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How Young is Too Young to Stay Home Alone?

I’m no stranger to the peril and personal freedom of staying home alone as a child. As a latchkey kid from about the age of 9, the first thing I’d do when I got home from school was search the kitchen for the best junk food I could find before settling in to do my homework in front of the TV for a couple of hours until my mom got home from work.

And while it was true that I was alone in my house, I was never really alone. I knew everybody on my little cul-de-sac and on a street of nine houses, someone was always home.

As responsible and careful as I was as a home aloner, a few pretty scary things happened.

There was that time I cut my fingers so bad on the edges of an open can that I had to run to the neighbor for help. Then there was the time I decided to take a shower (bad idea), and the shower valve broke off and I couldn’t shut off the water. Again, I ran to the neighbors for help.

While I undoubtedly learned some pretty valuable lessons about responsibility and personal safety, I’m not quite ready to trust my almost 10-year-old son to learn these lessons for himself. The problem is that he’s begging me to.

I was a kid left home alone out of necessity, and it’s perhaps for this reason that I’m having such a hard time justifying leaving Boy Wonder home alone out of convenience. That’s not to say I don’t often wish I could. For example, if I need to run to the grocery store for milk after school, I’d like to be able to leave Boy Wonder home to do his homework, a far better use of his time than following me into the dairy aisle.

But suppose I do leave him home alone and he takes a nasty spill down the stairs, goes on a crazy soda binge, or begins to freak out because I didn’t come home when I said I would on account of the nasty car accident that rendered me unconscious and medevac’d to the nearest trauma center? What? It could happen. What then?

I know Boy Wonder is a smart and responsible child. By all accounts he probably deserves the freedom of staying home alone for an hour, riding his bike around the neighborhood, or walking home from school alone. So why then is letting go and allowing these carefully measured smidgens of personal freedom so hard?

Have you left your kid home alone? Do you think there’s a perfect age to allow a kid to stay home alone?

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