When is the right time to leave a child home alone? There is no law on the matter, so I guess it’s down to the parents and the child. You know when your child is ready and so do they. You don’t rush into leaving them all day – you start off small and work up gradually.
I still remember the horror that was dragging three kids with me wherever I went – the shame of boys fighting in the peaceful little girls’ worlds of Rainbows and ballet – in front of parents who probably didn’t have big boys, certainly not two of them. Then one day, a couple of years ago, I just stopped taking them. Suddenly the time felt right. My son was in year 7 and 11 and a bit.
It wasn’t long after I felt happy to leave my eldest alone, that I then felt comfortable to leave him at home with his younger brother for short periods of time. For another year or so I dragged my younger son to ballet, but now I leave the two of them together for an hour. I will leave my eldest for two or three hours – as long as he has his phone and his key. He will often take himself off to Grandma’s or to his friend’s house while we’re out watching his brother play football. Or sometimes he will just stay at home and enjoy the uninterrupted time in front of a game or the telly, without anyone moaning at him.
My younger son has got used to not having to go to dance lessons with me any more. He likes his bit of freedom with his brother. But then last week, his brother changed the game. He announced he was going to his friend’s house after school.
What would I do?
Could I leave my younger son?
Or would I have to take him?
My son is still only 10 (although very nearly 11) and in year 6. He is mature, sensible and grown up. In reality, he is way more grown up, trustworthy and reliable than his brother. BUT HE’S ONLY 10.
I thought about it carefully, and I knew I had to take him with me. The time isn’t quite right just yet. If it had just been nipping to school to pick my daughter up, that would probably have been OK. But it was going to school to pick her up, then driving to dance lessons and dropping her off. I would be out of the house for nearly half an hour.
My son wasn’t happy.
‘But what could go wrong?’
In honesty, probably nothing. But what if?
What if he opened the door to a stranger who abducted him? What if he fell down the stairs and knocked himself out/ broke a limb/ died? What if he turned on the hob and set the house on fire?
I KNOW these things wouldn’t happen. But I also know that at 10 he’s just that little bit too young to leave. Give it a few months, when he’s 11 and nearing the end of year 6, I will probably do it. But not just yet. If anything happened to him because I left him I would never forgive myself.
So I dragged him out and put up with his sulking. Because that’s way better than a broken limb, an abduction or a burnt-down house. Right?