A member of a mother's group to which I belong recently posted a question on our group message board: "Be honest -- is 11 too young to leave your child at home alone for a few hours?"
When I saw it, I almost burst into stunned laughter. Is 11-years-old too young? Really? I grew up with a mom who stayed at home for most of my childhood, but even so, by age 11, I was permitted to stay home for a few hours at a time while she ran errands or took my sister somewhere. By age 12, I was babysitting for my younger sister and cousin, as well as some young kids down the street.
If you're about to accuse me of going down the "when I was a child we walked 10 miles to school in the driving snow in nothing but a burlap sack" road, you'd be wrong. On the contrary, I'm not bemoaning the disappearance of a better time.
I'm bemoaning the total insanity of today's parents.
Normally, I try to avoid explicitly judging other people's parenting choices. Everyone has his or her own threshold for different things, colored by unique life experiences. But the madness has to stop somewhere.
Let me be absolutely clear: barring an actual physical or mental disability that requires round the clock supervision, your 11-year-old will be fine at home by herself (or himself) for a few hours.
Here's a quick FAQ to help answer any questions you may have.
What if little Ezra Steampunk gets hungry?
At the age of 11, I assure you that little Ezra Steampunk is perfectly capable of slapping some peanut butter on some bread and feeding himself. If he isn't, what the fuck have you been teaching him how to do for the last 11 years?
But what if he uses the Jif peanut butter instead of the fresh-ground, organic, unsalted peanut butter?
First, a question: why do you have Jif in the house if you want him to only eat the fresh-ground, organic, unsalted peanut butter? Oh because that's what you'd prefer? That's what I thought. It's also why he's using it. Second, is it going to kill him? No? Okay, so who cares?
What if he decides he wants grilled cheese and he turns on the stove and burns the house down?
Do you burn the house down every time you turn on the stove? No? Okay, good chance that widdle Ezra-wezra won't either. In any case, there is a pretty good way to mitigate the risk here. Before you leave the house, walk Ezra to the stove, show him how to turn on a burner, remind him that it's very important he turn the burner off when he's finished, and that you trust him to be responsible. He'll be fine.
What if someone comes to the door while my darling Penelope Paige is home alone?'
Before you leave the house, tell Penelope Paige that she's not to open the door to strangers. Then lock the door when you leave. Voila!
Oh goodness, what if Imogen Esmerelda decides to watch TV all afternoon instead of doing her homework or reading a book?
So. What. ???? TV is not going to kill her. Really, it won't. How much TV did you watch as kid? Probably way more than you let little Immy watch, and you turned out just fine. You weren't scarred. You didn't turn into a zombie. When the kid finally has the chance to control the remote, of course she's going to seize that opportunity. The sky won't fall.
I just know that if I leave Gibson Edmund by himself he'll spend the whole time playing some video game.
See response above. Who cares? If you're the parent who is worrying about this, I don't think he's in possession of Grand Theft Auto V (or the means to obtain it). Chances are he only has fairly innocuous games like Mario Kart. And if he figures out how to hack them to make them more scandalous or violent, good for you! He's got a bright future as a Google software engineering intern making more than most families of four.
But if Axl Bode-Reign spends all that time making sandwiches and turning on stove tops and watching TV and playing video games, he won't have time to do his homework!
Ok, so your 5th grader doesn't get his homework done, and thus gets a good real-world lesson in what happens when you neglect your responsibilities in favor of doing something fun and unproductive. This is a good thing! A bad grade in 5th grade isn't going to impact little Axl's ability to get into college. Really, it won't. It's better to let him fail now and learn from it than to let him get all the way through college, get his first job, and then get the shock of his life when his employer fires him for taking off for a couple of days to chill at Coachella with some buddies (and presumably some bud).
Gosh, I just don't think sweet Remington Ariadne is mature enough for this amount of responsibility. (Side note: Remington is one of the fastest rising girls names... WTF).
News flash: children grow into mature, responsible adults by being given (gasp!) responsibility and accountability. Sure, every child is different, and will be ready for different levels of responsibility at different stages, but by age 11 every kid should be able to handle their business well enough not to burn the house down or host a 5th grade rager in your absence. Your child cannot earn your trust if you never confer any trust upon them. Show them that you trust them, and then let them rise to the occasion.