I love my sons and I make it a point to tell them all the time. That doesn’t mean I need to watch them like a hawk or even worse, as a helicopter parent. Much like Lizzie Heiselt who just wrote a nice piece about leaving her 7-year-old at home by himself, I do the same. I have steadily done that ever since he was in Kindergarten.
But it was in a different situation. At the time we lived on a campus that was for troubled teenage boys out in the middle of the woods, Custer, SD. We lived on the other side of a big hill, the facility was on one side of the hill and residents lived on the other side. Well the bus-stop was at the beginning of the hill and he and the kids would have to walk over the hill to come home. That is when we started his independence. Before his brother came along.
Now I’m no nut job who just tosses his kid out in the open and leaves. I would let him walk to the bus but I would watch him from afar, even sometimes with a binocular. Yes it would look creepy but I was doing it for his safety. I did this for a few months without him knowing then I would time him to see how long it would take him to get home from the bus. He always came home first before going outside to play. To stop him from dropping off things and turning around to leave I made it a rule that he had to wash his hands first before he went outside. This made him actually want to come inside and stay for a bit.
This worked out so well that we started giving him more time alone at home by himself. Once again I would say I’m leaving to go to the store real quick and leave. Drive to the other side of the hill where he couldn’t hear or see the car, then walk back and watch him through the blinds. To see what he was doing, and most of the time he was just sitting there watching TV or playing DS. I worked my way up to 30 minutes using 5 minute increments. Not once did he do anything that he wasn’t suppose to do. He really enjoyed the responsibility of being left alone.
Now remember this all happened before his brother was born.
My smallest is now 2, and the older one is 7. I have left them alone together to run and pick up my girlfriend on a few occasions. The young one was asleep, they both were asleep, they were downstairs (playroom), or both in their room. My older son knows how to use my cell phone, which we have taught him and I leave him with it. But in all fairness my girlfriend’s college is about 4-6 minutes away. So really it’s not like I’m leaving them for 30 minutes at a time, but I still come home as fast as I can. Then I test him by banging on the door for him to open it but don’t let him know its me.
I worry about my kids since I’m with them 90% of the day since I’m a stay at home dad. All I can do is trust that he is learning from each encounter how to be smarter and stay safe. I know most parents say that it only takes half a second for a kid to get seriously hurt and its a great idea if I want to watch my kids on everything they do. My poor children. This is how your going to learn not to touch the stove, that you can’t fly off the roof, that maybe you shouldn’t try to stand on your bike handlebars. Broken bones, and scraped knees will be your learning tools.