Advice Columnist Tells 14-y.o. She Needs an Older Babysitter Who Can Drive

Readers — Is there anyone in any position of authority who EVER says, “Well, the chances are not 100% that your kid will be safe if you do X, but they’re close enough not to worry about them”? If not, maybe that should be my next job: Ask rdtydfrfkd
the Free-Ranger
. In the meantime, I present what passes for wisdom and rationality in modern day America. Sigh. – L.

P.S. Not even getting INTO the idea that the babysitter is sometimes a college guy and she’s 14…

Hey, Cherie!

This might sound like a crazy question, but at what age do you think a 14-year-old student should be allowed to stay home alone? I am an only child who is going into 10th grade (I turn 15 over the summer), and my parents are still married. I know that is a miracle, because at least 60 percent of my friends have divorced parents. One of my parents works outside the house at a regular job, and the other parent has a home business where she makes and sells crafts over the Internet. It is pretty successful and together they make good money.

So at least one of my parents is always home. And even though I am 14, if they do go out, they still get me a baby sitter. They say that it is similar to an insurance policy to have a college student at the house – no need for the student until there’s a huge demand, and then they will be glad he or she is there. For example, if I get really sick and must immediately go to the hospital. If my parents go to the city or to a play, they want someone at the house who has a car and is old enough to drive.

Cherie, I don’t want to do illegal stuff, but it is humiliating when the baby sitter comes and I am almost as tall as he is. Can you convince my parents to stop this stupidity? I am old enough to be home alone. – Home Alone

Hey, Home!

I owe you one. You gave me a great reminder why it’s important to have a baby sitter with a car when Jeff and I go out at night. We also have a teen who doesn’t drive, and now that I think about it, there are many reasons for him not to be home alone.

You have good parents when they realize that it is not an issue for you to be home by yourself until it becomes a big problem.

It is just better to have an adult who has a car as well as a little bit more of the good judgment that should come with experience. The chances of a catastrophic event occurring are small, but you never know. They are only covering their bases by having a baby sitter there for you, and I think it is smart.

Someday, you may be that baby sitter for someone else. I hope you don’t have to drive a child to the hospital, or call the parent to say the kid broke an arm; however, it could happen.

For now, set up some ground rules about the baby sitter leaving you pretty much alone, and I think you’ll be OK. Thoughtful letter. Thanks!

UPDATE: As some of you have pointed out, it is possible the 14 year old is boy, not a girl. Sorry for jumping to that conclusion. – L.

Advice columnist says no one should stay home alone till driving age!

Advice columnist says no one should stay home alone till driving age!


140 Responses to Advice Columnist Tells 14-y.o. She Needs an Older Babysitter Who Can Drive

  1. Natalie May 21, 2013 at 8:12 am #

    So before Henry Ford made it possible for every American to buy one…

  2. maggie May 21, 2013 at 8:15 am #

    I think it is funny in the original question she says when the sitter gets there HE is almost as tall as she is …so she needs a babysitter but the parents aren’t worried about leaving her alone with a college boy?

  3. Linda Wightman May 21, 2013 at 8:20 am #

    This is nuts in so many ways. I was the babysitter well before age 14, as were my children. We had all the requisite emergency phone numbers (even before it was made easy by 911).

    Come to think of it, if it’s a real emergency, would you want a relatively new driver taking your child to the hospital? How about an older, reliable neighbor? Better yet, if it’s really an emergency, I’d want the babysitter to call an ambulance, so there would be paramedics involved quickly.

    And if you feel all right about letting teen who can drive stay home alone — would you want him driving himself to the hospital while in a critical medical condition? Maybe no one should be left alone EVER. Maybe teens need those “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” buttons.

  4. pentamom May 21, 2013 at 8:26 am #

    Aren’t there things called ambulances?

    In a crisis where it’s critical that someone get immediate help or get somewhere quickly, isn’t that what 911 is for anyway? If things are short of calling 911, then can’t another way of coping be found (call another adult friend, call the parents and wait until they get home, etc.)?

    Should adults who don’t know how to drive be allowed to live alone?

    Should an almost-15 year old be expected to have the kind of good judgment that would serve her well enough to be allowed to stay quietly at home for an evening (as opposed to leading a primitive expedition through grizzly country)?

    These are the questions that come to mind, but apparently not to the mind of Ms. Advice Person.

  5. Natalie May 21, 2013 at 8:32 am #

    Pentamom- does that mean you have 5 kids? Wow.
    I posted something to that effect on the comment section. We’ll see if the writer minds dissent among her readers.

  6. lollipoplover May 21, 2013 at 8:34 am #

    There’s also this thing called 911! They come to your house in an emergency! Someone should tell Cherie.

    “It is just better to have an adult who has a car…”

    No it’s not. Your child is more likely to be killed or injured in a CAR ACCIDENT vs. moving from the sofa to the computer.

    Where is Cherie giving this advise from? A bomb shelter from the ’60’s? This is scarrrrrry…

  7. pentamom May 21, 2013 at 8:38 am #

    Natalie — yes it does!

  8. Terry May 21, 2013 at 8:41 am #

    What ever happened to, “Here is a list of neighbor’s phone numbers that you can call if you need them?” When I babysat at age 13, it was way before cell phones were around. I might have the phone number of the restaurant where the parents would be, or the movie theater, but mostly I did not. I knew I could call a neighbor or my parents if need be. I wonder how many parents today would be willing to leave their child at home with a sitter, and not take their cell phone with them!

  9. Robin from Israel May 21, 2013 at 8:45 am #

    Gah! By that age I was finished babysitting and working at the mall!

    We (well not we the free-rangers, but you know what I mean) are raising a generation of emotional cripples. It boggles the mind…

  10. Snow May 21, 2013 at 8:47 am #

    When I was in 2nd grade I had a babysitter who routinely invited her friends over so they could smoke pot and have sex. When I was in 3rd grade I had no babysitter – my parents found out what the babysitter I had in 2nd grade had been doing and decided I was better off fending for myself!

    I can’t imagine leaving an almost 15 year old with a babysitter unless the almost 15 year old has some sort of disability that causes him or her to require supervision. My 11 year old has his own key to the house and I trust him to stay alone.

  11. Sky May 21, 2013 at 8:48 am #

    Is this a boy or a girl? Shouldn’t parents be much more concerned about leaving a 14 year old girl alone in the house with a college boy than just leaving her alone? Bizarre.

    I drink wine with dinner regularly. I have friends who say – you drink even when your husband is away on a trip? What if one of the kids needs to go to the hospital??? Well, I doubt I’ll be drunk on 2 glasses of wine over a meal and an evening, but…there’s also 911 for emergencies.

  12. Rebecca Menes May 21, 2013 at 8:50 am #

    Oh heavens. I didn’t DRIVE until I was 22. But I was able to move freely about NYC at the age of 12 – and this was in Dangerous Age (late 70s, early 80s). And we didn’t have cell phones, either.

    But let’s help this kid — what can she say her parents:
    1. Get phone number of local taxi service
    2. Get phone number of local adult friends of the family, so if she needs an emergency ride she has someone to call
    3. Get a “Granny Button” – one of these med-alert buttons. Or a security service like ADT. Then she can call the ADT security center if there is an emergency.
    4. Do a little research – how common are household emergencies? How often do they occur when the parents aren’t home? Even in our terrifying world of non-stop Cable News, I don’t remember too many stories that start “Unsupervised fourteen year old suffers massive fatal heart attack…”
    5. Offer to put the baby-sitter $$$ in an account for college. Or maybe in an account towards HER first car (although I suspect having a car is way more dangerous than being home alone without one.)

  13. Rob May 21, 2013 at 9:01 am #

    Oh for crying out loud. I was baby-sitting my neighbors kids when I was 12! (She was my social studies teacher in junior high.)

  14. Liz May 21, 2013 at 9:08 am #

    Well gee, I’m an adult but don’t drive due to disability, maybe I should get a babysitter for when I’m home alone with my kids. Which since I’m a SAHM who home schools, is probably about 80% of the time.

