Home Alone at Six?

 

My daughter was very angry at me this morning, quite cross. This in itself isn’t surprising, she’s often angry at me in the morning, usually because I won’t let her wear mittens as shoes or order Chinese take out for breakfast, things of that nature proving how completely unreasonable I can be as a parent. Obviously I just enjoy being mean.

The source of her discontent this morning was easier to understand. She simply didn’t want to get up and get out of bed, a feeling that I am very familiar with. Truth be told, I really didn’t want to be up and about yet either. I had several hours before I needed to be anywhere, nobody was poking me in the forehead to tell me they wanted breakfast, and a wiser man than me would have been in bed earlier than I was the night before.

There was nothing that could be done, however. The teenager needed driving to summer school, my wife was already gone for the day, and even though it was only a twenty minute round trip, six years old was still too young to be left alone.

 

home alone?
practicing her “teenager face”

 

Or was it?

According to her argument, she would have been fine.  She’d watched me check the smoke and CO2 detectors the previous week, her room is uniquely positioned to have two different points of exit, and she’d learned in Girl Scouts all about handling different emergency situations. She told me all about how she’d check the door handle for heat before opening it if the alarm was sounding, how she’d dial 911 to ask for help, and the two houses she’d go to in order to ask to use the phone if it became necessary. She said that she promised to wait for “the chief” to show up and that she’d do whatever he said to stay safe until I got back.

She made a convincing argument and I’ll admit to being more than a little impressed. I also didn’t leave her, so if there is a gathering mob of internet do-gooders, you can all put down your pitchforks and torches and go home.  I simply told her that it was against the law for me to leave her home alone at her age and that I didn’t want to get in trouble. This was logic that she couldn’t argue with. I’m not sure exactly who she thinks “the chief” is, but she doesn’t want me on his bad side. She started using the term after the brush fire behind our house several summers ago but whoever it first described seems to have evolved into a Judge Dredd type enforcer of law and order.

 

home alone?
I Am The Law!

 

Curious, I did a bit of research and found that this can be added to the long list of lies that I’ve told her. It turns out that in New Mexico it is illegal to leave a child under ten alone, but every other state just has “suggestions” and ages that could potentially trigger investigations if complaints are filed. The Connecticut Attorney General’s office states that “A child’s maturity should be considered. Also a child’s ability to handle urgent situations should be reviewed. A parent should also take into account the environment in which the child will be alone and the child’s feelings about being alone.”

I found this surprising, multiple stories of small children found alone and neglected immediately coming to mind. Tragedies and near misses leading to prosecuted parents. A tendency towards over reaction and regulation, particularly if there seems to be child welfare issues involved. The trials and tribulations of eight year old Kevin McCallister still resonate over two decades later.

 

home alone
narrowly averted disaster

 

The truth is that every child is different, the stories we hear only the ones when things go terribly wrong. Its estimated that over three million children under the age of fifteen are left alone for up to several hours at a time at least once a week in this country, often by single parents unable to afford to pay for care while they are at work.

Common sense needs to be used, but it can’t be regulated. I don’t remember what age I was when first left unsupervised indoors, but was roaming the neighborhood on bicycle much younger than my daughter will be allowed to. To be honest, I don’t even remember when we first started leaving the teenager by herself, though I’d guess it was older than she would have liked, just like it will be for her little sister.

I don’t want to get in trouble with “the chief.”

 

 

 
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40 thoughts on “Home Alone at Six?”

  1. Absolutely loving this, I pretty sure I would lose the argument if I was bombarded with that, mind you one of the twins Ruby is now debating every decision and I lose that quite often great read mate. Chinese takeaway for breakfast haha that is different, although Ruby and Maise would chicken nuggets happy meal every morning hope you are all well

    1. same to you Nige. I thought that I had a few more years before she starting telling me how I should think, but it’s happening sooner than I’d hoped!

  2. Wow, a pretty logical argument for a six-year-old. When I was that age, I was being left alone for 30 minutes every morning (if you call being with an attack dog alone.) The thirty minutes was the difference between my brothers leaving for their school and my mother coming home from work. She would then take me to my school. That was 50 years ago (also in CT.)

    1. I don’t think it was the first time she’s thought about this. If I absolutely had to, I’m confident that she would be fine for a short period.

