Friday, April 27, 2007

Home alone

Truth be told we forgot about the rehearsal. Normally it's on Sunday evening, but this week a concert conflicts. So our Osprey Quartet rehearsal had been rescheduled and I forgot until the phone rang fifteen minutes after Erin and I were supposed to be there. Given enough time I would have taken the younger three, complete with quiet-time activities and snacks. But they were so happy at home, and it would have been a cruel and lengthy process to uproot them. So I left them home alone.

They've had lots of graduated practice. It started with "I'll be up checking the water supply -- look after each other and call on the 2-way radio if you need me." And as Erin got older it made sense to leave her home in charge of Sophie and Noah for short stints, since all three kids get along well, understood what "no risky activities" meant, and had proved themselves responsible and reliable. Gradually the stints got longer. And then they included Fiona for short periods of time too. The commonest situation was that I would be out at a meeting or rehearsal, Chuck would be home with the kids, but we'd make the calculated decision that if he got called in to the ER, the four kids could stay home alone while he was gone. And it happened now and then.

And then, once Noah turned ten, we started leaving him, or him and Sophie, home alone for very short periods. An hour or less. They have done beautifully well. Never ever a problem, never ever a concern.

Today was a bit of a jump, though. Noah and Sophie and Fiona stayed home alone for almost two hours while Erin and I barrelled down the hill to rehearsal at my mom's. It seemed like a good time for the leap. Fiona has become so much more grown up lately, and Sophie is a wonderful sister to her. And last week when I had to dash out to work in the evening, leaving Chuck and the kids home for the evening, and asked Noah to help Fiona practice her violin he cheerfully took on that role. So, while it was a spur-of-the-moment decision, the groundwork had been well-laid and really, Noah is 10-going-on-15 a lot of the time. And I mean that in a good way.

When I got home, Fiona came to the door with a big grin on her face and her arms loaded with folded paper.

"Look at all the paper airplanes we made!" Then she proceeded to show me that Noah and Sophie had taught her to fold them all by herself. (Fitting that she be using a quartet album as a folding surface.)

She's a paper-craft maniac lately, so this was a perfect activity for her. She was thrilled to have been taught this by her siblings while I was gone, and to surprise me with a demonstration. They'd had a lovely time and really appreciated the responsibility they'd been given in staying home alone.

Lately I'm reading "Too Safe for Their Own Good" by Michael Ungar, about the value of allowing teens to take on risk and responsibility. I know that I'm giving my kids more responsibility, and exposing them to more risk, than many parents would feel comfortable with. But Ungar points out that we either give it to our kids or they take it -- and at least if we give it we have some control over the level of risk and the safeguards in place. I'm really enjoying Ungar's book.


  1. Good for you for trusting in your kids, and allowing them to grow in their confidence!

  2. Hey, are you the unschooling Miranda from MDC, by any chance?

  3. Yeah, that's me, Shanlouise. A.k.a. moominmamma. Cheers!


  4. I'm Brisen over there. I'm enjoying your blog (when I can, hehe), lots of neat ideas to look forward to when my kids are older.

  5. I have to agree that as a society we are too over protective. I too used to leave my boys when they were young for small errands--to walk the clothes to the laundry room, to run to the corner for milk, etc They are now 20 and 16.

    As teens they were very independent boys who traveled the world in groups with peers and alone; they aren't afraid to go place nor talk to people. And I like it that way.

    And the graduated approach is the best way to go, imo.


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