  15. Jo @ Countrylifeexperiment May 21, 2013 at 9:11 am #

    We live on a farm, and happily leave the 8 year old at home if we need to go work in the paddocks and she doesn’t want to come. I trust her completely, and if there is an issue, she knows how to call people on the 2 way radio or phone. Realistically, the chances of anything happening are minimal.

  16. Stacy May 21, 2013 at 9:12 am #

    Totally agree with the eyebrow raising about the 14 yr old with the college boy.

  17. Cynthia May 21, 2013 at 9:12 am #

    I’m 40 with a 7 year old daughter and I don’t drive. Horrors!

  18. Puzzled May 21, 2013 at 9:13 am #

    Maybe this was some sort of satire or joke?

  19. Kai Price May 21, 2013 at 9:18 am #

    A 14yo might need a babysitter–if their parents overprotected them to such an extreme that they are completely incapable of handling ANY situation without direct supervision. It’s not neglect to skip the babysitter for a 14yo while parents take an evening out. My mother sometimes went away for the whole weekend at that age, giving us phone numbers, setting aside some leftovers, and giving us some cash for groceries and emergencies. No problem. What is neglect is for parents to not provide a 14yo with the basic life skills to be able to survive the parents taking an evening out without getting a babysitter. A normal, non-mentally-challenged 14yo should TOTALLY be able to handle that, because it really doesn’t take much–unless they have had severely deficient parents.

  20. Emily May 21, 2013 at 9:20 am #

    I’m the one who showed Lenore this article in the first place, and for a good reason. You see, I was born with a spatial disability–five weeks early, stuck feet first instead of head first, umbilical cord wrapped around my neck twice, cutting off the flow of oxygen to the left side of my brain. The doctor rushed in at 2 a.m. to perform an emergency C-section, which prevented me from being a stillborn, or a vegetable, or severely mentally handicapped. For the most part, I’ve lived a normal life; however, some tasks are, and always will be, much more difficult for me than for others. This is why I got my Bachelor’s degree (in music) before I got my driver’s license. I got my G1 (written test) when I was sixteen, like all my peers did, but I didn’t get my G2 (until I was 23, or my full G until I was 25. For the uninitiated, here’s a quick run-down:

    Anyway, I found this article offensive, because, even though I couldn’t drive until much later than my peers, that didn’t mean I wasn’t an adult, or wasn’t responsible, etc. My parents allowed me to stay home alone from the age of twelve on, and that was also the age that I started volunteering in children’s programs at the YMCA. I was also taught to call 911 in the case of an emergency, and even then, the chances of that would have been fairly small, because I’d started learning first aid and CPR at the age of eight, and I also learned rescue techniques in swimming lessons. When I was fourteen (the age that Dear Cherie thinks this girl still needs a babysitter), I was swimming at the cottage with my family, and my three-years-younger brother was swimming way out in the middle of the lake, and he started having chest pains. I swam out, and pulled him in. My dad couldn’t have done it, because he swims like a rock, and my mom is a good swimmer, but just can’t swim as far as I can anymore. So, by that logic, nobody in my family should be allowed to be around water without me…..but, we don’t have that rule, because we don’t believe that it’s necessary, or even possible, for everything to be 100% risk-free, 100% of the time.

    Another thing that Dear Cherie didn’t address is, what about adults who can’t afford cars? I’m in that boat right now, and it’s getting increasingly harder to find work where you don’t need your own vehicle. This creates something of a vicious circle. I’m not saying that it’s up to the parents in this article to fix that, but the more people promote the idea that you need to drive everywhere, even to a one-off babysitting job in the daytime (during public transit hours), for a FOURTEEN-year-old, because something might, possibly, go wrong, the harder it’s going to be for young people everywhere to get their first job, which is often babysitting. So far, “babysitting age” has shifted from twelve or thirteen, to later in high school, and it looks like it’s going steadily up. I’m afraid that, in a few years, the requirements for the average babysitting job will include a degree in medicine.

  21. JaneW May 21, 2013 at 9:24 am #

    My family only has 1 car at present. Am I safe here at home, when my husband has driven it to work?

    Oh, right, there’s the phone. And the neighbors. And my feet, which work just fine, and the bus out on the main road.

  22. Gpo May 21, 2013 at 9:24 am #

    We started leaving our kids alone when the oldest was almost 12. Once summer hits they will be home alone for about 6 hours 3 days a week. I am not worried at all. I did not raise idiots.

  23. gap.runner May 21, 2013 at 9:25 am #

    Good grief! Like Rob, I was also babysitting regularly starting at age 12. At 14 I was the babysitter and not the babysitee (is that a word? well it is now). My parents would have been more worried about leaving a college-age boy alone with me at 14.

    Back when I babysat (the early to mid ’70s), the parents would leave me the phone number where they would be. If they were going someplace “far” (more than about 30 minutes away) they would leave a neighbor’s phone number along with the standard emergency numbers.

  24. Christine May 21, 2013 at 9:26 am #

    When I was in around grade five or six, my babysitter WAS fourteen! Obviously my parents trusted her to not only be at our place without an adult, but to mind three younger children at the same time….

    I can’t imagine having a babysitter at age fourteen. Once I turned twelve I was the one watching the younger sibs — and look, we all survived it.

  25. Andrew May 21, 2013 at 9:28 am #

    Like others, I was in the care of babysitters younger than 14 as a child in the 1970s. Today, we will happily go out for an evening leaving our 14 year old in charge of his younger brother.

  26. Taradlion May 21, 2013 at 9:31 am #

    This is insane, I also was babysitting at 12. Had my own parents number and maybe the number if the restaurant where parents were going. Here’s another thought, sometimes a parent had an injury or medical emergency. My husband passed out from a heart arrhythmia (he didn’t know he has) in a school parking lot and fell just the wrong way resulting in a serious head injury. He’d been alone with my kids (4 and 6 at the time) for a hour and I just happened to stop by with the car on my way back from the store. Literally a minute before it happened…caused all sort of “what ifs”… There are no guarantees. Anything that could happen to the 14 year old, could happen to the college age babysitter.

  27. Violet May 21, 2013 at 9:33 am #

    We need a column on how many boys and girls had their first sexual experience via the babysitter. No, we don’t. We actually already know the answer. Doesn’t this child know anyone in her neighborhood?

  28. lollipoplover May 21, 2013 at 9:45 am #

    I feel so bad for this teen asking for advice. Her parents don’t trust her alone. Heaven help her when (if) she goes to college in a few years.

    Like other posters, I trust my 12 yo to babysit his younger siblings. Before that we used a 14 yo babysitter. I don’t understand at all how the ability to drive has anything to do with being responsible.
    I see more irresponsible, older drivers (saw a man texting and eating a hoagie this weekend) these days.

  29. Steve S May 21, 2013 at 9:49 am #

    I suppose there may be some circumstances, besides special needs, where a 14 year old may need some kind of supervision, such as if they been demonstrably irresponsible, but the girl in that letter sounds pretty mature.

    I was left home alone prior to that age. Our daughter has been, too, but we made sure she knew what to do in a variety of situations and gave her a few trial runs. Regardless, I would expect a babysitter to call 911, not race off to the hospital. An ambulance is less than 5 minutes away. Driving to the ER takes at least 30 minutes on a good day.

  30. A Dad May 21, 2013 at 9:59 am #

    This unfortunate child is being emotionally crippled by his/her parents.
    When will she/he be able to make age appropriate decisions for him/herself?
    College is likely to be either a frightening experience or a wild ride once the restrictions are removed.

  31. CrazyCatLady May 21, 2013 at 10:02 am #

    Hey Home Alone,

    Here is how to get rid of the babysitter – this worked great for my older brother when he was about 11.

    Dress up for him. Do up your hair, put on makeup, put on nice clothes. Tell your parents how much you are looking forward to the babysitter. And it really doesn’t matter if the sitter is male or female these days….

