When I was in 7th grade, I got my first job as a babysitter. Yes, I was 12. I was also an awful babysitter. The family had Nintendo and all I wanted to do was master Super Mario Brothers. The children? I can’t even remember their names, but there were two of them I recall and they spent most of their time playing in the back yard or up in their rooms. I didn’t feed them, I didn’t really even talk to them, but still, I was “there” right?
I don’t know what that mom was thinking, believing a 12-year-old girl could provide adequate care for her children while she went off to work. I couldn’t drive, I had very little experience with children outside my own niece (who was a baby at the time and never in my care) and I certainly would be utterly useless if there was an emergency of any kind. Still, I was their sitter…which I suppose is one step better than leaving them home alone.
As some of you know, I’m pretty overprotective of my child. We rarely used babysitters, unless we were attending a Mindful Parenting Class, and even when we did sneak out for a late night happy hour once in a blue moon, my husband would be a nervous wreck pondering the eternal damage that we’d be inflicting if our son woke up and Grandma was there instead of Daddy. Hell, I hesitate to shower upstairs if the kiddo is downstairs watching a movie…and I have a pang of anxiety when I leave him to go fetch the mail or the trash cans from the top of the driveway.
So, for me, knowing what babysitters CAN be and knowing that even with the best of sitters are never going to meet my expectations, I’d rather lick a monkey than leave my child home alone. Sure, I have friends that leave their kids home alone…one leaves her napping toddler to walk the block to preschool to pick up her oldest and another, desperate for her child to get a nap, drives her kid around and then parks the car in the garage with a baby monitor and goes about her business inside her home. Still another arms her junior high child with a cell phone and the reassurances that both neighbors are home and goes out to eat with other couples.
The laws are fuzzy, for sure, and I know kids who can and cannot be left alone in a car, in a home or in charge or other kids. But here’s the rub… Here…and I mean here in Seattle, I wouldn’t dream of letting my child go free-range. People, and I mean Seattleites, don’t give two craps rubbed together about your child. Remember the stories from the first few days of school this year with a couple of preschoolers being let off the bus at the wrong location and walking down a busy street? Nobody stopped. My son ran off at Target the other day, nobody helped. We suck. We don’t take care of each other and we are certainly not mindful of each other’s children.
Our village is exclusive and closed. Is it our fear of stepping in or are we just so focused on our own lives that we just don’t care? I swear I seem to be in the 1% that looks out for our children in public. I hold the door open for Moms with strollers. I stand by cars that have infants inside (I set a 2 minute timer before dialing 911) hoping beyond hope that the moms are just dropping off a movie at Red Box. I pay attention. Do you? Would you even know if a child was home alone in your neighborhood, on your block or right next door?