My kids (well, at least one of my kids) are getting to the age where they don’t really need a babysitter any more. But while I am totally comfortable leaving Owen at home alone for a good chunk of the day (it’s actually the reason homeschooling can work for us when I’m working full time), the three of them together can be a different story.
When your kids are younger, you look longingly to that day in the future when you can leave your children home while you run out to the grocery store for few minutes. You envy those that can have a date night with their spouse that doesn’t involve factoring an extra $50 in for a babysitter. The weird thing is, that day doesn’t happen all at once.
We’ve been doing the 15 minutes here and there for years (since they were old enough to understand why not to open the door for people and could competently call a neighbor or 911 if needed). Several months ago, we left them for a few hours to have dinner with friends. They were fine. The biggest test has come since school started back up again on the one day every two weeks that both my husband and I work at the same time. Owen can stay home alone with a list of school work and chores to do. My biggest worry is that he won’t get his work done, not that he will be kidnapped or burn the house down, and if I’m being totally honest, that’s a possibility every day, whether I am there or not.
At 3:00, he walks up to the school to “pick up” his younger brothers and they walk home together and hang out until Oliver gets home. Last week, they walked home in a torrential downpour from which their sneakers are still recovering. While I felt minimally sorry for them, I learned the next day that the other kids were jealous and wanted to walk home in the rain, too.
If we are going to be gone for a long time, more than a few hours, or out very late, we will still hire a babysitter, though they don’t so much need the supervision as they need a voice of reason or a referee. I actually believe that they are better behaved, meaning they make their own smart choices rather than pushing the limits with a babysitter to see what they can get away with, when they are home alone. They like the idea of being old enough to stay home alone and they won’t do anything to jeopardize that.
Isn’t the whole goal parenthood to turn these loud, messy, irrational critters into independent, responsible people, a bit at a time? If you ascribe to the theory that “anything could happen” and don’t give them a little independence, your kids will be unemployed, living in your basement when they’re 30. So, while my kids are pretty good alone, they are still three boys who are prone to nudity and questionable taste in cartoons and youtube videos. I wouldn’t be trusting them with other peoples’ kids any time soon.