    Now, my brother didn’t put on makeup, but he did put on his Sunday best, and my parents noticed. That was when my brother became my babysitter. He couldn’t drive, but her sure knew how to use a phone, and how to tell the people on the party line how to get off because there was an emergency (which there was one night. )

  32. LisaS May 21, 2013 at 10:14 am #

    I’m with everyone else on the OMG factor of a college age babysitter for the 14 year old girl. I think crazycatlady has a great suggestion on how to fix half that situation in a sneaky way, but the real issue is that the girl is 14 – 2 years away from driving herself, and 4 from moving off to college. It’s hard for some parents to accept that fact – I’m discussing it on a regular basis with other parents in my peer group about our 11-13 year olds. But if she’s going to be an independent person in 4 years, she needs to start practicing now, and since her parents apparently are unable to face reality, she needs to sit them down and wake them up about it.

  33. LisaS May 21, 2013 at 10:15 am #

    (and I made my kids both get the rudimentary babysitter training – Girl Scout badge materials, essentially – before allowing them to stay home alone for more than an hour. now I have extra money for fun on date night! yay me!)

  34. Thomas May 21, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Just a thought, but shouldn’t all these comments be directed to “Dear Cherie”? Anybody know how we can fill her email box with free range common sense?

  35. Hi, I'm Natalie. May 21, 2013 at 10:23 am #

    At 14, I’m fairly confident that I would have come on to any college-age man who I was home alone with – if this had been me, the babysitter would have run screaming. Heh.

    Seriously: This poor kid. Unless the parents strongly suspect that she’s going to party and wreck the house while they’re briefly gone (doesn’t sound like it from this letter), there is no reason to hire a sitter. ;>/

  36. SnarkyMomma May 21, 2013 at 10:35 am #

    I don’t even know what to say to this. Teach your kid about 911? Teach your kid how to call your cell phone? Your kid is in HIGH SCHOOL. I can’t even imagine having a babysitter for my kids once they’re in Junior High, let alone high school. That’s insulting to the kid, and teaching her that her parents don’t trust her, and that she’s not capable of taking care of herself. Ridiculous.

  37. Jen Connelly May 21, 2013 at 10:44 am #

    Like college kids are the epitome of responsibility.

    My oldest will be 13 this summer and she’s been staying home alone for an hour or two since she was almost 11.

    I have 4 other kids including an almost 3yo. They all stay home together all the time so me and my husband can get away once in awhile (usually to grocery shopping). The kids are 12, 11, 10, 7 and 2. They are just fine on their own. Sometimes the 12yo isn’t even home and it’s just the younger 4 (the 11yo will be 12 in October).

    When all 5 are there no one is officially the babysitter. The older 3 are supposed to keep an eye out for the younger 2. They fight a lot but they can watch out for each other just as well.

    When I was 14 going on 15 I was always on my own–the way I liked it. I took public transportation home from school every day (with hundreds of other kids), sometimes I’d get off at the mall exit then walk home from the mall (2 miles). I regularly got on my bike and just rode until I got tired and then biked home (covering sometimes 8 or more miles in a day). That was long before cell phones.

    I feel for kids nowadays. If my parents had been that far up my butt as a kid I would have lost my mind.

  38. Arlington Mom May 21, 2013 at 10:44 am #

    Driving is SO much more dangerous than sitting around your house.

  39. Matthew May 21, 2013 at 10:47 am #

    Wow. that’s insane. Put me in with the others that were staying home alone at 7 (but wasn’t allowed to watch my kid sister (3.5 years younger) til I was 10. At 7 my parents left me and my books with a cranky woman that took my books so I would watch TV with the 3 year olds and “be sociable”. She went to the bathroom, I snagged my books and jacket, and 45 minutes later had walked the 2.5 miles home, in the cold and dark and across a couple busy roads (at the intersection with the light), popped the screen porch latch with my library card, and read til my parents got home. The babysitter called the cops, and neither her or the cops thought to check my house. To my parent’s credit, they blasted the sitter for not letting me be with my books, and the sitter and cops for being too stupid to check the route home. Of course, at 7, my parents also turned me loose in the grocery store with a 20 to buy meals for two days, which I also had to cook and clean with minimal supervision, so they also knew I could fix my own dinner.

  40. Emily May 21, 2013 at 10:49 am #

    @LisaS–That’s a great idea. Let’s all write to Dear Cherie, and tell her what we’ve all said here.

    Also, to everyone who thinks that a fourteen-year-old girl and a male college student would automatically lead to one coming on to the other, I’m not sure I agree with that. I was a fourteen-year-old girl once, and I don’t think I would have done that, had I been in that situation. I’ve also been through university, and I had (and continue to have) friends from there of both genders. I’m sure that, if any of my male friends from university would have probably thought, “Why don’t this girl’s parents trust her?”; but if they’d taken them up on the job, they probably would have just hung out at the house, maybe watched a movie or played some video games with the girl (or not, if she didn’t want to), and that would have been that. I hate to say it, but those kinds of negative assumptions are venturing a bit close to “Eek, a Male!” territory.

  41. Beth May 21, 2013 at 11:12 am #

    I left a comment on Cherie’s site; however, it must not have passed their rigorous screening because it’s been far more than “a few minutes” since I posted.

  42. Heather P. May 21, 2013 at 11:16 am #

    CrazyCatLady, you’re brilliant. 🙂

  43. Warren May 21, 2013 at 11:17 am #

    My 14 yr old daughter just spent the Long weekend camping with some friends. 6 girls all around the same age, in tents, doing it all for themselves. We dropped them off Saturday and picked them up yesterday. They had an fantastic time.

    They had no parents watching over them, and obviously at 14 no car to use. They had what they went with, which included phones. They are already talking about going again.

  44. Hels May 21, 2013 at 11:21 am #

    Oh, poor girl. No wonder there is so much talk about teen rebellion – what normal person would NOT rebel against such treatment?

    When I was 11, my parents started leaving me alone for a weekend. They would leave on Friday afternoon (before I got home from school) and come back on Sunday night. Pretty much EVERY weekend in May and September. I absolutely knew how to take care of myself – I took public transportation to and from school since I was 9, had been grocery shopping for as long as I remember myself, etc. And for emergencies, I knew all my neighbors, at least one of them would have to be home!

    The only time I needed help was when I managed to cut my right hand pretty badly when slicing crusty bread. I walked over two doors down, where I knew my friend’s Mom was home. She bandaged it up and thtat was it, now visits to the ER or anything. I was not even scared. I have only been to the ER once as a kid (and once as an adult) and that was for something that happened outside the home, and was not imminent danger either, just a bad fall…

  45. Sarah May 21, 2013 at 11:23 am #

    This made me want to check our county’s guidline for leaving children unattended. Now I regret looking! I can’t believe the rules. Not in the car? Early evening hours, late evening hours, overnight? Are you kidding me?

    I also found the state rules which kinda tells you not to base it by age but by maturity. But if CPS is called you are still screwed.

  46. Tsu Dho Nimh May 21, 2013 at 11:44 am #

    In case of emergency … call 9-1-1 Even toddlers have done it when their parents collapsed.

    BUT OH NOES!!!! What if the at-home parent collapses unconscious when there is no babysitter at home to handle the emergency? And the other parenbt is at work. They are gonna DIE!!!!

    Is this going to turn into something like scuba diving, where you always have two in the water and one fully suited in the boat in case something happens?

  47. Natalie May 21, 2013 at 11:52 am #

    Sarah-There’s state rules for this? Jeez. I guess I should check out whether or not my 6 yr old can legally be a latch key kid. I was counting on that for next year so I wouldn’t have to drive like a maniac to get back from work in time to meet her at the bus stop.

  48. Tsu Dho Nimh May 21, 2013 at 11:56 am #

    Why are people assuming that the 14 year old is a female? “Cherie” is the advice columnist, and the only gender mentioned is the make college student babysitter.

  49. Brian May 21, 2013 at 12:03 pm #

    I find the comments about a college boy babysitting a 14 year old girl to be really obnoxious and offensive. Unless he happened to be a pedophile, (which the odds would be the same regardless of the ages involved) I do not see the question. He is approximately 2 years away from being a teacher in her school, her boss at a summer job or a cop. Lets not suggest that relations between them would be something most men in his position would pursue.

