10 and 7 year old - should I let them be latchkey kids?
August 4, 2017 1:43 PM   Subscribe

We currently pay $450/month for afterschool care for our two boys, 7 and 10. They mostly color or play boardgames in the cafeteria, and they like it OK. We can afford this, though of course it would be nice to have that money freed up for savings or family trips. We already let the kids walk to and from school together (about a 20-minute walk). If we were to stop using afterschool care, the kids would walk home and be home alone for about 45 minutes to an hour before a parent arrived. They are generally pretty responsible and get along with each other OK. They don't seem to have strong feelings about this idea one way or the other. We have experimented with letting them stay home alone for short periods (for instance 20 minutes while I run out to get milk) and it's gone just fine. I can't figure out if this idea is empowering, free-range parenting or short-sighted miserliness! I'm totally torn and would love additional perspectives!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (49 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
It depends on the kids. How would they manage a door to door salesman/Jehovah's Witness? Do you trust them to call an ambulance if someone falls and cracks a skull, or to get out if there's a fire?

It also helps if you know your neighbours, and know if there is usually going to be someone home nearby as well.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 1:50 PM on August 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

How about some middle ground: is there a neighbor you could pay $10./hr to watch them for an hour after they get home?

I left my kids alone when they were this age, and was left alone with two younger sibs when I was 8, so I know it can work out fine. These days I think some people would consider it neglect, there might even be local laws to this effect. At the very least you might want to get them a cellphone so that they can call if they have problems on the way home, and so they can call to let you know they're home. What about weather?
posted by mareli at 1:53 PM on August 4, 2017

It also may be against the law depending on your state. Where I live the minimum age for a child to be home alone is 8, and the minimum age to care for a younger child alone is 13.

That being said, I leave my 8 year old home alone. We have cell phones and he knows how to reach the police, us, or the neighbors. He mostly plays video games.
posted by procrastination at 1:53 PM on August 4, 2017 [15 favorites]

I'm sorry, 7 and 10 is too young to show really good judgment. It's the correct age to get into loads of trouble, though. If it's just an hour, can they stay at a neighbor's or friends house in exchange for sitting compensation?

It may also be against the law in your jurisdiction, so there's that.
posted by jbenben at 1:55 PM on August 4, 2017 [6 favorites]

Have a neighborhood highschooler watch them? Maybe this teen can even take them to the neighborhood library after school to do homework, and you can pick them up from there?
posted by jbenben at 1:57 PM on August 4, 2017

They are absolutely old enough to be home alone if you trust their judgement. The biggest concern will be, as the agents of KAOS pointed out, running through a bunch of possible edge-case scenarios with them so they know how to handle them, as well as making sure that there is a very easy system (like a cellphone with you on autodial) for them to get a hold of an adult if they need to.

Check your local laws of course, as helicopter parenting is increasingly being mandated.
posted by 256 at 2:03 PM on August 4, 2017 [18 favorites]

Too young still. It is amazing what a bored or curious child can get into. I let mine be home alone beginning at about 12 and 8. They are adults now and occasionally drop a story about what they did back then that horrifies me. Although I do think they were old enough at that point. I just wish I had. Had some rules in place about cutting through other people's property, etc.
posted by SLC Mom at 2:03 PM on August 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

Personally I think 10 and 7 is too young. I miiight consider leaving a 10-year old alone- maaaaybe, depending on the kid. But you're effectively leaving the 7-year-old alone too, since a 10-yo is too young to be a good caregiver. I'd probably wait 'til the older kid was 12.

My parents paid a neighbourhood teen to walk us home and hang out after school. As a compromise, you could probably pay $10/day for that, and save more than $200/month.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 2:05 PM on August 4, 2017 [3 favorites]

Plenty of kids stayed home by themselves by the time they were 10 (I did, tons of my friends). I realize this is "survivorship bias" -- I can't say, well, it didn't kill me, so it's fine. But I think it IS fine, depending on the kids. It's an HOUR. I really think that it's a bigger problem if a kid cannot read, play games, color, or otherwise non-destructively entertain themselves for 60 minutes.

