afterward.
- A variation happens in Spirou and Fantasio: Panade à Champignac, the two heroes are the battered babysitters of the grown-up Zorglub, who suffers from amnesia and acts like an 8-month-old baby.
- Very averted in Calvin and Hobbes. Every time the parents hire Rosalyn to watch over Calvin, he's always the one to get lectured (at the very least) for the pranks he pulls on her. He once tried to run away, and didn't get very far before she brought him back. Rosalyn can generally take what he dishes out and come down hard on him for it. Further averted in that she commands princely sums (even getting advances) as she's the only one who will put up with Calvin. In Rosalyn's final appearance, she and Calvin make peace with each other after bonding over a game of Calvin Ball.
- During a time when Laura "X-23" Kinney is trying to decide what to do with her life, she's assigned the task of watching after the Richards kids, Franklin and Valeria. Said kids open a temporal window and unleash a dragon. It gets complicated from there. Even better: the name AND the cover of the comic itself are allusions to the below mentioned movie Adventures in Babysitting.
- In Calvin and Hobbes: The Series, the main cast takes on this role trying to babysit Calvin's younger cousin, climaxing in a water park.
- Who Framed Roger Rabbit? abused its titular character as he attempted to babysit Baby Herman in a film-short-within-a-film. This 'plot' was carried over to subsequent Roger Rabbit Shorts.
- In the movie Baby's Day Out, the titular baby is kidnapped, escapes from his three abductors, and makes his way safely through a very busy day in which the kidnappers take such a beating that their eventual arrest is a relief to them, since it puts them well away from the baby.
- Adventures in Babysitting is made of tweaks to this trope. The babysitter, a Plucky Girl named Chris, has to go out to the big scary City to help her best friend, dragging her (multiple) charges along (read: the girl she's supposed to babysit, her brother who has a crush on her, and said brother's best friend), and they get into truly ridiculous amounts of trouble, but always manage to escape more or less unharmed.
- The Three Stooges got into several of these messes, most famously one that involved a couple fighting over their child, an adorable tyke who, among other stunts, belted the Stooges and his father with a hammer.
- Abbott and Costello often had to deal with the repellent Stinky, played by Joe De Rita of Three Stooges fame. The fact that Stinky was almost as big as Costello and usually dressed up like Little Lord Fauntleroy only made the whole thing even more ridiculous.
- Sarah is a form of this in Labyrinth, though it was her fault that goblins took her baby brother away. She has to go through a fairy biting her, lots of running, falling down traps, enduring the Bog of Eternal Stench, being hit on by the Goblin King, and going up against a goblin army. And their parents are none the wiser.
Folklore and Mythology
- Older Than Print: In the Welsh Mythology cycle, The Mabinogion, Prince Llewellyn the Great goes out, returning to discover his baby son's cradle overturned, the baby missing, and the guart dog Gelert with blood around his mouth. Llywelyn loses it in horror and then drew his sword and killed Gelert, who let out a final dying yelp. The he heard the baby's cries and discovered he was unharmed under the cradle, along with a dead wolf which had attacked the child. Gelert had killed it, and the blood had been the wolf's — and his own, from wounds received in the child's defense. Llywelyn is overcome with remorse and buries the dog with great ceremony, but can still hear its dying yelp and from then on can never really smile again.
- Good Dog, Carl and its sequels feature a Rottweiler who is, in each book, left to take care of the baby. Subverted in that Carl often assists the baby - such as when he gives baby a boost to crawl into the laundry chute (there was a full basket of soft laundry at the bottom), or takes baby out to go window shopping and meet Santa.
- Several Jeeves and Wooster stories revolve around Bertie being asked to keep an eye on or take care of someone, generally by Aunt Agatha. The people he's asked to watch always turn out to be utterly irresponsible and impossible to control. Similarly, in "Episode of the Dog McIntosh" he has to look after Aunt Agatha's dog, in what turns out to be "a guardianship fraught with peril".
- Married... with Children: Desperate for concert ticket money, Bud rents his ditzy big sister Kelly out as a babysitter. During the evening, she's tied to a chair, peed on, and threatened with scalping.
- Paige Fox of FoxTrot has suffered mild versions of this, but most of the time it's her own fault. Once she fell asleep because she was working herself too hard on babysitting jobs, and the girl she was supposed to be watching cut up her new dress with her mother's scissors (As Paige says herself, it could have been much worse). Another time she fed a toddler a huge piece of chocolate cake right before bedtime, and hilarity ensued when she began quite literally bouncing off the walls.
- Her brother Peter, on the other hand, has actually suffered serious injury dog-sitting an extremely small dog with extremely sharp teeth and a Napoleon Complex.
- One of the scenarios in Elite Beat Agents involves a cat trying to protect his owner's infant son as the hapless baby chases a butterfly through an inexplicably peril-laden construction site. The very first song has a sitter trying to control a terrible trio of uncooperative children.