  50. Brian May 21, 2013 at 12:04 pm #

    We have a 13 year old babysitter who does a great job. One thing about babysitting in general (especially when the sitter is not yet in HS) is that the parents who hire you also know you have your parents as backup. She lives about 4 doors down so she also knows the neighbors and her parents live nearby. It is nice to know that there are plenty of people who could come help if needed.

  51. Sarah in WA May 21, 2013 at 12:05 pm #

    It saddens me that this is the level the advice column has sunk to. Really, anyone can go on the internet and dispense “advice”, it seems.

    I remember reading advice columns in the newspaper as a teen. (A real newspaper! Think of it!) Maybe I’m being nostalgic, but I feel like standards were much higher then. That is, the advice generally was much better.

    Of course, the internet is great. After all, I’m using it right now, but it seems that with this ease of publishing comes a lot of garbage. This is not advice. This is someone responding while really just thinking of herself.

    “I owe you one. You gave me a great reminder why it’s important to have a baby sitter with a car when Jeff and I go out at night. We also have a teen who doesn’t drive, and now that I think about it, there are many reasons for him not to be home alone.”

    So, she’s just applying the scenario to herself. This is the most selfish advice columnist I have ever seen! Do you think you might actually want to HELP the person who wrote to you? It’s okay to relate to things personally, but that’s not what the writer is asking you for.


  52. Natalie May 21, 2013 at 12:13 pm #

    Hah. That’s an excellent observation Tsu Dho Nimh. I didn’t notice and I’m guilty of the same thing.
    We all have ingrained suppositions about male and female that come from bias. The way to get rid of it is to point it out. Good for you.

  53. Ravana May 21, 2013 at 12:20 pm #

    When I was 3 I split my head open while my parents were out. The college aged babysitter ran around the house shrieking. My 5, 7 and 9 year old brothers, stopped the bleeding, called the doctor (who still made emergency house calls back then) and cleaned up the mess. The doctor had to call the babysitter’s mother to come get her because he was afraid to let her try to drive herself home. My parents stopped hiring babysitters after that. I started babysitting when I was 11. Two friends and I ran our own drop in summer camp when we were 13. 911 is going to get you a faster response than some college kid with a car.

  54. C May 21, 2013 at 12:34 pm #

    “… a little bit more of the good judgment that should come with experience.”

    Internal contradiction by the advice columnist. If things continue on the path of her advice, someone does not gain experience simply by being older. Good judgement DOES come with experience, which is why you should encourage your children to get as much experience as quickly as possible.

    Instead we seem to be protecting the from experience.

  55. lollipoplover May 21, 2013 at 12:44 pm #

    My12 yo son *technically* can drive a car somewhat decent (he first learned in the book Fifty Dangerous Things you shourl let your children do) and is an avid go-cart driver so if push came to shove, he could drive this 14 yo in an emergency. .

    Babysitting and Driving have nothing to do with each other. I’d take a young teen sitter who is responsible and smart and plays with the kids vs. plopping them in front of a screen so she can update her status to “sooo bored”) over Driver Sitter any day. Our favorite sitter started at 12 (and the parents were lovely, too) did crafts and played games with our kids…that’s what I expect out of a sitter.

    What is the mom fearful that this 14 yo will do on her own? Get into the craft room and sniff the glue?

  56. G May 21, 2013 at 12:47 pm #

    Did I miss the part where the 14 year old discloses gender? Are we just assuming that this is a female? Just curious.

    I think this goes way beyond typical helicopter parenting or in the least is on the way extreme end. A 14 nearly 15 year old can receive a work permit in many states and can be married (with permission) in others.

    We all know the disservice these parents are doing their child by not teaching basic life skills and responsibility. But what are they doing to their child’s self esteem. If she/he ever runs into a run of the mill emergency will she/he freeze up thinking I’m not old enough to handle this.

    If this is a female teenager I have serious questions about the parents judgment in hiring a college age male. Also (and I’m only half kidding about this) isn’t a 15 yr old female equal in maturity to a 20 yr old male?

  57. Mom of 2 May 21, 2013 at 1:02 pm #

    This is INSANE. When I was TEN, not only did my parents leave me home alone with my younger siblings and instructions to cook dinner for the three of us, I was taking paid babysitting gigs for the neighbors! By the time I was 14 I thought I was too old to babysit anymore. Now I leave my 1 and 3 year old in the hands of a 14 year old for date nights and I don’t worry in the slightest. She knows how to dial 911 just as well as I do.

    Do girls these days still read the babysitters club? I loved those books. Anyway, the girls in the books were 11-13 and were doing the babysitting, not being babysat! There’s probably some new version where the babysitters are 16-18.

  58. Warren May 21, 2013 at 1:17 pm #

    LOL, if these parents are still so overprotective that they are getting a college age babysitter for their teenager, I do not think there is any risk of the college boy being inappropriate or a deviant. These over protective parents will have fingerprinted, background checked, swabbed the inside of his mouth, obtained medical and school records. Probably easier to get into Area 51.

    As for assuming it is a 14 yr old girl? I think most were just playing the odds. Writing into an advice column is something more likely done by a teen girl, rather than a boy. Not saying all the time, and I know Natalie is going to call me sexist, but it is a fair assumption.

  59. Havva May 21, 2013 at 1:28 pm #

    So many good responses. My daughter’s babysitter, who I believe is 15, doesn’t have a car. And even though a sitter is necessary, my daughter is 2, I wouldn’t look for one with a car. I would expect a sitter to have enough sense if something happened to call 911, call her parents, or walk out of the house and knock on the door of a house with cars parked out front (no garages in our neighborhood.)

    As for the 14 year old. I suggest she ask her parents to let a friend hang out with her, or go to a friend’s house instead. If she has any friends who can drive, that could put lie to the excuse. I had a friend who was seriously helicoptered growing up. I was probably in middle school when her parents started having trouble finding a sitter much older than their daughter and asked me. I of course did not have a car. Nor did I live in the neighborhood. And my mom often went shopping (thus out of contact) while I “babysat” my friend. Nor did I have a way to contact my friend’s parents. I hung out with my friend and if there were ever a serious emergency I would have called 911 or gone and knocked on a neighbor’s door. Just like I was trained to do when left home alone years earlier than that.

    And what is with parents wanting to load all the responsibility in the world on their kids, all at once, the moment they learn to drive. That is the worst possible time to be learning to navigate your city, and be responsible for handling unexpected problems.

  60. Maura May 21, 2013 at 1:47 pm #

    The title indicates that the 14 y/o is a girl, but the actual letter does not indicate gender at all. Does your opinion change if the 14 y/o is male? How about the part where the child say the parents “go into the city”? To me that says either late night or an extended period of time. I don’t think any 14 y/o needs a babysitter during the day or for mom and dad’s date night if it is local and not really late. If there is more than one child in the house (depending on how well they get along) it could be later. But a 14 y/o alone, late at night might not be as comfortable as he/she thinks he/she will be. Remember this letter is from the 14 y/o’s perspective. It is quite possible that some details were left out.
    Regardless, having a driver in the house as criteria for needing a babysitter is ridiculous.

  61. Denny May 21, 2013 at 1:53 pm #

    Like many of you, I was baby-sitting at 14, and a bit when I was younger. I also didn’t get my drivers license until I was 20. Now I am 30 and a nanny, and I regularly drive with kids in my car, but I have had many jobs that don’t require driving. Parents always leave me their cell phone numbers and/or a number where they will be; some parents leave numbers for neighbors too.

    I think this girl just needs phone numbers for neighbors ad a basic first aid class.

  62. Havva May 21, 2013 at 1:59 pm #

    @ Sarah,

    I know the, sorry I looked, feeling. I live in the same county you do. I’m around the corner from a park and always imagined my kid would trot off to the the park at 5 or 6, just like I used to do. Or run about my own back yard with out me. And walking to school as soon as she was school aged of course. Now I can’t quite pretend I don’t know, but I also don’t agree with it… and unfortunately it was a neighbor who said kids couldn’t walk to school until they were 8 and thus got me looking.