Have some rules in place (I had to call my mom the VERY SECOND I got in the door) and maybe test drive it by leaving them alone for half an hour, 45 minutes, then up to an hour while you go do the grocery shopping or whatever. If you're feeling very fancy, have a neighbor come knock on the door while you're gone and see what they do (after you tell them, don't answer the door or whatever the rule is).
posted by Medieval Maven at 2:05 PM on August 4, 2017 [12 favorites]

10 is too young to supervise 7. I'd revisit in 2-3 years.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:07 PM on August 4, 2017 [4 favorites]

My siblings and I were allowed to be home alone from a very young age. Based on that experience, I wouldn't leave my kid home alone, especially with another kid, at that age. Examples below, but there are many more.

One time somewhere in between 7 and 10 I suppose, I came home from school and couldn't find my key. My older brother (7 years older than me) was home but immersed in a book or something, so he didn't answer the door. I really had to pee, so I pushed on a window to see if I could open it. I broke the window in the process, cutting my wrist badly. My older brother thought he'd get in trouble if we told our parents, so he put a bandaid on it and bought me some pie to keep me quiet. I should have gotten stitches. I couldn't feel my pinky for *years*. It eventually healed up, but there are scars. We made up some story about the window, but my parents never knew about my hand.

Another time when I was even older, my sister and I (6 years older than me) decided to make french fries. Well, we got distracted by the tv while they were cooking. When we looked again, the pot of oil was on fire, and the cabinets above were burned. To our credit, we did know enough to cover the flaming oil rather than pour water on it.

Another time, we decided to reheat pizza. I thought it was a bad idea, but got overruled by my older sister, who put the pizza, still inside its cardboard box, into the oven. Another fire. My parents knew about the first fire because the cabinets were blackened. I don't think they ever knew about the oven fire.

My sister and I also tied up our younger brother (once or twice) so we could put make up on him.

I did NOT have helicopter parents, and there are good things about that. But the safety issue can be real if your kids are . . . . creative.
posted by pizzazz at 2:08 PM on August 4, 2017 [21 favorites]

I think 7 and 10 are definitely too young to be left home together, because siblings can fight and argue, and also 10 is too young to be responsible for another human being and if something ever happened, would carry that for life. I think there are 10 year olds where you could leave them home alone briefly.

But coming home from school alone where no one is checking in (as opposed to staying home for a few minutes and then leaving for school, where the school will take attendance) is not a great situation either because you don't know what they're walking into, and also things happen at the end of the school day that are upsetting and they are still young to handle it.

My son is just now starting to stay home alone briefly and he’s just about to turn 12.

For people who are like "I was fine when I was that age and also helicopter parents," I just want to point out that in the past, there were tons of women labouring at home for free, who kept an eye on things. We could run next door to a neighbour very easily. Things are not the same these days and although there are cell phones, it's not the same as someone who can see what the children are not seeing/saying. Also I have a ton of horror stories. My husband burned the field down the road down. Etc.
posted by warriorqueen at 2:09 PM on August 4, 2017 [12 favorites]

Do you have the "Home Alone" course available in your area? That gave my kid a huge boost in confidence.

We waited till the kids were 11 and 9, but only because we ddidn't have a reliable neighbour for them to go to. If you have a kindly neighbour that agrees to be the emergency person, I'd try it. We now have someone who is close but not a neighbor

Also assuming your kids don't fight. I know a family with two boys who cannot stop their fighting and their attempts at home alone failed miserably because of it
posted by Ftsqg at 2:12 PM on August 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

I think you probably know your kids, and you probably already know if they can be trusted to be alone for 45 minutes a day.

The Red Cross offers babysitting courses, I'd see about getting your 10-year-old enrolled in one if possible in your area, and practicing fire/safety drills just in case. Not to fear monger, but a local family just lost 3 of their 4 kids to a fire while the eldest was babysitting (the adults were at prayer group).

My parents left me in charge starting at age 8 and we all survived, no one got tied up, no pets were shaved, no liquor cabinets broken into. It helps that I was bossy and idolized The Babysitters Club, though.
posted by Syllables at 2:15 PM on August 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

This seems like such a community based answer, where the norms of your children's friends will come more into play than what mefites do. My 3yrs older brother watched me and my other brother starting when he was 9 and far longer than a set hour after school. This wasn't a case of being able to run to a mom in the neighborhood - my family wasn't particularly friendly with neighbors and would sometimes live so far out there were no neighbors. It was just normal in our (generally poor, rural, southern) community for kids to have a lot more space and freedom than is normal now. I find it shocking that some kids aren't alone in their homes until they are preteens or teens, but those are the norms for the people responding. This is something that will come down to your specific children and your surroundings, I think.
posted by radiopaste at 2:16 PM on August 4, 2017 [7 favorites]

