Let me preface this entire post by saying I am not in a hurry to desert, neglect or in any way harm my child. Seriously.
I love my kids.
Please don’t send me hate mail.
Now that that’s out of the way, when can I leave my oldest son home by himself?
He’s nine years old. I can’t imagine him remembering to brush his teeth on his own, let alone being left inside the house for longer than it takes me to get the mail. So it surprised me when he began hounding me about it this summer.
“Can’t I just come home after school?”
“Why can’t I just stay here by myself?”
“When will you let me stay home alone?”
I have no idea how to answer that. I’m trying to remember when I began staying home alone, although realistically I was probably never really home alone because I had two younger brothers. I suppose that means I was home alone with two small children to care for, but I must have been more mature than my son. Or something. Because there is no way on God’s green earth that I would leave him home to babysit his little sister at any point in the near future.
I suppose it stands to reason that at some point he’ll be old enough to stay home without a parent. Presumably he won’t head off to college without ever having been in charge of himself for a few hours at a time.
But when? How soon is too soon?
According to the National SAFEKIDS campaign, the recommended age is 12 or older. Many states have their own guidelines in place, ranging from as young as 8 to as old as 14 in Illinois. But I was surprised to find that many states have no laws or regulations on leaving kids home alone. In fact my own state, Florida, has no laws or guidelines in place.
It’s like they expect me to parent based on my own intuition and knowledge of my children!
For now, my son is going to have to live with the dreaded “I don’t know” and “we’ll see” responses to his badgering. I have no way of knowing when he’ll mature or when I’ll feel comfortable that he’s ready to handle being home alone.
What I do know for sure is “not right now”.
Photo by Wetsun