Sunday, 31 May 2015

Teen and Tween Special: Leaving your children home alone

My boys are 12 and 14. I am a single parent. There are times, unfortunately, when I have to leave them on their own.

Even though my 14 year old is more mature than his own grandpa (oh - is it 6pm, mum? Time for PJs and cocoa!), I worry about doing this. The law is woolly, with the guidelines being

- children under 12 are rarely mature enough to be left alone for a long period of time
- children under 16 shouldn't be left alone overnight
- babies, toddlers and young children should never be left alone.

We all know that the law is there to remind us of what should be common sense; of course babies should never be left alone. Of course you'd never leave your children overnight.

But can I leave my boys together for an afternoon in the school holidays, while I work? Sometimes I have to. And particularly now, as Tween's accident means he can't play sports for three months, which means his holiday club is out.

I feel very uncomfortable about it.

This, quite frankly, spells a pile of old bollocks for the summer holidays. It means that either a) I lean very heavily on the goodwill of other parents, unable to pay them back, because I'm always at work, b) leave the boys at home whilst I work, and risk them tearing each other to pieces over time allocation on the Xbox, or c) take unpaid leave. Which I can't afford. And honestly - work frowns on anyway (because we don't live in Sweden).

My boys beg me to leave them on their own. "You don't trust us," they wail. "Not like Freddie's mum - she leaves Freddie outside for DAYS." (He is left to his own devices A LOT.)  And I try to explain to them that it's not that I don't trust them (although obviously it is) - it's just that, I don't trust ANYONE ELSE IN THIS GOD FORSAKEN WORLD. Without me there, they could step out into the road (dead), fall down a cliff (dead), put their heads in the oven (extremely uncomfortably hot). They could get picked up by a stranger (dead), fall into a man trap (dead), or drown in the bath. Dead.

And that, I try to explain to them, is why they need me. Because I am their life-support machine. I keep them alive.

Obviously I'm joking. A bit. I never say these things out loud. But I do say them in my head. And I know that they're not 4 and 2 anymore and I know that, if this were the 1970s, they'd both be out on their bikes everyday, climbing trees, playing chicken - and I would only see them at teatime. And they'd very probably be very much ok.

Where are the Yoof Clubs of old? The places where our teenagers could go, shoot some pool, put some tunes on the jukebox and rot their teeth by drinking too much pop? If your child is sporty, all well and good - there are clubs galore - but if they're on the nerdy side, the pull of the online monster is too much, and they're all tempted to spend the whole day with the curtains shut playing Shoot My Fucking Head Off. To death. And what's worse is - they think it's OK. (It isn't.)
Teenagers. Not dead, but doing a YOOF drama project

We don't have a Yoof Club round here. I'm not sure if they even exist anymore. Sodding arsing Government cuts.

So this summer will be spent stressing that I'm not being a good mum (as usual). Leaving my children at home to play with knives or browse GodKnowsWhat on the internet, whilst I chew my nails at work and try to stop myself from phoning them every quarter of an hour.

Parents of Teens and Tweens - how do you cope with the holidays? I would really appreciate your advice.

_______________
@secretdivorcee

Ref: Gov website advice on leaving your child at home: https://www.gov.uk/law-on-leaving-your-child-home-alone

And then the fun began...
Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

14 comments:

  1. That's a hard one. Admittedly - I'll leave my ten home for half an hour - but no longer. And I imagine all sorts...that never happen.

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    1. I know - they're much more capable that we think! Thanks so much for commenting, Liv xxx

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  2. Hard decisions for every mother. I remember the first time I allowed my daughter to walk to the play park, she was 6 and I followed her! Also the first time she went shopping in town with a friend, dropped them off and picked them up. Imagined all sorts of horrors but they were fine and not accompanied by a Policeman when I picked them up! It's hard to let go but most times it's about our anxieties rather than their inability to behave while we are away. It's not easy though when you don't have back up at home. For perspective, my nephew in Canada is 15 and he's allowed to drive a car!! Good luck, you are doing a very good job raising them you know!

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    1. Thanks Vivien. It's funny how we wrap our children up in cotton wool and yet, metaphorically, I think I was dropped from a great height into the big wide world when I was about 6! Funny you mentioning a policeman - I was left to do my own shopping in the centre of Birmingham at that age, got lost, and had to be taken to the police station. I was fine, obviously, and thought it was just a happy adventure :-) x

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  3. Insightful post - and food for thought for those of us with younger kids. I was left on my own regularly from 8 and also in charge of my half brother whose almost three years younger. Not good, and we got into all sorts of scrapes as a result.

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    1. Eek! 8 is very, very young. Thanks so much for your comment, and glad to see you survived to tell the tale :-)

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  4. Wow that is a tough one....my boys are only 2 and 4 and at the moment I can't even imagine leaving them alone ever! :-)

    Having said that, back in the day I was left regularly to look after my younger brother and sister when I was 10/11 when my parents worked. (sometimes night shifts so I'd have to put the siblings to bed too!)

    It made me grow up and become very responsible - and we never got into any trouble for fear of my mum finding out we'd been up to no good! #TheTruthAbout

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    1. Thanks so much for your comment. Yes, I think we were treated as more mature much earlier on in those days. I'm sure I was left to my own devices much more than my two are! x

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  5. In the Philippines where I am from 16 is old enough to be left alone! How can they really start taking responsibilities if you wont give them any. But I guess it really is different here. I am sorry that I cant help. I wish I can as I can feel the weight of the problem that this bring you. #thetruthabout

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  6. Funny I wrote a post about fear in parenting recently and it was really about the fears I think I have about the kids when they're older, including all the things you say about worrying that without us there to watch over them they'll do themselves a massive injury! I think the conclusion that most of us drew was that you've got to take some calculated risks - think of it like a fear of flying - if you never got on a plane then you're world would be a smaller, less interesting place but you take that risk, you have to trust the pilot and the engineers - everyone. It's easy for me to say when I don't have to worry about this for a few years yet but it seems like the only way. I'm not sure how other single mums cope in school holidays either, without lots of input from grandparents (this seems to be the case with my step daughter, who, by the way was often left on her own at home for a couple of hours while her mum went to the stables a 20 minute drive away from the age of 8, that we know of).

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  7. In our state (I live in the US) there's no law about what age a child can be left alone. Which is good, because then I can make the decision based on their maturity and personality.

    Of course, I'm a stay at home mom so I don't have extended days to worry about once summer rolls around.

    #thetruthabout

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  8. Really tricky, And it's what stops me getting a proper job as a single parent too. IKWYM aobout the excruciating exchange / soul selling too. Good luck! #MBPW

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  9. I'm a few years away from having to deal with this one, but my time will come. Very best of luck over the summer months. #BrilliantBlogPosts

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  10. Having a 15 and 13 year old, I come across this daily. I now have my 10 year old begging for me to leave him at home on occasions when it's just him in and I need to do a pick up. I'm not comfortable with that at all. I've just about got to grips with the idea of leaving my eldest at home for a day but in charge of her sister? Not likely! Arguments aplenty I imagine. Tricky one for parents. No strong rules means it's hard to decide.

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