I agree with the point that it may be less about whether the 10-year-old especially can stay home alone and more about whether a 10-year-old being responsible for a seven year old every day is fair and wise. As an oldest child who was always in charge my vote is no. My younger siblings managed to emerge unscathed under my care, but it was a big burden. You're passing the parenting onto a 10 year old, is another way of thinking about it, not being free range.
posted by dness2 at 2:19 PM on August 4, 2017 [13 favorites]

I was babysitting other people's children by the time I was 11. My little brother and I had ~hour-long, unsupervised home alone time just like this when I was even younger. There was no network of stay at home moms secretly watching us; it was middle class in the 90s, the neighbors all were latchkey kids, too. No one died and we still have all our limbs.

It depends on the kids, and it depends, too, I guess, on what's legal in your state.
posted by phunniemee at 2:21 PM on August 4, 2017 [9 favorites]

You know your kids; you know if they are ready for this.
posted by talkingmuffin at 2:22 PM on August 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

My brother and I were 10 and 7 when my parents' work schedules meant we had to go to an afterschool program. I hated it with a passion and BEGGED my parents to let me just go home and stay by myself. They were definitely not comfortable with me watching my brother at that age (mostly because my brother was not an easy child to look after and we fought far more than we had any relationship where he'd listen to me), and ultimately said no to me, because of the regularity of it. But they happily left me home alone at other times by myself at that age with no issue, so I think there was just something specific about this situation they didn't feel okay with. I took the Red Cross babysitting course the following year and started babysitting other kids, so there wasn't much of a time gap between "not okay" and "okay". I think some kids could probably handle this at age 10, and you'd have to know your kid (in retrospect, and having a kid of my own now, I'm still pretty sure I could have been fine). You'd also have to know your community, the likelihood of other parents finding out what the arrangement is, and dealing with whatever judgement may come your way, because of course there will be judgement. But I don't think there's a one-size-fits-all answer here by any means.
posted by olinerd at 2:24 PM on August 4, 2017

I don't have kids, but I was a kid. As soon as my parents started letting me stay alone (8-10), I started having friends and boys over. It's a good age for trouble. YMMV.
posted by Marinara at 2:30 PM on August 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you don't sign them up for the afterschool program, and then find out that letting them be home alone does not work, will you be able to get them into the program later?
posted by shiny blue object at 2:33 PM on August 4, 2017 [3 favorites]

Kids that age have been safely managing themselves for the entirety of human history. Like, they've demonstrated the maturity and critical thinking necessary to handle responsibilities much greater than "don't burn down the house, don't hurt one another, call 911 if something feels wrong."

But it also depends on the kids. Out of necessity, Kids Of Yore were expected to be more independent and handle more difficult responsibilities from a younger age. So by the time they're 7-10 they've had a lot of practice. But if the limit of a child's responsibilities to that point has been "pick up your toys", "make your bed", "don't play with fire", well, that's a different story and they've got a lot of learning to do.

There are courses (like Home Alone) that teach kids how to be safe and take care of themselves. Probably a good idea?

That all said--if you have a lot of helicopter parents in your area then be prepared for people to get all over you for not keeping your child on a leash.
posted by schroedinger at 2:36 PM on August 4, 2017 [7 favorites]

Also: you can always install a few webcams to surreptitiously keep an eye on them.
posted by schroedinger at 2:37 PM on August 4, 2017 [4 favorites]

How responsible are they? I was a VERY RESPONSIBLE Suzy Rule Follower of a kid and my mom would leave me home alone, or with a friend, for about 45 minutes when I was 10 or so. (Not at 7, though.) I am a very anxious person and even I would leave 10 year old me home for 45 minutes. However, every day is a lot AND asking 10 y.o. to be responsible for 7 y.o is going to be stressful for the older kid. If I were you, I'd wait until you were at, say, 12 and 9.

However, I totally agree that if you can get a neighborhood teenager to watch them for an hour, that's ideal. (Although, honestly, that might not save THAT much money; baby-sitters are expensive now!)
posted by Countess Sandwich at 2:47 PM on August 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

My ex-boyfriend's kids were totally fine at this age left alone. So was I, 20 years ago.

