Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Old Enough?

One of the comments on my post about boredom was that the person was surprised that I didn't feel Maya was old enough to be left alone...which got me thinking, "How old is old enough"? I'm not stupid like these people, who left their kids for the weekend while they go to Vegas. But I DO trust my daughter, and since there's no younger sibling around for her to worry about, when would be old enough? I know when I was her age, I was home alone, sort of, because my mom worked and my brother was there. He was 12 to my 10, so I would think that's a big factor. One of my coworkers said she wouldn't leave a 10 year old home alone, because you don't know what kind of weirdos are out there, that might find out your child is alone or what ever. Personally, I don't think the world is that different than when I was a child, as in the number of child molesters and freaks. Probably just as many now as there were then. We just know about them now. We can go online and find pictures and addresses for all of the registered offenders in our neighborhood. Knowing that there are some in every neighborhood, then, when do you let your child go out to play? See where this is going? Of course we don't want anything horrible to happen to our children, and of course it is our job to protect them and keep them safe, but it is also our job to let them be kids, to let them run around outside and explore the world. There has to be some balance there.

Back to the question of how old is old enough...well, we will leave Maya home alone while we walk the dog, or go to the grocery store. She's fine for that long. I suspect she would be fine home alone all day. But I'm not sure that she's mature enough to handle situations that might come up. What if she decided to scramble some eggs, and a towel caught on fire. Or what if the neighbor came over with a problem. Or the dog started throwing up. Or there was an earthquake, or the power went out. Or or or. Is she ready to deal with these things? Is she ready to remember to lock the door if she decides to go rollerblading? I'm not convinced. Part of that is because we have always been there with her, reminding her to look both ways before she crosses the street, locking the door behind us, that kind of thing. With me home this summer, I think I can give her some of these freedoms, and watch and see how she does. Teach her what to do if emergencies happen. Maybe practice. See how ready she is to be left alone for longer periods of time. All day? She might be ready for that when she's 11 or 12. Heck, I don't even know what the legal age is in CA for leaving kids home alone. We'll see. Thoughts? How old were your kids when you started leaving them home alone for a whole day? Or how old do you think you'd be comfortable doing so? Would it be different for girls or boys? City, suburb, or rural area? Would it depend on how close you were at work? I'm curious, what the criteria are that other parents use to decide how old is old enough.

12 comments:

Lotus Reads said...

The legal age for leaving kids home alone here in Canada is 12, but I thought my kid was perfectly able to handle a couple of hours by herself after she turned 10, although I never did put her to the test.

I guess so much depends on the kid,their level of maturity and independence as well as the area one lives in.

jefito said...

Maya's soul is at least 35. I think she can handle being left alone for awhile.

Gina said...

I think I was left alone for a few hours after school from 6th grade on, with time increasing after 8th grade.

I wouldn't think it would matter how close I was or not, disasters can happen in seconds.

All depends on the child, in my opinion.

Autumn's Mom said...

I think it's interesting that someone would be surprised that a parent wouldn't want to leave a 10 year old child home alone. And I'm not picking on anyone here. This is just my thought process. You can't generalize the age of when children are mature enough to be left alone. They are all different. Even when some appear more mature than others, they are still children. I don't think we need to rush our children into maturity. It needs to be ok for them to just be kids for as long as they can. And you know what J? There isn't an legally defined age in CA for when it's ok for children to be left alone. Why I know this? Because when mine was home alone and tried to call me at work she some how accidentally dialed 911. She quickly hung up, but instead of dialing again...she hit redial. So the police were dispatched and I was called. I was so embarrassed. BUT it was a good learning experience for both of us. The officer told me there wasn't a legal age, just as long as the child was mature enough to be left unattended for awhile, they were fine.

All this being said. I like to give my daughter a little freedom (she's a tad older), sometimes I find it convenient. But I will worry about the what ifs. I guess it goes with the territory. Good topic. :)

MPsych said...

I babysat other people's children when I was twelve, so I would imagine I was left alone a bit prior to that. I think it does depend on the child. I liked being along for the most part, but being alone during a thunderstorm was hard(big fear of mine back then). By the time I was 15 I was being left home alone for long weekends and such (one time when I was alone we got 2 feet of very heavy snow and I shoveled the whole drive myself--I am still proud of that). I liked being alone and being mistress of the house--really taught me to respect my parents rules more. For some reason dirty floors and schoolbags thrown around bothered me when I was in charge of the house in a way that they never did when I wasn't. My older brother on the other hand threw parties and raided the liquor cabinet when my parents went out to the movies let alone away for the weekend. I do think it depends on the kid--some kids don't like to be alone, some can't be trusted, and some can both be trusted and like it. How come these questions always end with it depends? :)

Ally Bean said...

Teach her what to do if emergencies happen. Maybe practice.

The practice part sounds like a good idea to me. As a kid I could handle just about anything if someone showed me beforehand what to do.

Might want to practice some how to entertain yourself and have fun activities too. Just a thought.

Blackbeltmama said...

I don't know when I'll ever be comfortable leaving my girls alone. The other day, I read on a website about how 5-year olds may want to start taking baths by themselves and you can let them alone now in the tub. I almost choked! I think I'm doomed to be an overprotective parent. Considering both my husband and I work from home, my girls will probably be climbing out their windows to get away from us!

Piece of Work said...

I don't know myself, since my kids are too young right now for me to consider it. Though I do consider myself to be the opposite of over-protective, so I would THINK I would leave them alone by 10 or so. I know my sister's kids (8&10) are never left alone, and it surprised me that my sister wouldn't even consider leaving my 8 year old neice by herself for th 10 minute trip to my parent's house. Who knows, though--maybe when my kids are older I'll feel differently.

Ms. Mamma said...

(((sigh))) Okay, I can relax becasue I don't have to think about that for a while. There are so many factors and people can tell you what they think, but ultimately, only you know what you're comfortable with. You know her best. I dread the day Snowflake asks to go by himself to the park. Okay, it's across the street, but it's a big park! He's definitely NOT going to Puerto Vallarta when he's 18 for Spring Break, this is for certain! You're so right about 'knowing' about every tragedy that befalls a young person in this nation. The weirdo factor permeates many thoughts on a regular basis.

J said...

Yeah, and we ARE pretty comfortable with leaving her alone for awhile...maybe an hour or two at the most. But all day (9 hours) seems like too much to me. Glad I'll be working from home this summer.

achromic said...

I hope I didn't sound like I was judging you or anything... I didn't mean to sound that way and I apolgize if it came out that way. The world is diffrent then when we were kids in some ways and some ways not so much. I was left alone as an only child to a parent that was here alone in CA working two jobs every since I was 7. I ..... don't think that was a good thing.... infact I think it was a really losey thing but I also don't think that my mom knew of a lot of resources back then. One thing I would think of is talking to Maya and seeing if she is ok with that and also talking about mistakes and emergencies that can happen. Like what do you do if lock the door but forget the key? or if you go outside and get hurt? or if there is an earthquake and no one is home? how do you tell a police man from a bad person? One of the things that happened to me as a child that STILL gets a kick from my family (now that is over and done with) is I came home from school one day and the front door was open... someone had been thru' house and knocked all the furnture over.... nothing was gone and they were gone.... I was so self suffient that I cleaned the place up and when my mom got home I had done such a good job that she didn't believe me that it had happened. I know.... how foolish was that?? but to my kid brain it seemed like the right thing to do so I did it. I love that you are excited for Maya and how she is growing up.

J said...

No, achromic, don't worry. You just got me to thinking, and that's a GOOD thing. :) I didn't think you were being judgemental at all.