    The really crazy thing. Since seeing that I have started looking up the CPS “guidelines” in places where Lenore reports crazy things happening and by comparison Fairfax County is down right laid back. Don’t know if you remember the incident where the mom was arrested for allowing her daughters 7 and 11 to walk a couple blocks for pizza. That was Connecticut and there they based the rule on the legal babysitting age which is 12. In however many months, or days, it would take for the 11 year old to turn 12 it would have all been legal because she would be considered responsible enough to babysit an infant, or her sister, for however many hours. But while 11, she wasn’t considered old enough to walk to the pizza place on her own.

  63. Papilio May 21, 2013 at 2:41 pm #

    “P.A. Not even getting INTO the idea that the babysitter is sometimes a college guy and she’s 14…”

    Indeed – that POOR college guy! There he is, a handsome 18yo I imagine, left alone with a devious, sexually curious 14-year-old girl who is almost by definition interested in older boys… That is just asking for trouble.
    I wish her all the fun she can get in this ridiculous situation, but for him it’s just a curvy one way ticket to the SOR.

    (Lenore, I guess P.A. should be P.S.?)

  64. Silver Fang May 21, 2013 at 2:42 pm #

    I started staying home alone when I was 13. Sadly, it seems like the age to be trusted to stay home alone is steadily rising, as is the age to do everything else. I wonder if this will end with the age of majority being raised back to 21 or even 26.

  65. ~Kathy May 21, 2013 at 2:48 pm #

    Whoever mods the page that advice column is on deleted my comment.


  66. Natalie May 21, 2013 at 2:51 pm #

    Yeah, my comment wasn’t posted either.

  67. lollipoplover May 21, 2013 at 3:03 pm #

    I was rejected for my comment, too.

    I guess Cherie doesn’t like feedback.
    Doesn’t surprise me.

  68. Natalie May 21, 2013 at 3:55 pm #

    It’s interesting because some comments were posted, and they’re pretty rude. I wrote a reply just explaining why I thought the advice was misguided and what I thought would be a better response, but that wasn’t chosen.
    So she doesn’t mind feedback.
    But if she’s filtering replies, why only rude ones?

  69. Julie May 21, 2013 at 4:00 pm #

    I *was* the babysitter at 14! In fact, I was the babysitter at age 10 but that was for the kids next door and my mom was a SAHM so I had back up.

    But hiring a babysitter for a teenager is utterly ridiculous! (And even worse, the poster said it herself (himself?): It’s humiliating. And a huge waste of money, given most college-age babysitters charge $10 or $15 an hour.

    But besides how I was raised in the 70s/80s, I work with the youth group at church, specifically the younger high school girls. They also babysit. All of them do. So, this mom is really out-of-touch even with her own helicopter-culture.

  70. Dawn Marcotte May 21, 2013 at 4:02 pm #

    Wow. I will admit to being surprised that a 14 year old gets a babysitter. I see the point about ‘just in case’ but if a 14 year old is old enough to babysit others are they not old enough to take care of themselves? I guess it depends on the child and if they have shown if they are responsible enough.

    14 is still pretty young and mentally kids can be all over the map. I let my 13 year old stay home alone and babysit her sister, but I know she has some friends who are not yet ready for that level of responsibility. There is never going to be a perfect solution that works for everyone.

  71. Claudia May 21, 2013 at 4:04 pm #

    Needing to get to hospital – uhm, have they heard of ambulances?

    And might it actually be safer to have an injured kid taken to hospital in an ambulance than driven there by a freaked out college student panicking that a kid was hurt/ill on their watch?

  72. Claudia May 21, 2013 at 4:06 pm #

    Not to say, I might add, that plenty of college students wouldn’t be able to remain calm in this situation, but if you want to make a risk assessment, an ambulance is surely safer on balance. If someone were terribly injured/ill it might not be safe for a non-medic to move them… and if they’re not that bad, then they can wait for an ambulance.

  73. AB May 21, 2013 at 4:08 pm #

    Having a babysitter at the age of 14 got my ex boyfriend into A LOT of trouble. She was 21 and provided him with booze,pot, and ectasy among other drugs. He was being dropped off at this woman’s house,and it didn’t help that both her and her mom sexually abused him. Even the days she was at his house she did sickening things to him. Also she drove him places while under the influence of drugs. From what I learned from him a 14 year old is safer on THEIR OWN in their own home.

  74. Katie May 21, 2013 at 4:25 pm #

    I watched my preschool aged cousin and 4 of her friends from her neighborhood the summer I was 13. If you need a lift somewhere or if there’s an emergency, that’s why you have 911, an emergency contact list, and neighbors. Getting a babysitter for a 14-year-old, unless the 14-year-old has clearly demonstrated they are incapable of being trusted on their own, is kind of silly.

  75. Ben May 21, 2013 at 4:34 pm #

    If you suddenly become so sick you immediately need the hospital, a mere car isn’t going to help. You’d get stuck in traffic. That is what ambulances were invented for.

    These parents should learn first aid and get friendly with their neighbours, so the kid can stay home alone but still has an adult who checks in on him every once in a while.

    It’s a lot less embarrassing and just as safe. Besides, what do they expect when he leaves for college? He’s got to learn how to be home alone some time…

  76. Warren May 21, 2013 at 4:38 pm #

    Let’s get something straight…….if there is a debate about the seriousness of the injury, as to whether anyone should drive them to the hospital or call the paramedics, you always call the paramedics. They can get to you faster than you can get to the hopital, and they can begin medical treatment right there on scene.

    Just to point out that if said babysitter drove the sick or injured 14 yr old to the hospital, and something were to happen…… in an accident, or the teen’s condition worsening, or whatever, that babysitter is taking a hit on liability.

    So those two points negate the arguement for a car.

  77. Katie May 21, 2013 at 4:40 pm #

    1. I would love an ask the free ranger column! I’d love to be able to get a rational answer to my parenting questions and I’m sure others would as well.

    2. A babysitter at 14? Hah I started babysitting all by myself at age 12.

    3. I guess I’m DQed though for babysitting for him though because I live in an urban area and almost never drive. We also only have one car.

    Sadly this kid is going to fail in the real world because the parents have taught him nothing. He doesn’t know to call 911. Not sick enough for 911 call a cab.

  78. Crystal May 21, 2013 at 4:40 pm #

    I guess my parents should have been arrested for letting me work full-time (40+ hours a week) AS A NANNY at the age of 12! But then again, I always could have driven the John Deere to the hospital if we were desperate…

  79. Warren May 21, 2013 at 4:40 pm #

    Why would a 14 yr old need a neighbor to check in on them?

  80. Beth May 21, 2013 at 4:59 pm #

    My post on Cheri’s site was not rude by any definition, yet it’s not there. I will admit I didn’t read the terms of service…..

  81. Donna May 21, 2013 at 5:13 pm #

    Heck, my 7 year old stays home alone for up to an hour. Without a phone since we only have a cell and it is likely with me.

    Like most here, I started staying home alone after school at 8, at night at 9, all day in the summer at 11 and spent my first weekend home alone at 15. I started babysitting at 12 – in a rural area with no 911 service or car.

    My home in Georgia is maybe a block and a half from the hospital. It would take me less time to pick up my child and run to the hospital than to get her into the car, drive, park and walk to the emergency room. It would probably take less time than calling an ambulance too.

    So if my child is mobile, she can WALK to the hospital in 5 minutes. If she is not, an ambulance is probably the best course of action regardless of whether a car is available or not. Wonder what excuse Cherie would give me for not leaving my child home without access to a car for medical emergencies?

  82. Heather May 21, 2013 at 5:14 pm #

    That is the stupidest advice I have ever heard. 14-year-olds should be baby”sitting” not being baby”sat”. It’s called giving kids responsibility a little at a time. This poor child will be 17 and off to college and wonder why no one is there to take care of her.