My best friend's niece and nephew on the other hand are this age now and are totally not ready to be left alone for any amount of time. They destroy things and hurt themselves even when multiple adults are around. It would be impressive if it wasn't also stressful and alarming.

Tl;Dr it really depends on the kid. If they are fine alone for quick grocery runs I'd build up to it by making grocery runs slightly longer to get them accustomed to it. Make sure they know how to reach you by phone, and best if there's a neighbor they can trust if the shit really hits the fan and they need a grown-up STAT and you are not able to drop everything and get home.

Of course if this is against the law period where you live the above-mentioned advice is moot. But if not, that would be my suggestion.
posted by thereemix at 2:59 PM on August 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

Sorry, don't use webcams/nanny bears unless you want to see your kids masturbating.
posted by Marinara at 3:02 PM on August 4, 2017 [11 favorites]

I think I was about 8 (third grade) when my folks would leave me alone. Not every day, and this was 1991, so YMMV. But at that age, I knew how to cook a little and do laundry and take care of the pets and do yard work, so I had chores and homework that needed to be done, but I mostly just checked in the house and then went outside and played with my friends. I was a much more responsible child than I ever have been as an adult, but maybe in addition to the great suggestions above, giving them extra age-appropriate tasks that ought to be done by the time a parent is home? Kids don't like to be bored. Also, I think having that freedom and independence makes things a lot less scary when they are older and have to begin taking care of themselves because they know they are capable. And they might thrive with the level of trust you show them. You know your kids the best; maybe sit down and everyone has a big talk about expectations and rules?
posted by sara is disenchanted at 3:26 PM on August 4, 2017

Here is a link to a 2013 US government document on leaving your kids alone. According to this, there are only 3 states with a minimum age requirement: Maryland (8), Oregon (10), Illinois (14). It has a couple of pages of links, including state-specific links, on the topic.
posted by elmay at 3:49 PM on August 4, 2017 [4 favorites]

The official age you can leave a kid in many jurisdictions is twelve.

One thing you might be able to do is have the kids stop in somewhere kid friendly like a library. That was a solution my mother used that worked extremely well for us. When she was at at school my sister and I went to the public library after school and waited there for her to pick us up rather than going home alone to wait for her. This was many years ago.

However some libraries have had problems with parents dropping off kids and are uncomfortable with unattended kids. Our local library had an minimum age posted, so that my daughter refused to go to the library alone for fear she would get in trouble.

My gut feeling here is that your kids are almost old enough, but that you would be taking a risk. It would almost certainly turn out okay, but if it didn't you would feel awful. So if it were my kids I wouldn't do it. I would be looking for a way to do transitional supervision - an older kid as mother's helper/escort - some thirteen-year-old might be thrilled to get the job of being in charge for an hour - or the baby monitor constant auditory contact, or see if they can stop in at a neighbour's.

Consider perhaps if you can find the kids a volunteer job - could they perhaps stop in at some location for an hour to do something useful for someone that would mean you knew where they were and what they were doing? They could stop at senior's house to exercise their dog in the backyard, or some such thing that would provide structure and interaction for everybody.
posted by Jane the Brown at 3:51 PM on August 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

I was a very "mature", non-anxious child and was left home alone from around 9 years old. I never told my parents that I was afraid, but I often freaked myself out with thoughts of kidnappers and burglars. And I would rehearse how I would handle various scenarios of attack. I don't have any siblings, so I don't know if they would comfort each other or fan the flames of anxiety. Under usual circumstances they should be fine, but you have to consider the unusual circumstances. Would they be able to handle an emergency on their own?

I like the suggestions of a high school kid who could walk them home or perhaps meet them there.
posted by defreckled at 4:13 PM on August 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

When I was about that age, I started watching my younger sister (six) and my younger brother (a six-month-old), alone in the house. I also did laundry, cleaned the house, cooked some basic meals, fed my siblings, took care of my brother, and pretty much became Deputy Mom. We all lived, and no one suffered any injury more major than a scrape or bruise. This was the '70s and early '80s, though, so my parents were a LOT more permissive than parents today. I played outside, unsupervised, all day from about the age of five on.

I vaguely remember my parents running through some what-if scenarios with me (What if the dog gets sick? What if someone cuts themselves and they're bleeding? What if there's an earthquake?), and I made a flow chart of different contingencies and solutions that I kept by the phone… where it collected dust until we moved house.