- Although not babysitting, two SNES video games follow the same plot - Rocko's Modern Life: Spunky's Dangerous Day and Eek the Cat both centered around the title (playable) character ensuring the safety of the individual they're watching over (a dog for the former, an old lady and his large girlfriend for the latter)
- One level of Earthworm Jim has the titular Jim protecting Peter Puppy from danger, mostly by whipping him over obstacles. If Peter ever gets hit, it causes him to mutate into a horrifying monster which proceeds to beat the crud out of Jim for his failure and drag him backwards through the stage.
- The platform game Sleepwalker had the player controlling a hapless dog tasked with stopping his master from waking up as he sleepwalked all over the city.
- A parody of this occurs in the Stinkoman 20 X 6, in which the hopelessly naive 1-Up wanders into "The Lava Zone" to look for a kidnapped Pan-Pan. Stinkoman doesn't care until he realizes 1-Up took his "Power Crunch," at which point he must follow and protect 1-Up to ensure he gets his item back.
- Any gamer only wishes that the punishment of most Escort Missions was directed at the player, rather than the typically dumb-as-rocks escortee.
- Yoshis Island has a multicolored tribe of Yoshis ferrying Baby Mario through the whole game, and rather ridiculous obstacles. (You think they could just leave the baby with someone at home and go clear the way on their own?)
- Or maybe have all eight Yoshis travel together rather than pass the baby like a relay baton?
- In Resident Evil 2, Claire Redfield's daring heroics for Sherry's sake.
- Tom and Jerry did two of these.
- There is one episode where at the end Tom and Jerry are arrested for kidnapping. Though it at least seems at the end that they might get off, since the interrogating officer notices the baby wandering off again. There was also another where it ends with the baby mischievously winking at the camera, suggesting he does it on purpose. During both of those cartoons, the babysitter spends the entire time talking on the phone and sees the moment Tom puts the baby back on his crib. She then hits Tom or throw him out of the house, thinking he was harassing or harming the baby.
- The Marc Anthony and Pussyfoot cartoons from Warner Brothers had a gruff but softhearted bulldog protecting an oblivious kitten.
- The Up-Standing Sitter has Daffy Duck as one of these.
"Life is bitter for I am a sitter
- Inspector Gadget's niece's dog, Brain, was always doing the leg work and getting the worst of the situations Gadget got into on cases. Gadget himself was not aware of this in the least.
- Taken to its logical conclusion in Gadget and the Gadgetinis. The sequel series, taking place two years after the first show, shows that Brain had a breakdown between shows and was moved to a riverside house. He's fine around Penny, and warms up to the robot sidekicks that took his place, but is terrified to see Gadget or even hear the word gadget.
- This is the setup used by the "Buttons and Mindy" segments on Animaniacs, where they took an almost sadistic glee in torturing the poor dog. And the poor dog always winds up getting chewed out by the mother of the year.
- The overuse of this trope is Lampshaded in one cartoon where Mindy winds in a construction site, where Captain Ersatzes of Tom and Jerry are trying to save an unknown baby, and a Popeye Captain Ersatz is trying to save
Sweet PeaGreen Bean.
- In one episode, the Warners have met up with Elmyra and are trying to get rid of her. They do so by convincing her to follow Mindy. After the Warners stop him from automatically trying to interfere on Mindy's behalf, Buttons really enjoys seeing someone other than himself taking all the pain for a change.
- And in Wakkos Wish, he finally gets his reward: a pile of steaks.
- Most of the shorts tend to end with Buttons getting a big hug from Mindy, who clearly and sincerely adores him. While the girl's parents treat him like dirt, his torment isn't entirely without its rewards.
- The overuse of this trope is Lampshaded in one cartoon where Mindy winds in a construction site, where Captain Ersatzes of Tom and Jerry are trying to save an unknown baby, and a Popeye Captain Ersatz is trying to save
- Parodied to the extreme by TV Funhouse in its "The baby, the immigrant, and the guy on mushrooms" sketches (where mom leaves the cat in charge of the titular baby, immigrant, and guy on mushrooms).
- The babysitter isn't always an animal—the earliest variation on this theme is one of the old Fleischer Popeye cartoons, with either the titular sailor himself or Poopdeck Pappy sitting the errant babe. Many of the other examples on this page are probably homages to the Popeye cartoons.
- This was probably a variation of the 1934 Popeye cartoon "A Dream Walking," in which Popeye and Bluto tried to protect a sleepwalking Olive Oyl from the dangers of a construction site.
- A series of Donald Duck shorts on Mickey Mouse Works and House of Mouse depict Donald having to watch a mischievious baby turtle, lest Don face the mother's wrath.
- Baby Shelby's mischief was even the plot (if House of Mouse could ever really be said to have plot) of one actual episode.
- His nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie were introduced in a badly battered babysitter-type cartoon (his sister Dumbella leaving them in his care).
- Another, older cartoon has Daisy Duck trying to protect her boyfriend from harm while he's sleep walking.
- An episode of Lilo and Stitch: The Series had most of the characters, including Lilo's older sister, turn into babies, forcing Lilo to baby-sit.
