I'm Bonding With My Tween Over 'The Baby-Sitters Club'

by Rachel Garlinghouse
Originally Published: 
I'm Bonding With My Tween Over 'The Baby-Sitters Club': mother and daughter holding up books
Courtesy of Rachel Garlinghouse

My obsession with The Baby-Sitters Club was reignited during a pre-COVID bookstore visit with my tween. We were on a rare one-on-one date, enjoying tea from the café and book browsing. I promised her that she could choose one book and to my delight, she picked up a newly-released graphic novel of none other than one of The Baby-Sitters Club stories. To say I was thrilled is an understatement. You’d better bet that the moment she was done with the book, I was reading it.

I grew up devouring every single book from The Baby-Sitters Club. I adored Claudia’s artistic endeavors and Kristy’s take-charge attitude. Remember when Mary Anne got a makeover? Poor Stacey had type 1 diabetes and couldn’t eat candy. Dawn was the cool girl from California. Later, the five added two younger sitters to the club, Jessi and Mallory. I remember wanting to be in their club so badly. Their friendships and entrepreneurship gave me some of the feel-good vibes I needed to survive my tumultuous tween years. Those girls were my friends when my real-life girlfriends were being petty. I’d pop a Jolly Rancher in my mouth, pull my hair up in a scrunchie, smear on some Lip-Smackers, and read my favorite book for the eighth time.

You can imagine my joy when Netflix announced that they’d be releasing a series featuring the fab BSC, the trailer promising to showcase all the nostalgic struggles and triumphs. I wrote the release date in my planner like it was a holiday to prepare for. My oldest tween and I watched the trailer a dozen times, and we were counting down the days until the show’s release.

Being a mom of four children, two of whom are tweens, can be challenging. Why does no one prepare or warn parents about the tween years like they do with the toddler and tween years? One minute, tweens are all lovey-dovey, wanting to have mommy-daughter chats and play LEGO together, and the next minute, I’m the worst mom ever because I simply asked that they make sure the laundry is fully dry before putting it away. Tweens are teens-in-training, but they also still have a good dose of little kid in them. Every day, there’s a good chance I’m in a damned-if-I-do and damned-if-I-don’t situation. There’s no winning—most days. That is, until the BSC resurgence. Now, we can’t get enough togetherness.

Snuggling on the couch while we watch Kristy answer the landline? Now that’s magical. Anyone else get goosebumps? Our mommy-kid struggles melt away, for a whopping 20-something minutes, while we watch another chapter of the girls’ lives unfold. It doesn’t matter how many times we’ve read the books or how familiar the characters are to us. The suspense of whether or not the BSC will land a babysitting gig is something fierce.

We’re popping the popcorn, grabbing blankets and pillows, and watching The Baby-Sitters Club on repeat. Because there are enough dumpster fires going on in the world right now, and we crave a happy distraction. We need the BSC more than ever before, a situation where no matter what adversity crops up, the ladies aren’t going to give up. They have their female power and, more importantly, they have each other.

We watched the first five episodes as a family, and my tweens had a lot of questions. Mostly, they noticed that the books depict the girls in one way, but the show took the liberty of dishing out some serious diversity—much to our delight. Mary Anne is biracial, for example, in the show. Like in the original books, Stacey has type 1 diabetes, though in the show we watch her manage her disease (the same one I have!) using an insulin pump. The modern twists, such as multiracial families, a gender nonconforming child, and same-sex couples, has brought about important discussions about how families are created and how they can evolve. There’s a Black mom and Asian child, a multiracial and implied-adoptive family, that mirrors our own. One theme that stands out to me is that the parent-child relationships are rocky at times, but there’s always resolution and love to be found. (Cue the heartfelt music.)

Liane Hentscher/Netflix

Sharing the BSC with my oldest tween has been an interesting experience. There’s 27 years between us and finding a common interest hasn’t been easy. Plus, I have four kids. There is limited time for me to focus on just one kiddo. The updated version of The Baby-Sitters Club is engaging and clean family entertainment, not to mention, just cool enough to hold my tween’s interest. The opening episode includes Lizzo’s song Juice, for example, proving the show’s relevance to tween viewers. The girls’ individual sense of fashion, Claudia’s love of art (and disdain for math), Kristy’s anxious demeanor, and Stacey’s disease are some of the many ways the show (and books) are giving us all the feels.

It’s funny how there’s so much of my childhood trending now, capturing the interest of my daughter. My tween owns a serious stash of fluorescent scrunchies, a Caboodle, and high-waisted pants and crop tops. Reliving my younger years with my daughter has been such a joy—enough to help me tolerate the tween drama, including eye rolling, door slamming, and mood swings.

We have plans. We’re reading more of the graphic novels together, and we are going to binge the second five episodes of the show tomorrow. I know what’s coming (having read well over one-hundred BSC books), including a wedding, boy trouble, and menacing children. I also know that the BSC won’t let me or my daughter down. They are predictably awesome—exactly what we need right now.

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