They're only going to be alone for an hour or so. If you can assign them chores that'll keep them busy for the bulk of that period, and that need to be done by the time you get home, they'll be too busy with those to get into trouble.
posted by culfinglin at 4:47 PM on August 4, 2017 [3 favorites]

I can tell you being put in that position at that age had an effect on me. I became super independent, because as a smart kid I got the silent message loud and clear, you're on your own, kiddo! I learned to distinguish when to call 9-11 which was pretty much never because my parent would get in trouble if it were found we were home alone. As a side benefit I became a dab hand at cleaning wounds and stopping bleeding without proper equipment or any sort of guidance. I later became super interested in how to survive without any support and read things like How to Survive in the Woods and squirreled away money and obsessed over what I would do in emergencies. I'm also pretty sure being put in that position wrecked any hope of a normal relationship between myself and my sibling.

But we didn't lose any limbs so yay. :-/

I'm sure everything will be fine.
posted by zennie at 4:53 PM on August 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

There's a difference between leaving them for an hour once in a while when you go for groceries, and leaving them every day. Going for groceries you might see that one is a little tired or the other a little rambunctious. There's no opportunity to adjust things if it's every day after school. You know your kids. Just something to add to the thought process.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 5:00 PM on August 4, 2017

When I was 10 and my sister was 7, we were left alone for short periods of time frequently and it was fine, and it absolutely did not ruin our relationship. We played together well most of the time and I was a responsible kid who knew how to use a phone, so I don't think my parents gave it a second thought, and neither did we. 45 minutes is just not that long. Like, if you were proposing to leave them alone from 3 p.m. until you got home from second shift that would be different, but this is nothing.

But this was also in a time (the '90s!) and a place where, like others here, I was babysitting other families' children at the ripe old age of 11, so YMMV. (Note too that there is a lot of class stuff at work here! Many of my students stay home with siblings starting around your kids' ages and even younger, because...that's the option, right, if you can't spring for hundreds of dollars in after-school care. Please don't be tricked into thinking that your proposal is, like, deviant, or even unusual. It's not.)

Obviously you know your kids, but if you think they're ready, they probably are.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 5:04 PM on August 4, 2017 [6 favorites]

Does it have to be both boys, or could you have 10 go home and 7 stay in care?

Is there an option for them to ride a bus to add some more checkpoints to the process?

I think I was around 11 or 12 when I was a latchkey kid for a bit. It had so little effect on me that I don't remember much beyond getting off the bus and digging out the hidden key. (I was a responsible child, but not responsible enough to keep track of the keys. Nowadays there are awesome locks where you just need the code!) I think I must have just read / practiced piano / amused myself quietly. However, I was NOT in charge of my little sister - she was at a different school and would have gone to after school care.
posted by Metasyntactic at 5:07 PM on August 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

I was a latchkey kid from about 9 years old...I got into a LOT of trouble, only some of which my mom ever found out about (real trouble...fire department involved trouble...). One the one hand, home alone for an hour is no big deal at all. (I was on my own far longer than that). On the other hand, I spent a lot of my youth terrified and with no help or guidance when I needed it. I think I started feeling comfortable with being on my own when I was around 12 or 13. Maybe when they themselves start telling you they don't need to go to daycare is a good time to make the change?
posted by AliceBlue at 5:24 PM on August 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

My brother and I were this age when we started to be left alone at home all day during the summer (3.5 years apart, I'm the older one). Prior to this we were in various summer daycamps, but we had to leave the house at 6:30 AM and wouldn't be home until 6 PM, and it was just awful. So the summer I was 10, my parents decided to let us stay home by ourselves for a few weeks in between having grandparents staying over. The rules were no answering the doorbell for anyone, no answering the phone to strangers, call Mom as soon as you wake up and always pick up if Mom or Dad call. I think the key, though, was that I really really did not want to keep going to daycamps, so I at least was ready do whatever it took; it sounds like your kids are more "meh."

My mom would make lunches which I was allowed to heat up in the toaster oven (we didn't have a microwave at the time). Once I turned on the toaster oven timer and went upstairs to watch a movie, and the mac and cheese burned a little. The fire alarm didn't go off or anything, but I suppose it could have -- would your kids know how to handle something like that?

