How Old?

So the subject has come up recently as to how old LMA and G-man can be before we leave them at home alone.

The obvious answer is "not until he's 13" but is that the practical answer? Mrs. A works from home and I'm 30 minutes away. If she needs to run to make a FedEx drop or over to Walgreens to get milk or pull-ups, can a 6 and 3 year old hack it for 20 minutes?

Now, before you fire up those comments, let me assure you we don't plan on going to the movies without getting a babysitter. We're not that desperate or parentally inept. But what about a quick drive to the mailbox? Gone and back in 3 minutes. Mrs. A and I sit out on the front porch and have a smoke for easily five times that long while the kids are out back or inside playing.

So I looked it up and it's odd that despite all the concern over child safety, there are very few state laws required children to be of a certain age before they are left alone. I found this off the Clackamas County, Oregon Juvenile Department website.

Generally speaking there are three primary variables which need to be considered. First, the maturity of the child, second, the environment provided for the child and third, how long the child will be unattended.

I think the first part answers it for us. LMA is a smart cookie, but she has the maturity of a tadpole. Her environment is fine as far as I'm concerned and we'd never leave her alone for more than 5 minutes. Mrs. A is more of a hawk than I am and doesn't even like it when they're in different parts of the house unattended - a trait she's quickly abandoning, sometimes grown ups need quiet.

All the cabinets and drawers and oven controls are child proofed. I think the worst thing they could do themselves is leave a tap running. They can get their own food and water and even G-man is starting to go to the bathroom himself. I think when a discussion like this comes up, it's less about what a kid can do to themselves and more about what can happen to them. I read a comment where a parent said they live on a small island and they have no problem leaving their kid alone for a few minutes or in their car while they pop into a gas station or the like. But they said were they in the city there'd be no way they'd do that.

What a horrible thing we have to think about, that someone would harm a child. It's larger conversation to be sure and one that's as gray as summer storm clouds. Personally I can understand crimes of passion, crimes committed out of desperation. I cannot fathom the psychological make up that would need to exist that would cause you to premeditate a nefarious act against a child. It's sad when I'm more worried about a random stranger busting into our house and defiling or stealing our children than I am about them turning the gas on and playing with flaming Ajax soaked scissors.

I remember having babysitters when I was young, but I was really young and it's the fading part of my memory that exists in my pre-adolescent years. Research shows you have a good memory of your life, even birth, until you're about 15, then suddenly you start not remembering your childhood years as clearly. I remember a babysitter we had for a short time and I remember her being "fired" but I can't remember why. I don't know how old I was at the time. The thing is, my mom stayed home and my dad worked so there was always someone there. We didn't have distant banks of mail boxes, we had a milkman and we had in town grandparents and family friends who could watch us if mom and dad needed a night out. I don't remember being left alone. I remember being left in the car for a couple minutes at a time, but we also didn't have car seats and could sit in the front seat if we wanted.

It was a different time, it always is. I suspect in another two or three generations, children will live in a completely sealed off and sterilized room until they're 18. Which will be good for the parents piece of mind, but the almost-adult will probably get a cold the first day out and die.

Unfortunately we don't have the close grandparents or the tons of family friends to count on. We've got a couple people that can be there if we need them, and that's nice, but it's definitely not a village.

Carry on.

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