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Home without a babysitter

Should our fearless mom leave the kids home alone?

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Truly fearless parenting is a goal in the same way reaching the wall when you’re 20 yards away is in Bikram yoga. If you are not an idiot, you know it’s unreachable. But you still have to try.

I have given up babysitters for my boys, trusting them on their own for hours now when we go out.

But I don’t do so completely fearlessly.

“What if something should happen?” I think before I remember that, well, something could always happen.

So I wave goodbye and blow a kiss as they scurry off to play on the computer.

“Be good boys,” is my last reminder, knowing full well that cramming a bunch of information into the brain and expecting it to stick at the last minute never works.

I leave my boys alone sans the cute young girls for the same reasons highly sought-after research analyst Harry Balzer claims most people do things: because it’s cheaper and easier.

We save hundreds of dollars in babysitting fees with our newfound leave-the-kids-alone strategy, not to mention alleviating the psychic cost of booking the babysitter and hoping she shows.

I also justify the decision because I figure that I have to leave the kids alone someday and someday might as well be now, as my eldest gets ready to go off to middle school. It’s not going to get any easier to trust these tykes to take care of themselves, to heed my hissing warnings when I’m not around to hiss. In fact, it might get harder. I’m hoping practice will make perfect (or at least tolerable) by the time they’re considering deviance on a grand scale.

Besides, the more you sit and stew and imagine the cornucopia of horrors that could befell them if you should leave them to their own devices, the more you create kids who rely on you to make sound decisions for them — who can’t imagine that they can trust themselves.

And that is far scarier than any trouble my boys might get into at this age.

Now, they rebel by eating chocolate chips (sloppily leaving a trail I can call them out on later), or they watch shows on Netflix with a few too many curse words, or they fly down the stairs on couch cushions.

In fact, I am happily oblivious to what they do in the few hours we leave them on their own.

But that’s where the work toward being fearless comes in to play.

I don’t want to be scared of the world I live in and I don’t want my kids to be, either. I don’t want to warn them profusely not to answer the door or the phone, or not to talk to strangers, and build up their expectation that something scary should happen.

I may be a fool, but I want them to imagine the world as a mostly friendly place.

And crime usually happens with people we already know, a statistic that has severely diminished my belief in “stranger danger” to a trace amount.

My kids are understandably thrilled when we go out. They have sleepovers with the friends whose fearless parents are on board offering such freedom. The kids get gleam in their eye when they ask what time we’re leaving, and when we’ll be back.

When I see that gleam, I sometimes make the idle threat to call a babysitter, but instead slowly leave while reassuring myself that I hae made the right decision.

“REACH for the wall, REACH for it,” I’ll whisper in my head like I do at yoga class. “Fearless, fearless. All I can do is try.”

Read Fearless Parenting every other Thursday on BrooklynPaper.com.

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Reader Feedback

Finally from Clinton Hill says:
Finally a mother who gets it. I used to be left alone at eleven with my nine year old brother. Rules were don't use the stove, don't answer the door and don't answer phone unless it rings twice first and then rings again (meaning it was my mother calling).

Parents these days are being suckered by the "fear nation" concept. Statistically the 70-90's were more dangerous for children. The 50-70's even more so and so on as you go back in the decades.

When will people get it through the minds we live in a safer country now? There is far less crime against children then there has ever been, and no it's not because we can see registered sex offenders on our phone apps or because we lock our kids up all day long and not let them play. It's because "boogie-man" crime has consistently gone down over the years. The only reason it doesn't feel that way is because you hear about Bobby in Idaho being hurt because our "news" now is all national 24/7. National news when I was growing up was 1/2 hour a night and covered only real important stuff, so my parents would not have heard about Bobby in Idaho.

The last thing people have to remember is all violent crimes against anyone consistently over the last 50-60 years has been 95-98% committed by someone the victim knows. The "boogie-man" is so rare and has been since our grandparents were children.
June 7, 2012, 10:48 am
jbob from PS says:
NY child protective services sets a minimum age of 12 before leaving a child home alone and they also stress that they shouldnt be responsible for younger children.

Its totally irresponsible to promote leaving young kids at home alone without at least mentioning that it could invite intervention by authorities-even a paper with the standards of this one should be more responsible!
June 7, 2012, 3:26 pm
old time brooklyn from Slope says:
jbob - eat a bran muffin - i was left alone with younger sibs at 10 or 11 and leave mine as well. she can promote whatever she likes (last week was about her boobs - you didnt complain about that one or those two lol) it oly becomes promotion when you buy into to it . mazel tov
June 9, 2012, 8:30 am
Fingling Van Gina from Park Slope says:
Leave those hot kids alone. Having you watch all the time is such a boner-killer.
June 9, 2012, 2:04 pm
kid from heights says:
I think this is the first time I've ever agreed with what you wrote. It's much better for your kids to know you trust them. They'll trust you more that way, and it will be so good for your family in the long run.
June 14, 2012, 12:32 pm

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