Other things to consider that might be relevant:
1. Do your kids know the route from school or bus stop to your house? Does the route have sidewalks and low traffic, or are they going to have to cross a three lane commuter artery?
1b. If the kids are getting off the bus, are they allowed to get off without an adult waiting for them? My elementary school had this rule; if no adult present to collect the kid, the kid was not allowed to get off the bus and had to be returned to the school at the end of the route so their parents could be called. And this was in the 90s, which seems downright lackadaisical compared to now when it comes to childraising.
2. What do they do if someone (even someone they know) offers them a ride?
3. What do they do if a friend wants to have them over to play?
4. How are they going to get into the house? Literal key (where?) or a security code into the garage (this is what we did)
5. Rules on screentime? How will you enforce this?
posted by basalganglia at 5:31 PM on August 4, 2017

Depends on the kids.
Prepare them.
Make sure they can call you any time and you can pick up. Have an adult nearby that they can go to if there's need.
Get a webcam and tell them you want them to stay in the room, barring short snack and pee breaks.
Do a test run of 2 weeks, reevaluate.
Make sure they know they DON'T have to do it if they don't feel great about it. No 'we can save money' pressure. No 'be a big boy' pressure.
posted by BlueHorse at 5:46 PM on August 4, 2017

I used to watch my three (!) younger siblings for ~1.5-2 hours/day after school, starting when I was ten and the youngest one six. They still occasionally bitch about how I sent them to their rooms for too long when they did something wrong. That was the extent of the damage.

I agree with those saying the wisdom of the decision would depend very much on the particular kids, though.
posted by praemunire at 7:48 PM on August 4, 2017

It depends on the kids, it depends on your neighborhood, and if you know your neighbors well enough that your kids could go over there if something came up.

A psychologist once told me that 8 year old children have as much judgment as a stick, so there's that.
posted by mulcahy at 7:53 PM on August 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

Just another bit of anecdata: my sibling and I were left on our own for much longer stretches of time when we were just slightly older than your children (i.e., ages about 7/8 and 11/12), but we were both pretty quiet kids who were content to read, listen to records, watch TV, etc. and not really get into any mischief. So my own instinct is to maybe give it another year or so, with an eye to continuing to help them develop further skills in terms of self-sufficiency in the meantime.
posted by the return of the thin white sock at 9:30 PM on August 4, 2017

My creds: latchkey kid from the age of 6 who was "supervised" by my 8 year old sister, then a single parent of three kids. As a parent, my kids weren't allowed to be home without me after school until they were in 8th grade, so the youngest was around 13, and never for more than an hour.

The thing is, it's not entirely fair to make the older kid be responsible for the littler one. A kid that age, as mentioned upthread, has the reasoning ability of a stick. Put them in a situation where a slightly smarter stick now needs to control their inclinations towards dopiness and/or hijinks, and it's going to at the very least create lifelong friction, if not put them in genuinely dangerous situations.

Here's some of the stuff that happened when I was under 10 and my older sister was "watching" me:
* set the stove on fire
* ditto microwave
* get my hand caught in the blades of a blender
* get my hair caught in the blades of a blender
* adopted feral kittens and hid them in the basement
* crossed the George Washington Bridge to buy a soda
* walked home in the snow, without shoes, just to see what it would be like
* got bitten by a dog that looked friendly enough
* didn't understand a person opened windows by pushing on the wooden jam, not the glass, and needed stitches to repair my slashed wrist
* sliced off a chunk of my hand cutting a bagel
* poured nail polish over the floor to make it prettier
* gave myself a haircut ('nuff said)
* ran around the neighborhood playing a lot of ding dong ditch
* hid, terrified, with my sister under the bed for hours whenever someone rang our doorbell because we felt stupid calling the police
* got harassed by older kids when walking home
* got harassed by scary adults when walking home
* on several occasions, walked passed men in their cars "asking for directions" who had their dicks out

The thing is, I was a fairly mild and well-behaved kid when I was around adults. I was a lunatic without supervision and was always getting onto trouble, and there was no way my older sister could contain me. It was really unfair of my mom to put my sister in charge of me and I know that my sister has some pretty deep anger towards our mom for doing that to her. Additionally, I'm pissed at my mom for letting me be essentially unsupervised and letting me be terrified and get hurt again and again and again.