  83. lynnie May 21, 2013 at 5:55 pm #

    So, I can’t stay home alone with my son because my husband and I only have one car between us and it’s really pointless to double our gas for me to have one or me to drop him off at work? Really??? Ok…

  84. Fuchsia May 21, 2013 at 6:07 pm #

    I am an adult mom with a 4 year old, a teenager and a husband with a disability. And I neither have a car or drive at all! If there is an issue we call someone who can drive us. If it is an emergency we call 911. Simple as that.

  85. LRothman May 21, 2013 at 6:16 pm #

    lynnie: Excellent point! This also means that I can never let my 17 year take the car because it would leave me alone with my 14 & 12 year olds without one.

  86. Stephanie May 21, 2013 at 6:23 pm #

    So I wonder what Cherie would say about the fact that I, at the age of 14, babysat for 4 children, 3 of whom were boys under the age of 5, for 12 straight hours? I’m pretty sure I was 11 when I took the babysitting course (which included first aid and CPR) at the local hospital, and I know for a fact I was still in the 6th grade (11 or 12) when I started babysitting. I don’t remember exactly when I was allowed to stay at home alone, but it was probably around 8 or 9 for short stretches, probably closer to 10 or 11 if my parents would be gone for a long time or late at night.

    Guess my parents, and the parents of every child I babysat before I got my drivers license must be horribly neglectful!

  87. Donald May 21, 2013 at 6:29 pm #

    ….Someday, you may be that baby sitter for someone else….

    Chances are against it because he or she has parents that won’t let them develop maturity. How are they going to become mature enough to be a babysitter?

  88. Jolene May 21, 2013 at 7:18 pm #

    Sorry but this is the dumbest response to a 14 year old (ONE YEAR AWAY FROM DRIVING). Just because there is a driver’s license involved in case of a tragedy, I for one wouldn’t want a college student taking over. Heck half of the panic stricken adults in this world today wouldn’t know what to do in the case of a real emergency and who’s to say that the “driver” knows where the hospital is? Yep, I agree ambulances and 911 are easily accessible to a 5 year old even. So, 14 “at home alone” is perfectly fine. Parents are hardly ever gone for more than a few hours and are always a phone call away.

  89. Jenna K. May 21, 2013 at 8:18 pm #

    Doesn’t everyone have a cell phone these days? And aren’t there plenty of adults even who don’t own cars and therefore wouldn’t be able to go anywhere in an emergency in a car either but that’s not an issue because they’re an adult. A fourteen-year-old can call for help if help is needed. Heck, five-year-olds can do that if they are taught!

  90. Meg May 21, 2013 at 8:37 pm #

    What happens if something happens to the babysitter!?! The kid can’t drive, so they should get TWO babysitters JUST IN CASE!

    (Hopefully people saw the ridiculousness of those statements and do not think I am actually serious.)

  91. Meg May 21, 2013 at 8:40 pm #

    This just occurred to me – what if something happens to the parent who is home with the child (no, not teen, because these parents are treating this individual like a child) – anyway, what happens if something happens to the parent? They should get a live in nanny, just to be safe.

  92. Emmanuelle May 21, 2013 at 8:47 pm #

    I wouldn’t like to leave my 14 alone for a whole weekend, not even overnight, to be honest, but that’s not saying some kids that age wouldn’t be fine, just that I wouldn’t be comfortable (my issue, not my kid’s). Anyway, otherwise, you do not need a babysitter! Our 13year-old often babysits his 6 year-old twin siblings. They know how to reach us by phone in case something happens. If they need someone sooner than that, we have neighbors. If something really bad happens, he’s been instructed to call 911 and get an ambulance before calling us and the neighbors.

  93. CS May 21, 2013 at 8:52 pm #

    Really? I’m sixteen now and at fourteen I was working 6 days a week in summer. I can’t imagine the humiliation of having a babysitter at age 14; it was embarrassing enough when I was 11!

  94. Emily May 21, 2013 at 9:23 pm #

    It occurs to me if these advice columnists are trying to legally protect themselves. Perhaps this is more “lawyer alert!” than any real advice.

    I was babysitting other peoples’ kids at age 11.

    If I were a kid home alone and something happened and didn’t have a car… I would go to my trusty neighbor.

  95. Emily May 21, 2013 at 9:29 pm #

    >>If I were a kid home alone and something happened and didn’t have a car… I would go to my trusty neighbor.<<

    Unfortunately, the trouble with that is, a lot of neighbours would see something like that as negligence on the part of the parents, and report the family to the authorities.

  96. Jynet May 21, 2013 at 9:53 pm #

    I was being paid to babysit THREE children under the age of 5 when I was 14. A 4 year old, a 3 year old and a 1 year old. I was even expected to pack them all up (baby in the stroller) and take them all to the park for a minimum of an hour each evening so they would sleep well. No cell phone either!

  97. Elizabeth May 21, 2013 at 9:57 pm #

    So, by this logic I need a babysitter too, since I’m 30 but don’t have a driver’s license. Well, that’ll at least make my two year old happy when I tell her that Grandma is moving in with us!

  98. Jynet May 21, 2013 at 10:03 pm #

    Meg, on May 21st, 2013 at 8:40 pm Said:
    – anyway, what happens if something happens to the parent?


    This happened to me. My mom was moving a steel plate above her head (don’t ask, lol) and dropped it pointy end down on her head. Blood everywhere! I was ten. I got cloths to press against it, called an ambulance, and then ran across the way to get the neighbor to go with mom while I stayed with her kids.

    Ten. Not 14.

  99. JJ May 21, 2013 at 10:07 pm #

    Better for your parents just to never go out. You can’t be too careful.

  100. Beverly May 21, 2013 at 10:13 pm #

    When I read this letter, I immediately thought of an incident when I was 14. My parents were gone for the evening, and I had a friend, not babysitter, over who was 17. We were making pasta for supper, and she dumped the pot of boiling water on her foot. The burn was pretty severe, painful, and on her right (driving) foot. I drove her, in her car, 20 miles to the nearest hospital. I don’t remember anyone even discussing that we should’ve called someone else, or that it was illegal for me to have driven her. Had we been without transportation, I’m sure we would have found another solution.

  101. Sherri May 21, 2013 at 10:30 pm #

    What about those parents who don’t own cars? Last I heard owning a car was not a prerequisite for becoming a parent!

  102. Elizabeth May 21, 2013 at 11:00 pm #

    This baffles me. When I was 14 (11 years ago), I babysat my five-year-old nephew all summer while his parents worked. I have a five-year-old myself now, and if I can’t trust him to stay by himself for a few hours when he is 14, I will feel like I’ve failed as a parent. Half of a parent’s job is to teach kids how to care for themselves, which includes teaching them to call an ambulance if they are injured.

  103. Emily May 21, 2013 at 11:10 pm #

    Unless you’ve already established a relationship with your neighbors. I grew up in a good community where we… communicated. We knew each other.

  104. Emily May 21, 2013 at 11:33 pm #

    @The other Emily–Good point. It’s important to build community wherever you’re living, but so few people bother nowadays, because people’s lives are busier. Adults work full-time, kids get shuttled from one organized activity after another when they’re not in school, and often, kids living in the same neighbourhood are bused to different schools, so they don’t know each other well. Also, with the proliferation of the Internet, and online gaming, and cell phones/smartphones, real-time interaction has almost become optional. So, taken out of context, a young person asking for help because their friend or sibling has been scalded with pasta water (like Beverly’s friend was), would likely have the neighbour getting all up in arms, about “where are their parents?”; and “why are they cooking unsupervised?”

  105. Ann in L.A. May 21, 2013 at 11:37 pm #

    14 year olds used to be put on boats to America with nothing more than the name of a relative to look up over here.

  106. Emily May 21, 2013 at 11:43 pm #

    P.S., I forgot to mention, I’ve signed up to paint kids’ faces at a neighbourhood picnic in a few weeks. Baby steps…..

  107. John May 21, 2013 at 11:45 pm #

    Goodness, that is the poorest advice that a so-called advice columnist has ever given. I hope readers slammed her for it. Filipino and Nepalese children as young as 10 care for their baby siblings unattended and then we wonder why more American kids today are still living at home well into their 20s. Because they lack independence skills! There is no rhyme, reason or purpose for a normal 14-year-old kid to have a baby sitter. If they can’t handle life by themselves at that age, then I don’t hold out much hope for them.

