Anita Hirth, a software engineer from Denver, CO, asks this practical question:
Free-Range Kids: Thank you for being a rare voice of reason in these completely insane times.
I live in a house on a very quiet street in a suburb of Denver. Yesterday evening I wanted to drive to pick up some takeout at the Chipotle 1 mile away from my house. It was 15 degrees outside, and I felt bad schlepping along my almost-6-year-old daughter with me on this cold and unexciting errand. I considered leaving her home alone for 20 minutes while I got the food, but realized that I had never taught her to use the phone to call me if there’s a problem, so I took her along with me..This morning I taught her how to use our house phone to call me if she is home alone for any reason and there’s a problem. Inspired by her competence, I also taught her how to make fried eggs, and how to rinse her dish afterwards and put it in the dishwasher. She was very proud of herself, and ate every bite of her eggs..I was wondering at what age other parents felt comfortable leaving their kids alone for a very short stretch while they ran an errand, so I posted the question on 3 facebook parents groups that I’m a member of. My jaw hit the ground when I saw the responses. The overall consensus? 12-14..Holy moly 12-14?? I wrote back that I was very surprised and was expecting an age closer to 6. I was babysitting at the age of 11, as was the norm then (remember the Babysitter’s Club books? Those girls were 11). Well it may come as no surprise to you that I was attacked pretty vociferously for suggesting that a 6-year-old can be left at home watching TV for 15 minutes while I run out to pick up some dishwashing detergent. They might have thought that I was an even worse mom than you!.The very few voices of reason came from my Russian Parents facebook group, a group for immigrants from the former Soviet Union, as I am. One woman wrote that she was taking care of her grandmother with Altzheimer’s after school at age 8..Anyway, keep on fighting the good fight Lenore, we’ve got a long way to go!.Sincerely,Anita Hirth
From Colorado’s DHS: “Colorado in general has accepted the age of 12 years as a guideline for when it might be appropriate for a child to be left alone for short periods of time.”
So while I totally think a 6-year-old is fine at home, I guess it is legally dicey. That the age 12 this is a guideline, not a law, just makes it all the more confusing. Who decides when and why to enforce it?
All the more reason we must fight to pass the Free-Range Kids Bill of Rights which declares, “Our children have the right to some unsupervised time, and we have the right to give it to them without getting arrested.” Why must the parents who trust their kids and the actual odds be treated like outlaws? Why must children be treated like criminals and live under constant state-mandated supervision? Under Colorado’s guidelines, even a sixth grade latchkey kid could get his parents in trouble.