Wait until the youngest is 13.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 5:11 AM on August 5, 2017 [9 favorites]

I think it's fine to leave them alone. But if you decide not to, maybe take fuller advantage of the after school program to get your money's worth? I assume it runs longer than that. Go on a quick date with your spouse,run errands, etc. a few days a week.
posted by metasarah at 8:20 AM on August 5, 2017

I was allowed to walk home and hang out by myself or with my friends after school around 9-10 and I LOVED it. But, I did get into a fair amount of mischief, nothing serious looking back, but I do remember going through all my parents stuff, bike riding without helmets for hours, pranking people, eating all the junk I could, going to random people's houses, etc. We also lived in a super safe neighborhood then where there was always someone around if necessary, so that's one thing. That being said, I liked it wayyy more than afterschool, and I have some very fond memories of that time. We moved when I was 11 so I couldn't walk home anymore after school, and it was a real heartbreak for awhile. Anyway, I don't know what you should do, but I'm happy I had that time.
posted by Rocket26 at 8:41 AM on August 5, 2017

When I was in that age range, my siblings and I just Kimmy Giblered separately at friends' houses where parents were present. This was arranged by our parents and theirs, though I have no idea if any money changed hands. I mean, we would have been going there most of the time anyway; the prearrangement was pretty much just to make sure a parent was there and that we were welcome.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:25 AM on August 5, 2017

I want to add: the worse part about all of this was when I did something naughty, my mom would get furious at me and my sister for our terrible behavior, when the reality is we weren't old enough to be left alone and yet incident after incident, she continued to blame us.

So I would factor that in: how are you going to react if the kids on their own do something age-appropriate but possibly dangerous and dumb?
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 11:22 AM on August 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

We went through a very similar thought process last year with our eldest (11, in grade 5). I'm lucky in that I can be home right after school 3 days/week. In the end we decided to take it slow and signed him up for daycare on two days I couldn't make it home right after school, but let him walk home with a friend so that he was there 1/2 hour - 45mins before I arrived. I would call on my way home to make sure he'd arrived safely. It went fine. We also have an 9yo and one day a week our two kids would walk home alone from school (literally a block) and I would either be at home already or arrive within 5 minutes of them. Also went fine. (The 9 yo has sports/piano the other 4 days and carpools from school with me or another parent so that wasn't an issue).

This coming year neither of them wants to go to daycare. The 9yo still has sports 3x week so the 11yo will be home on his own for 1-1.5hrs 2x week and the two of them may be home alone for a few minutes two other days (depending on traffic basically). We have two neighbors who can be contacted for emergencies, a stay-at-home parent and a part-time worker.

In our neighbourhood this is pretty common. A lot of kids start coming home on their own around grade 4-5, and almost all are by grade 6. Grade 6 (11-12) is also when they take the babysitting course. There is no legal limit for what age a child can be left at home alone in our jurisdiction, though they can't be left alone in a car until they are 7. My 9 yo is incredibly responsible but I wouldn't have been comfortable with her at home alone before that age. You know your kids better than any of us, as well as local laws and community norms.
posted by Cuke at 1:57 PM on August 5, 2017

My son, I would have been comfortable leaving home for an hour when he was 4. He was just that mature and that responsible. He also knew the neighbors, how to call 911, never ever answer the door, etc. He also knew how to call my cousin two blocks away and my grandmother 5 minutes away. He's 15 now and aside from ADHD, I'd let him move out on his own if he wanted to. He's a little lazier now than he was at 4, though. When he was 4, he woke me up one day with a "Mama, guess what I did!" - he'd cleaned the bathroom.

My daughter is 12, and I still couldn't even think about leaving her home alone. First off, she's terrified of the idea. Then she's also flighty and spends a lot of time in her own little world. She also has some learning disabilities and spends about 1/4 of her time on the phone pushing random buttons. I can't count the number of times she's muted or hung up on me because she was pushing buttons.

I'm a firm believer that it depends on the kid.
posted by The Almighty Mommy Goddess at 3:13 PM on August 5, 2017

If you're doing this for the money it's short-sighted miserliness. And you know it's wrong because you're posting anonymously.

10 and 7 is probably far too young for an hour *every day*. It's great to give children freedom to explore, freedom to look after themselves, etc, but I think it's unkind to impose that systematically, day in, day out, and place this burden of responsibility on a ten-year old child.
posted by Pechorin at 5:04 AM on August 6, 2017

« Older Why hasn't the stock market crashed yet, and why...   |   Moving to Montréal - short and long term... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.