  108. SKL May 22, 2013 at 12:30 am #

    This reminds me of when I was 12 and babysat four kids, the eldest of whom was 8 or 10. I felt ridiculous telling such a big lunk what to do. LOL. I babysat many kids starting at age 9 (baby brother) / 10 (non-relative). I remember feeling really gross about having to bathe a 10yo when I was 13. He did have some special needs, but he was pretty high functioning and it was just weird.

    Funny thing, as a babysitter I usually didn’t have a car and I certainly didn’t have a cell phone. There were a couple of cases where something happened that I didn’t know how to handle on my own. Once, my 4yo sister fell and was crying and crying about her arm. I sought the counsel of a neighbor who had several kids, and she found a sling to put the arm in until my parents got home. The crying stopped instantly, and my parents took my sister to the hospital when they got home. The other incident was when I was 17 and babysitting at someone else’s house. The baby had what I guess was croup, or was it whooping cough (nobody bothered to tell me), and he woke up making very alarming sounds as he struggled to breathe. I called my mom (on a land line!) for advice as to whether an ambulance was needed. She gave me a remedy which worked. Problem solved.

    Another incident to remember in this context. My parents both left for work before we walked to school each morning. One day my brother, then 11, fell on the ice and broke his arm. He managed to find a family friend’s phone number in the phone book and call for help. Someone came and picked him up and took him to get his arm set. Problem solved. It is hard to imagine what could happen to a 14yo that could not be handled by the 14yo making a phone call or waiting until the parents get home. And of course there’s the dynamic of potential foolishness with a teen babysitting another teen. My oldest brother was introduced to many “mature” topics and pastimes by our babysitter (and her friends) before he passed age 10.

  109. Ann in L.A. May 22, 2013 at 1:18 am #

    Also, beware of cars! I had a friend get in a major accident being driven home from a babysitting job back in the 80’s. She ended up in the hospital for a week.

  110. Jennifer May 22, 2013 at 2:02 am #

    This is an excellent example of what I think of as the threshold problem.

    The kid is almost 15. In just over a year, he will be able to drive a car. In just over three years, he will be able to move into a place of his own, or head to university across the country, with ample access to alcohol and sex and no parental supervision.

    The problem is – how do you go from not being competent enough to stay home alone for a few hours to being an independent adult, in the space of a couple of years? The answer – quite often you don’t. Either you keep trying to baby your adult offspring, or you send a kid off into the world totally unprepared to handle basic life.

    And the logic of the response doesn’t even make sense. Suppose you leave your driving age kid alone and he needs to go to the hospital. How is being able to drive helping here? Should an injured/critically ill 16 year old drive themselves to the hospital?

    By the age of fourteen, my thirteen year old sister, six year old brother and I were considered old enough to hold the fort when my parents went out of town for their anniversary. We had the neighbours on hand if we needed help (and they were asked to keep an eye out).

  111. Nicky May 22, 2013 at 3:10 am #

    When I was 14, I was an Au Pair! I worked with an agency that places teenagers into homes overseas for the summer. You look after the kids in exchange for pocket money and room/board. I never had any problems (other people did but the agency paid your airfare, so if there were problems they could pull you out). At this age she should be baby sitting. Unfortunately they only operate in Eurasia now, too many problems with US, Canada, UK regulations.

  112. baby-paramedic May 22, 2013 at 6:00 am #

    Ill let my non licensed husband know he is no longer permitted to stay at home…

  113. Natalie May 22, 2013 at 8:07 am #

    You Emilys are confusing. How about adding an initial to the end of your name so that we know who address? Or Emily 1 and 2? Or Emily the Elder and Emily the Younger? 😉

  114. NJ Mom May 22, 2013 at 9:07 am #

    I don’t get the posts ’till the day after, so forgive me if there are other emails like the following: I left my 11 year old daughter home alone without her 12 year old brother or grandmom for the first time one evening…I called 20 minutes later after arriving at my destination to check in and asked how she was. “Oh, hi Mommy! I’m fine!” she said quite calmly and rather cheerfully. “There was a little fire, but everything is ok.” Whaaatttt? She was heating up a frozen pizza as I was leaving (I did emphatically reminded her to turn off the oven, etc.) and that went fine…but somehow she dropped the oven mitt into the oven and it caught on fire! So…she ran over to get our neighbor/dad of one her friends and he came over and put out the fire. So, the point is…if an 11 year old can handle an emergency sensibly, I’m quite sure that poor overprotected teen can, too. As my mother told me rather often, “Just use your head!”

  115. NJ Mom May 22, 2013 at 9:17 am #

    And…does anyone remember when Mary of the Mary Tyler Moore Show has to take care of Phillis’ daughter, Bess, for a week? One night Mary had to go out and she was really nervous about letting 11 or 12 year old Bess stay home alone. So Mary got a babysitter despite Bess saying she was old enough and pleading to be left alone. Then the babysitter who showed up was 12 years old herself! Very, very funny and proves all of our points.

  116. Kay May 22, 2013 at 9:18 am #

    “For example, if I get really sick and must immediately go to the hospital. If my parents go to the city or to a play, they want someone at the house who has a car and is old enough to drive.”

    Without reading the other comments, how flawed is this logic? If the teen left at home alone gets sick enough to need a hospital, how could they drive himself anyway? Probably shouldn’t even be driving if “really sick”. Do these people have neighbors in case of emergency outside of 911? Just dumb! Otherwise no one should ever stay home alone!

  117. Amanda Matthews May 22, 2013 at 9:39 am #

    This person is about to turn 15. At 15, I WAS a college student! With a job, to pay my own way through (well, to pay for my books and food and such – I only just this year finished paying off the student loans). Some days of the week I had hours between classes, and as I wasn’t old enough to drive and the college was a good distance from my house, I’d often go to a nearby mall during that time. I met a college-age guy that worked there, and we started dating. Nothing ever came of that, but, he was the same distance in age from me that my husband is.

    A few years later I had a friend that was 15 and married (to someone that was college age), and had a baby. (I’m only 27, so this wasn’t generations ago!) When her husband was at work, she WAS the parent at home… she didn’t have a licence, and wasn’t even old enough for a permit. Should she have hired a babysitter for herself and her son?

    A few times something happened with the baby that she wasn’t sure how to deal with… so she asked me (we lived in the same apartment building), and if things went beyond the knowledge I’d gained babysitting for years, she’d call her mom or her husband’s mom. On a landline. We couldn’t afford cellphones.

    Just like any person her age would do, if something happened that she didn’t know how to deal with, she asked someone that was likely to know, and dealt with it. Most days, nothing happened that she couldn’t deal with. On those rare days that it did. no one took it as her being too young to be home without someone older nor made her afraid to ask for help.

    (Not that I’m saying there’s a problem leaving a 14 year old with a college guy. I’d have no problem with my kids of either gender having a college student of either gender as a babysitter, while they’re young enough to actually need a babysitter. I’m just saying it’s ridiculous to think that someone that could, if life were just slightly different, be a classmate of, date, or marry and have kids with such a person, needs a babysitter.)

    In an emergency, I don’t want a babysitter driving my child anywhere. Heck, I don’t want myself or my husband driving my children anywhere in an emergency! Call an ambulance, which has drivers that are trained to not freak out, and to drive quickly – and where other cars have to move out of the way of their quick driving.

    If there is an emergency and the only option is asking neighbors for help, I don’t care if the neighbors are going to call the authorities – because if there is an emergency that has gotten to the point that the kids have to ask the neighbors for help, then, well, they need to get help with whatever it is!, We’ll worry about the authorities later… I’d rather have alive, intact kids and cps on my butt than kids that sit there not getting help until a parent comes home, because they’re afraid of the authorities. Heck the police, ambulance drivers etc. would be just as likely to let cps know there was no one over 18 home when whatever happened.

