I posted a question on Facebook this morning that got a lot of responses really quickly, so I thought I would bring the discussion on to my blog. The question I asked was:
"Would you leave your two 8 year olds at home in your guarded security estate behind electric fencing, controlled access alone without adult supervision. Just for 30 mins to do trolley dash at Woollies. They know my number, they can phone if there is an emergency. Pool net on. They know the neighbor. I can probably nip to Woolies for 30 mins, can't I?"
The response was about 70% definite no and a 30% yes. I was surprised at how many adamant nos there were. Over a 100 people posted a response, it makes interesting reading. Not sure whether you can view the responses here -> LINK.
In summary, the major objections to leaving them home alone were about the following:
- They could get up to mischief
- There could be an emergency like fire or fall etc
- I could stuck in traffic / in the shop and take longer than 30 mins, what would they do
I think I have covered the gist of the concerns from those who said no ways.
I have never left my children alone at home, but today I needed to go to the shop to get some food and I thought about it a bit and wondered whether they would be ok by themselves. And so I did it - I left them at home for 30 mins. And they were fine. And also thrilled to have been given the responsibility to be good at home and also that I trusted them enough to behave.
In response to the concerns raised by others:
- My children are definitely not super well behaved (at all) but they don't mess around with my strict rules. I don't have many rules (I am quite a softy) but the rules I do have (which are about safety) are absolutely non-negotiable. My faith in them might be misplaced, but I do not think they will get up to that kind of mischief while I am away. It is not in their nature to be sneaky or wait for me to be away. Whatever they do behind my back they do in front of me, knowing that if it isn't dangerous, I am pretty easy.
- As for the emergency, obviously that is a concern. My thinking with this is that firstly there are two of them. If one of them needs help, the other one will go get it. I am not sure I would leave only one of them at home. Our neighbours are very close (as in I can hold my neighbours hand while I am on the loo and she is in the kitchen, its delightful), so if heaven forbid something had to happen, they could run next door in 30 seconds. Secondly, Adam carried the wireless phone around with him all the time. We practiced him calling my number. I phoned and checked up on them when I was at Woollies. Plus they can call the security guards on the internal phone system should they need help.
- Woollies is exactly 2kms away, so unlikely that I would get stuck in traffic in Sleepy Hollow on a Sunday morning when all the good folk are at church, but of course accidents happen. Marko was due home at 11. This was 10am. Worst case scenario, they would have been home alone for an hour.
- Not mentioned as a concern but a VERY big factor is that Max wasn't there - not a chance in hell would I leave Max at home alone with his siblings as (a) he is bloody naughty and (b) they make TERRIBLE baby sitters.
But what I didn't mention in my note, which is a major consideration, is that Rose was in her room. It's her day off so she was sleeping late or doing whatever she was doing, but I knew that the children could run to her room if something happened. I obviously told them this as well. And then just to be sure, I called her and told her what I was going to do.
So perhaps theoretically I didn't leave them home alone as Rose was in her room (which is adjacent to the house, entrance on the outside of the house), but having done it for the first time now and having read all the responses and had a think about it, I think I would do it again, even if Rose wasn't there. Between you and I, if it was Kate and a friend, I wouldn't do it, but Adam is extremely responsible. He is such a people pleaser / rule follower that he would never do anything risky. Kate would probably let the bath water run or swing from the chandeliers, but Adam wouldn't. He was in charge of the wireless phone.
It's hard to know when to let go. How protective to be. It's funny, because I consider myself quite a protective parent with some things, in fact, I thought I was quite a helicopter parent but after reading the responses on the FB post and also a discussion at Whine Club the other night, I realized I am not as helicopter as I thought. Hmmm, interesting. I know I am a terrible molly-coddler, a big softie and a little bit helicopter'ish, but maybe I have elements of free-range after all. Who knew!
So for those who did not participate in the FB discussion, what would you do?
(Funny, you know what my biggest fear is/was? That someone will break into the house and hurt them. I am not scared of them being naughty or too worried about accidents happening at home. Or being stuck in traffic - I could just phone Adam on the home phone. My thing is that I am TERRIFIED of someone breaking in and hurting them / stealing them. But I had that side covered by living in Fort Knox security estate. If that peace of mind wasn't there, I would never have gone. I think that is a particular South African fear that perhaps overseas people don't have as much.)