I don’t even remember how old I was the first time my mom left my sister and I home alone. I know I was younger than Corde, and she had just gone to the store. I must have been seven or eight, and my sister is a year and a half younger than me. It might have been younger than that.
When I was in fourth or fifth grade I took a babysitting class with Girl Scouts. I know because I had a green vest, and we stopped wearing green by sixth grade for our cadet blues. Some of the kids had already had babysitting jobs by then, mostly watching younger siblings. All of us had been left home alone.
It’s strange to think my kids need me by their side every moment of the day. At the same time, our culture seems to think that kids can’t be trusted without a nearby adult until they’re teens. Kids need to be watched like hawks. They can’t be treated like respectable and responsible human beings. Why should I be surprised that Corde doesn’t act more grown up? Why would she when she’s not allowed to feel grown up?
It dawned on me the other day. I was talking to the kids after I had gone to hang out with Misti in her room for a while. We came out of the room and it was like a hurricane blew through. The place was trashed, toys, food, packaging, and cups were everywhere. I wasn’t even gone that long! Then it just popped out of my mouth, “My sister and I never would have let my mom catch us acting like you guys are. We always did our best to have everything back in order by the time my mom got home. She would have killed us if she knew half of what we did while she was gone.”
That was it! My sister and I learned to have respect for our home and at least let my mom believe everything had been good while she was gone because she actually left. She gave US a chance to go wild and break the rules. We could jump on the couch, investigate my mom’s makeup, dig in the closet to admire that fur coat mom never wore, or whatever else we weren’t normally allowed to do, as long as everything was in order by the time she got back home. Sure, sometimes my mom flipped out over something we did and couldn’t hide, like my sister putting her foot through the bottom pane of glass on the French door in the living room. In her defence, I had held the door shut so she couldn’t get out. In my defence, that girl had a temper! I was only trying to defend myself in yet another one of our fights. Being the smaller sister, a victory like that was rare, so it was worth it in my book.
But what do my kids have? Constant, unending supervision. Corde did get a break now and again, before CPS last reared his ugly head. It was a case worker that told me that, at almost ten, Corde was not old enough to be left at home with her brothers. The nearly six year old was fine with her. The barely three year old was questionable. The seven month old baby, however, that would show me to be a negligent parent, even if I were going no farther than the mailbox only fifty feet from the house or the dumpster at the end of the street and he were asleep. How crazy is that?
What’s worse is because of this whole CPS thing, Oz and I never get to go out without the kids. All of our sitters need to go through a CPS background check, just in case anything were to happen. No one we know wants that kind of invasion of their privacy. I know I wouldn’t either. So the kids can’t visit friends, have overnights, or even be watched by a babysitter. As a result, they never get a break from parental supervision. Oz and I never get a date night, to run errands kid-free together, or anything. This is causing serious damage to our relationship. We can’t even leave the kids home in the hands of their very capable sister so we both can enjoy a peaceful run into town. Having a break from each other is healthy!
More than that, how will the kids ever learn the lessons I learned? When will they cut loose and act wild if their parents are always hoovering? Isn’t it better for them to learn it now when the wild fun is jumping on the furniture? Before they feel the need to do something extreme because they were sheltered for so long?
So, what’s so wrong with leaving my kids home alone? Are kids so much less capable than when I was young, or are we just giving them less credit? Maybe it’s time society cut kids some slack and realize Corde, fast coming up on eleven, is more than capable of keeping a nearly seven year old, a four year old, and a one and a half year old out of trouble for an hour so her parents can get a break. In a year or so we might even be able to leave long enough to get a real date night in! Maybe then the kids will be less under our skin. They get a little freedom from the parents. We get a little freedom from the kids. Everyone wins!