Letting a Child Stay Home Alone, But Haunted by “What If?”s

Hi Readers! Sometimes I hear from Free-Range parents who feel alone and judged when they let their kids rise to some occasion. Here’s just such a mom in Australia. To her and everyone else trying to buck our fear-everyone/everything/all-the-time culture, I say: We are with you and support you! – L.

Dear Free-Range Kids:  I recently started to allow my 7-year-old to walk home from school on her own. I make sure I get home from work by the time she is home. But last week I also allowed her to walk home to an empty house and wait for me to come home — about 30-40 mins later — instead of being bored at After School Care.

When she called me when she got home, she told me that the neighbour across the road had offered to take her with to her granddaughter’s horse riding lesson. I had to call the neighbour to talk her out of it — my daughter would have had to sit on a bench for 1.5 hrs! — and to assure her that my daughter was safe at home and that I would not have allowed her to stay home alone if I didn’t trust her.

So far I have not had ONE person that I have told about this agree with me when I explain why I did this. All of them treat me like I am irresponsible, negligent or even stupid. The latter launch into a list of “what-ifs,” as if I had not at all considered any risks before I made this decision. Child abductors, traffic, unruly teenagers, emergencies at home, “What if the dog runs out”…

To those who will listen I try to explain that I have done a risk/benefit analysis of all of those things and am doing this because I think it is the best thing to do for my child’s development. But I feel so alone in this right now. On a very selfish level, I DO think: “What if my child is the one in a million that gets abducted? Then all those people will say, ‘Told you so!’ and make life even more unbearable.”

Thank goodness for this website. I told someone today that I am NOT alone in this, and that there is a whole movement of “nutcase parents” like me out there and that I hope that they will get heard and gain popularity. – Aussie Mom

Let’s hear it for the nutcase network! – Lenore