It’s a tent-pole requirement of parenting to always be comparing the lives of your kids to your own childhood.

We point out the ways our children are more fortunate than us: “I didn’t get to go to Florida until I was 31. You’ve been there three times before you turned 9. Stop complaining!”

We observe the changes in how parents monitor their children today. For example, it seems like most of my generation had free reign to play wherever they wanted for as long as they wanted. We’d leave the house, wander the neighborhood, and check-in at home for a snack or lunch or to grab a required toy then take off again. My mom had no idea where I was about 90% of the time. Today, we put strict limits on our kids. “OK, you can ride down to the W’s mailbox, but no further. And you better stay where I can see you from the front window.”

I was thinking about situations like these last night as I drove to cover a high school baseball game. Why then? I was leaving the girls behind, on their own, for more than just a few minutes for the first time ever. They had roughly 90 minutes between when I left and when S. would get home.[1] I fed them snacks before I departed, leaving strict instructions not to eat anything else until their mom got home. They knew not to answer the door if the bell rang, and to stay inside unless there was an emergency. They understood that they could text/FaceTime me, or another family member, if there was an emergency. But they also knew not to text me that a sister was bugging them. And so on.

Of course, they did fine. They’ve had a few shorter periods home alone over the past eight months or so, thus we weren’t jumping into the deep end on our first attempt.

Still, I was nervous leaving them. Which seemed really weird because I began coming home from school and staying home alone for hours when I was seven. Yes, I was a Latchkey Kid. I never burned the house down or suffered any serious injuries while unsupervised. But I also didn’t have two siblings that could lead me into trouble. I was reasonably responsible and generally was a rule follower, so I avoided situations where major trouble was a possibility.

As I drove, I thought of all the things that could go wrong. I was less worried about general nonsense that resulted in injury than some kind of fluke event that the girls would not know how to handle.

There were no panicked texts, no angry phone calls when the spouse arrived home. When I returned around 9:00, the house was still standing and all the girls were either safely asleep or winding down in their rooms.

This was kind of a big window to leave them alone. I’d prefer not to have to do that again right away. But it is also nice to have a little bit of trust in them, allowing us the freedom to let them stay home while we run to the store or other errands, go exercise, or just need to take something to a family member across town.

  1. 5:30 first pitch 45 minutes from home required an early departure.  ↩