- Examples from Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers: The booby baby in "Three Men and a Booby", Jeremy in "Bearing Up Baby", and Bink (and Tammy) in "Adventures in Squirrelsitting".
- Timon and Pumbaa, in Timon and Pumbaa's Wild Adventures, spent an episode taking care of a eagle chick named Baby Earl. Baby Earl's mama had decided to nest right on the edge of a cliff, and Baby Earl himself decided he wanted to try "flying the coop"...literally. This was not helped by the fact that the only reason Timon and Pumbaa were stuck looking after the kid was because the mother caught them stealing food from her precious baby, and so forced them to watch him as punishment, with the condition that if "ONE. SINGLE. SCRATCH" was found on Baby Earl, that Timon would be crushed. And then there was the semi that randomly showed up...
- Happens to Marion in an episode of Bounty Hamster with a alien child who keeps randomly changing ages.
- One recent episode of The Fairly Odd Parents had Timmy chasing after magically powered fairy infant Poof. Including the obligatory construction girders.
- An episode of Fievel's American Tails devoted an episode to this trope, where Fievel is forced to babysit his little sister Yasha, who then escapes and gets into trouble.
- In Beetlejuice (the animated series), Lydia was babysitting someone, and money-grubbing Beej decides to copy this for a get-quick-rich scheme in the Netherworld (taking the concept of Baby sitting literally). He ends up calling Lydia for help when he realized it wasn't easy, and some how turned into a baby himself, leaving Lydia having to watch over three monstrous babies, baby Beej, and her own charge, and trying to not let them cause too much havoc.
- Averted to amusing effect in Daria when the titular character gets a job babysitting a couple of kids. She expects them to be monsters, but they turn out to be brainwashed Stepford Smiler children.
- Courage the Cowardly Dog is constantly putting himself in harm's way to protect his elderly and largely oblivious owners from danger. A full-fledged example of this takes place in "Little Muriel", where Muriel is inexplicably de-aged to about three years old by a tornado, and drives Courage up the wall before he finally decides to find a way to get her back to normal.
- Between the Lions does this in the "Chicken Jane" animated sketches, where Chicken Jane saves her two young (and very ditzy) charges by writing words to them, just in time for them to act and to miss being harmed, only to get hit herself.
- An episode of Jimmy Two-Shoes had Jimmy and Beezy babysitting Molotov's kids. His son Tori is an obnoxious brat, while his infant daughter Blammo won't stop spewing.
- On The Penguins of Madagascar, the penguins go after a lost baby when his carriage is knocked out of the zoo and into the streets. Kowalski even points out the inevitable construction site, although here it turns out to be a demolition site for a change.
- This happens to Spot in the One Hundred and One Dalmatians: The Series episode, "Wild Chick Chase", when she's forced to babysit Peeps, a baby chick.
- Kim Possible:
- In the episode "Adventures in Rufus-Sitting", Kim watches Rufus while Ron and his parents go on vacation. Rufus ends up swallowing a microchip that is wanted by everyone, and three different villains come after him for it. After Rufus is kidnapped, Kim tracks him to France, where, ironically, Ron is vacationing, and has to save him from the hands of the Shego, Duff Killigan, and Monkey Fist, without letting Ron know.
- In the beginning of the episode "Oh No! Yono!", Ron has to babysit his little sister, Hana. Hana proceeds to crawl on the walls and ceiling, and destroy the house. Then a couple nights later, Ron and Kim both babysit Hana, and the same thing happens, with Hana even climbing on top of the refrigerator and jumping off. Luckily, Ron catches her.
- Father Nicholas from the short-lived Popetown. The "kid" he takes care of is actually a Psychopathic Manchild... and The Pope.
- There's an episode of Arthur when Arthur has to take care of the terrible Tibble Twins.
- Subverted in the Phineas and Ferb episode "Suddenly Suzy". When Candace has to take care of her boyfriend's evil and sadistic sister Suzy, she's sure she's in for this... only for Suzy to explain that if Jeremy isn't there, she's off the clock. They proceed to bond.
- My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic: Fluttershy gets run ragged trying to look after the Cutie Mark Crusaders in "Stare Master", and Pinkie Pie struggles to keep up with the Cakes' newborn twins in "Baby Cakes". Spike spends some time as a Badly Battered Petsitter in "Dragonshy".
- The Simpsons Did It. Bart has actually abused so many babysitters that the family is effectively blacklisted by every one in Springfield (and one who is convinced to come back has post-traumatic flashbacks on seeing Bart and runs away screaming).
- An incredibly weird variation occurs in The Powerpuff Girls. The girls are given a random babysitter who, by chance, is their Arch Nemesis Mojo Jojo. The girls are deliberately the worst kids ever, even at one point getting Mojo run over by a car, and ultimately driving him completely insane.
- An episode of Voltron: Legendary Defender has Princess Allura trying to deal with her Parental Substitute, Coran, being progressively de-aged. Hilarity Ensues.