  118. Reziac May 22, 2013 at 10:27 am #

    At 8, I was already staying home alone for occasional weekends, cooking my own meals and being responsible for myself. (And I had very responsible parents. Maybe that’s your first clue… responsibility teaches responsibility.)

    At 14, I’d already been babysitting for 4 or 5 years, sometimes 2 or 3 kids at a time. I had some regular clients. The idea that I’d need a babysitter at that age would have shocked my entire generation.

    And in my generation, we didn’t have cellphones and internet, and a few homes still didn’t even have phones; if there was a problem you knew to go next door and find an adult, or call the police, or simply sit tight and not panic until someone came home.

  119. Hels May 22, 2013 at 11:07 am #

    I just looked up who this columnist is. She is a writer for a soap opera. No wonder her perception of reality is that skewed!

  120. Emily May 22, 2013 at 11:15 am #

    I’m 28. Does that make me the elder or the younger?

  121. Jennifer May 22, 2013 at 12:01 pm #

    I owe Cherie one. She gave me a great reminder of why I (a 36 1/2 year old) should have a baby sitter. I might trip and fall, and not be able to drive myself to the hospital. Or, without a baby-sitter telling me not to, I might climb up on the furniture and then fall and break my arm, and then who’s going to call my 60 year old parents to tell them?
    I have been neglecting my bases, apparently, and need to cover them. I should make sure someone’s here with good judgment to cover those hours (and my bases) between the time I get home from work and when my husband gets home. I’ll see if my 12 year old is available.

  122. Jennifer May 22, 2013 at 12:07 pm #

    @the other Jennifer (2:02am) That’s a great point about the threshold problem. This poor kid is going to have a rude awakening when he or she is expected to go from kid to adult in such a short amount of time, rather than letting him/her make mistakes and figure things out and handle increasing levels of responsibility over time.

  123. Emily May 22, 2013 at 12:46 pm #

    I’m also 28. I think we’re at an impasse here.

  124. Papilio May 22, 2013 at 1:58 pm #

    @Emilys (Emilies?): And in which season were you born? Could we have Emily Winter and Emily Summer or so?

  125. Emily May 22, 2013 at 2:00 pm #

    I was born on June 16th, so, late spring/early summer. I don’t know when the other Emily was born, because I don’t know her in real life.

  126. Natalie May 22, 2013 at 2:09 pm #

    And now we’ve got two Jennifers.

  127. kt May 22, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

    so I ought to have a permanent baby sitter despite being 20-odd because I don’t have a car and what if there’s an emergency?!

  128. Mark May 22, 2013 at 6:11 pm #


    When I was in high school, bagging a college student boyfriend was the ultimate social coup among girls. It’s not the *babysittee* I’d be worried about in this situation…

  129. Nerd-faced Girl May 22, 2013 at 6:28 pm #

    Ok, so does that mean I need a babysitter for my kids when I am home? I have two kids and have never had a driver license. My husband drives, but is unavailable for large portions of the day/night because he works.

    Somehow I still manage to take the kids to all their appointments and do most of the grocery shopping. How on earth? Well, we walk. Or we take the bus.

    But oh god what if there was an emergency? It’s just like we’ve all said; a life emergency would warrant an ambulance call, and otherwise my neighbors are wonderful. My neighbor drove us to the ER when my daughter broke her arm, while another neighbor watched my youngest.

    I do count myself lucky to have such wonderful neighbors, but most people probably have a few, if they took the time to get to know them.

  130. EricS May 22, 2013 at 10:35 pm #

    My question is, how old is this Columnist herself? Sounds too young to have any real life experience. That, or doesn’t have a clue what she is talking about. Worse case thinker.

    Me and my siblings were 6-9 years old when we started staying home by ourselves. Even when we were 4-7 years, our babysitter was our next door neighbor (in an apt building), but she was taking care of her own kids (same age), so we would just pop back and fourth from her apt to ours. When we were in ours, she was in her’s. If we got hungry, me or my older sister would make eggs on toast. Yes…we cooked. I feel so sorry for today’s children who lack the life skills necessary to lead a productive, independent and confident life. And yes, I teach my own the same things I did. He’s smarter than many adults we come across. lol

  131. Sandra @ babyshowerchecklist May 22, 2013 at 10:37 pm #

    If I had to guess, I would say the parents most likely do this to prevent the child from acting nefariously. They’ve probably seen too many films where the parents go away for a day and the kid throws a party.

    I’d say that it is a bit over-bearing, but at the same time, we don’t know what the parents’ personal experiences were when they were younger.


  132. EricS May 22, 2013 at 10:38 pm #

    @ Reziac. Oh the good ol’days. With it’s higher crime rate, and lack of technology of today. Yet we kids thrived and succeeded. Not to mention had a much better childhood than most kids today. 😉

  133. EricS May 22, 2013 at 10:40 pm #

    @Sandra: That’s the thing, parents’ fears shouldn’t be their children’s. They’ve already set them up to fail before they can even get started. That’s very unfair to the kids and their future. What the parents teach, is what the children learn to be.

  134. Sandra @ babyshowerchecklist May 22, 2013 at 10:44 pm #

    Hey Eric!

    Oh, I don’t disagree with you at all! In fact, your last sentence is basically what I think is happening. It’s a cycle that continues until someone is concious enough to break it.

    Who knows, maybe this media exposure might be just what they need. Believe me, I’m all for more reliant kids. Entitlement, and dependency are two of the biggest problems facing children today.

    All the best,

  135. Sandra @ babyshowerchecklist May 22, 2013 at 10:45 pm #

    self-reliant* sorry! :-/

  136. Ange May 23, 2013 at 5:56 am #

    Like some of the other people commenting I’ve never had a driver’s license. I have two children, we always walked most places, caught the bus, train or tram. In 17 years have not had any emergencies that we couldn’t cope with. There were a couple of minor accidents at times, and we just calmly walked around the corner to the nearest doctor’s surgery for stitches. If there had been anything major I would have called an ambulance. It is actually possible to have a life without a car. It’s also possible for a teenager to cope on her own. I have left my daughters on their own for varying periods from about ten years of age. Now at 17 and 14 I feel confident they would be resourceful enough to work out how to respond if they were injured or became unwell while on their own.

  137. pentamom May 23, 2013 at 8:26 am #

    Well, there aren’t that many comments on the original column, but they’re all negative. And they all look like they came from the FRK community, too. So at least she got some serious pushback.

  138. Kimberly May 25, 2013 at 10:05 pm #

    Oil embargo – Mom let me stay home rather that sit in the overheated car waiting to get in to get gas at Mac’s station. I was 6 or 7. I had nearly ripped my legs open from itching (skin condition that includes allergic reaction and heat didn’t help).

    I have a life threatening food allergy, and I remember a neighbor asking mom how she could leave me alone knowing that.

    Mom’s response was simple – she isn’t an idiot. To this day I won’t touch the packaging of something that has peanuts in it. She knew I wasn’t going to eat something with peanuts. Yes there were peanut products in our house. My sister would sit on the other end of the couch and eat peanut butter and celery. Never had a reaction in the house.

  139. Nancy May 26, 2013 at 6:25 am #

    Ya know, back in the day, when I stayed home by myself, sans car (didn’t have license until I was approximately 25 years old, but a competent bus user by age 12), my parents gave me a list of adults I could call in case of emergency. And I’m 100% certain that had catastrophy struck, I could have certainly approached the neighbors for help.

    I mean, what is your kid going to do when they’re in college and they don’t have access to a car? And more importantly, what is your kid going to do when they DO have a car and it breaks down, gets broken into, ect?

  140. Elizabeth May 30, 2013 at 4:01 pm #

    I am having a hard time following the logic of some of the comments in this thread. If the premise is that kids need to be given freedom in the world and trusted at a certain age (in thise case 14) to make good decisions about keeping themselves safe from whatever can come their way (including adults who may mean them harm), wouldn’t you have to trust the 14 year old to navigate the potential danger of an overly forward or abusive babysitter as well? If not, doesn’t that imply that there are indeed some dangers a 14 year old might not be prepared for?

    Also, why assume that a male college student babysitting a female teenager would cause problems that, say a gay female college student would not?