Family / Parenting

Leaving Children Home Alone



Our boys are ten and seven years old, and I confess that I have left them at home unattended for short periods of time. It all began when Asher, our older child, stayed home from school with a fever. He planted himself on the sofa to watch television having little energy for anything else. I left him there. I don’t remember why. Perhaps I ran to the store or the post office. Or it’s possible that I skipped out for a moment just to feel less like a prisoner in my home. In any event, I left, and he was fine.

We’ve gone through the drill. He knows not to answer the phone unless he sees that I am the person calling. He knows not to open the door under any circumstances. He is not to do anything that resembles cooking. He knows my cell phone number and knows where I keep the list of all the emergency numbers he would ever need. Still, I get nervous. I try not to imagine every possible disaster that could take place in a 20 minute time period. I try not to picture myself on trial for negligence. I tell myself that I won’t leave him again – that it’s just this one time. Suffice it to say, my outings are far from relaxed.

As soon as I get home, I check on him – usually by yelling up the stairs, “I’M HOME! ARE YOU DEAD?” So far, he has only answered with, “Yes,” which amuses us both.

Last week, Asher was sick, and I kept him home from school. Once again, I left the house.

I returned home to a crime scene.





Asher: Yes!

Deborah: Good, then you won’t have to tell me what snacks you ate without my permission.

Asher: Huh? (Asher made his way to the kitchen and realized his mistake.)

Deborah: I don’t actually mind that you got a snack by yourself, though I’d prefer if you asked me first. But, I’m disappointed that you would be so careless as to leave the evidence of your supposedly clandestine food looting in plain view.

Asher: What??

Deborah: You left the chair in front of the pantry, Dude. Amateur mistake. I’m disappointed.

Asher: Yeah, I forgot to put the chair back.

Deborah: Next time can you wait until I get home so you don’t have to climb on chairs?

Asher: Yeah.

I still leave them occasionally. And, I still worry about what could happen. Now, I also wonder what other crimes they might be committing. Mind you, I am not so worried that I stay home. And now I can see the light at the end of a long tunnel. One of these days, I’ll be able to go out to dinner or see a show without having to hire a babysitter. I can almost taste the freedom…and I can still imagine the catastrophes. Perhaps it’s time to invest in a nanny cam.

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  1. karimoxa says:

    I did the same with my boys, now 15 and 20, when they were younger. The older one I could have left home alone since he was 5…he never got into anything and was always super responsible and trustworthy. The younger I still shouldn’t leave home alone as he is often a disaster waiting to happen. But I think we help prepare them for life when we allow them to take responsibility for themselves. Both my sons are very independent now. They cook, do laundry, and even clean sometimes!

  2. Elizabeth Miropol Posner says:

    Love it! There is nothing like the first time you leave the kids, feel confidant, can actually relax at dinner and know you are NOT financially doubling your outing by paying a sitter. The taste of freedom is sweet. We are about to contemplate leaving the kids OVERNIGHT, alone for the first time, while we take a weekend respite. Nina will be home; she is in college after all and on her own already but will she makes sure the other two don’t burn the house down? TBD.

    • “…about to contemplate” – Love.

      I bet they don’t burn the house down, but you may want to take out additional insurance just in case. And tell Nina she can always call me if she wants to ask me anything without worrying you. Then HAVE A FANTASTIC TIME!!

  3. Jan Kaminsky says:

    Thank you for confessing! I love not feeling that I’m the only one. I will leave the boys here and get Talya at school (4 blocks away) and I feel unsure, though of course they’re always fine. A couple more years and we’ll be footloose and… well, maybe not quite.

    • We’ll always worry no matter how old they are. I think that’s what I’m realizing. We signed up for a lifetime of worry. Is it wine o’clock, yet?

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