My son is just one month shy of being 13 years old. He is going into 7th grade, stands about an inch (shhhhh…) taller than me at 5’6″ and 190 pounds. He’s not a tiny guy. We use to call him Baby Godzilla when he was a toddler, now he’s just Godzilla. I’m giving you his baseball card stat’s because we’ve recently started to allow him to stay home alone for periods of time and I want to settle all those people who say kids should never stay home alone, because Oh My GAWD they may learn to be independent or something.
In today’s vigilant parenting environment I risk the chance of being flogged in a town square by the many opinions people have of this long heralded passage into adolescents. When is the right time to allow your little babies to be in charge of their own environment, alone, even if just for thirty minutes? When I was eight and my sisters were eleven we were staying at home together, alone for long periods of time. We were part of the 1980’s Latchkey Kids. We had egg fights on the front lawn, dropped water balloons from the second story of our home, made oatmeal trails throughout the house, and dared each other to drink disgusting concoctions. I remember a lemon Joy flavored one in particular.
Our son is now much older than I was when I stayed home alone, it was time to cut the cord and push him out into the world. We looked over our blossoming protege and with the tepidness of a baby robin stepping from the nest we deemed him capable of being alone for more than an hour. This was met with a long list of angst and “talks” on my part. The day had arrived when he would be put to the test, before departing I conferred with my better half, more to lay the blame on him in case something went a-rye. I don’t want to have to shoulder all this parenting responsibilities, I like to spread it around like a virus in a preschool class.
I then proceeded to quiz my son on my phone number and our address, opting to write out both for him should he have an emergency and forget everything, and because I am neurotic. I inform him to not open the door to anyone. I explain the microwave oven is off limits due to some unfortunate cooking of a pizza for 12 minutes last week when he thought a microwave oven was the same as a toaster oven, this lesson required two attempts before it finally took like the smell of burnt cheese to the inside of the appliance.
Continuing I explained all the other don’ts:
- Don’t leave the house
- Don’t go in the water (we are at the lake)
- Don’t forget to give the dogs water
- Don’t leave the dogs outside, it’s too hot
- Don’t forget to walk the dogs (on the lawn because Marley jumps the short ass fence here and he can’t because he has bum hips at one years old so we have to walk him, bc WHY WOULD ANYTHING BE SIMPLE?!)
- Don’t order any movies off On Demand
- Basically sit here and don’t do a damn thing.
All he heard was Don’t followed by wha-wha-wah-wah-wha. I tell him, “This is the test, the marker for if you are capable of handling some responsibility.” I lay it on thick, a good hefty dose of fear goes a long way in parenting, DON’T ever forget that.
Finally I leave, wishing him luck, telling him I will call to check on him – repeatedly. I walk to my car praying I can trust him, letting the internal argument wash over me, before I realize I don’t have my car keys. Returning to the house I walk in and see that in the three minutes since I have left him to spread his wings he has locked himself outside on the screened porch with both dogs and is banging on the door to be let in.
I shoulda led with Don’t lock yourself out.