  3. In Maryland the age to be left indoors is 8, but there’s no age limit to being alone outdoors. It’s a fire code thing.

    After being left home alone for hours at age 6 I have found myself wondering why I have been hesitating to leave my 8 and 6 y/o home alone.

    1. Thats pretty weird but I guess makes a little sense. I think that fear of being judged by others plays much more of a part in some of our parenting decisions than we’d like to admit. A 24/7 news cycle of nothing but bad things happening to people doesn’t help either

  4. I don’t blame you for being tempted – I would have been too.
    I’m not sure we started leaving the boys home alone but I’m sure it was older than 6.
    When you do start, it sounds like she will be ready.

  5. I agree! 6 is too young. I was left alone in the 80’s when I was 8 but that was a whole other ball game. I leave my now 12 yr old son home with the 8 year old but not more than an hour at a time. I think the biggest concern I have about that is them killing each other.

  6. Shh don’t tell her you was wrong!! I’m a long way off from leaving mine home alone and don’t know how I’ll feel when he starts asking to leave for home. I too can’t remember when I was left alone at home. It seems memory fades!! ‪Thank you for linking up to the #familyfunlinky‬

  7. I do, however, find it odd that while there is no law for leaving them home alone there is a law for what age they can be left sitting in the car (say, for 3 minutes while I run in and drop off our library books, etc.). I too always assumed there was a law about what age they could be home alone. I have found that while we were so strict with our oldest, our middle child earned that privilege earlier and I bet my youngest will be even younger…. but I have to agree; definitely not at 6.

    1. That always seems to be the way it works, isn’t it? I didn’t know there was a law about leaving them in the car. I’ll have to look up what that age is, now I’m curious.

  8. Ha ha, she makes a very good argument. I can’t remember what age I was left alone from but I have no intention of leaving my 8yr old any time soon whatever argument he comes up with. I had my 3 year old wanting to be left alone today, it was time to go pick her brother up from school and she’s full of cold so she was begging to stay at home cuddled up on the couch. Unfortunately for her and me and anyone within a 1 mile radius I had to take her with me, screaming and crying every step of the way.
    #FamilyFunLinky

  9. I completely agree with your decision she’s still too young to be left home alone, but she sure is a smart cookie to try and justify why she should be left home alone #KCACOLS

  10. Great post! You have a very clever little girl on your hands. I love her innocent logic.
    I’m glad your arguement was saved with ‘the law’ that sounds like something I would say!
    None of my tribe are at the age where I would think about leaving them, although my 10 year old has offered it as a good idea a couple of times. Not just yet.
    They grow up so fast!
    #TriumphantTales

  11. #triumphanttales yes to the chief! perhaps he could text you to enforce this next time 😉
    i agree – legislation is created for the mass and although she probably is too young and you would never forgive yourself, each child is ready at a completely different age. perhaps thats why common sense is often missing from society.

    1. I’ve read some interesting things about the decline of common sense, how warning labels and such are contributors. I’m not sure I completely buy in but there is no doubt that it seems to be on the decline

    1. I wrote something recently about how my daughter looks at Him as the ultimate parent. As such, I’d guess He’d understand

  12. You have such a smart cookie there, she makes really good arguments for her case, but at six years old I’d still be so apprehensive to allow her to be on her own, even if its just popping to the local shops for milk.
    I feel for you when she becomes a teen as she’ll be so smart and fiercely independent, it will be hard to not agree with her hahah!
    Thank you for sharing this with us at #TriumphantTales. I hope to see you back next week.

  13. I read somewhere before you leave a child alone, they need to know what to do in x many situations – one being ‘if someone broke into the house’. I thought “I don’t know what I’m meant to do if someone broke into the house??!!” For me, we waited til 12. But it was an arbitary marker.Our big rule is no one accesses a head injury but me. Someone slips and bangs their head, we get called and come home – no matter how minor. You don’t want a 15 year old carrying the weight of that bad decision, should the worst occur #KALCOLS

  14. I love this – excellent points made. My daughter is 8 and very sensible but I’d never leave her. She just doesn’t seem old enough to me, or calm enough to keep her head in an emergency. I don’t think I’l trust my kids until they’re at least 14!

    Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next time

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