Hi Readers — I got this question yesterday and it is one that comes up from time to time. I’ll give you my answer, but the author would like to have yours, too. Here goes:
Dear Free-Range Kids: I have a question for you. Or a scenario. Every morning — ok most mornings — I get up at 5:30 and go to a boot camp in a park one city block from my house for one hour. My husband and the kids (almost 7 and 9) sleep through this 99.9% of the time. But right now my husband is out of town for two weeks.
In the past I would pay a sitter to come and hang out while I was gone. That sitter has since had a baby and I don’t know anyone crazy/nice enough to babysit at that hour on a regular basis.
I’m back and forth between letting the kids stay home by themselves and thinking I’m crazy selfish for even considering it. I’ve talked to them about me being gone and they are actually excited by the idea. I told them if they woke up they had to stay in bed until I got home. I would leave my phone for them to call me or 911 if necessary. We have a house alarm and two dogs. We know all of our neighbors.
There is no legal age for children to stay at home alone. Parents are advised to use their best judgment, keeping the child’s maturity level and safety issues in mind. Younger children have a greater need for supervision and care than older children. Obviously [!], young children under age 10 should not be left without supervision at any time….
That’s what keeps me from doing it. At least so far.
It seems silly to be scared/nervous to leave them home, safe in their beds for 1 hour!! What do you think? — Stacey Greenberg
Lenore here again: Stacey, your kids are sentient beings, they know how to reach you if they need you, and in a lot of the world they would be herding sheep already (alone, on a mountain), or going off to fetch water for porridge.
As for yours: Most of the time they’ll be asleep, but when they’re not they get the excitement and pride of you TRUSTING them. That’s good for them! I’m not sure I would insist they stay in bed. Maybe they can get up and play in their rooms, or something equally benign.
I am so sick of our culture that equates ANY indepedence — even the simplest act of waking up — as taboo and dangerous. Good luck. And can you call and get ME up to go to exercise, too?
Mom's at boot camp, all's right with the world.