At one point or other, you knew it was going to happen. Your 12-year-old daughter has launched a babysitting career of her own in the neighborhood and now insists: "Mom I'm old enough to stay home alone." (She's referring to the 40-plus hours during which you are at work and she's on summer break.)
The drill starts with the insistence that "I'm too old for a babysitter," and goes something like this: "But mom, all my friend's moms let them stay at home." Or, "Mom: nothing bad is going to happen while you are at work, I'm just going to have (fill in the name/my best friend) over to watch TV."
It's at this moment that your attempt to orchestrate a full summer's schedule for her of babysitters, camps, and swimming lessons via Excel spreadsheet, is totally shot.
I know, I've been down this road three times, enough to learn that my instinct to hire an off-duty Navy SEAL for a stealth drop-in mission, to make sure the kids were okay (i.e. not throwing parties), were right on.
Where is Mrs. Doubtfire?
Summers suck for the working mom, especially when you're leaving tweens and teens back at the ranch with idle time on their hands. While you slog away at work, your kids are popping pizzas in the oven and forgetting they are there, or welcoming friends through the front door and unleashing the dog to roam the neighborhood.
Where is Mrs. Doubtfire when you need her?
The list of potential disasters goes on and on. I know this firsthand because I've experienced just about all of these calls while at work:
"Mom the smoke alarm just went off?"
"Hi Mom, I locked myself out of the front door and Emily (the toddler your older daughter is watching) is taking her nap inside."
"Mom, how do you make macaroni and cheese (with the metal pan) in the microwave?"
And that's just the tween stage, don't even get me started about life with a high school or college-aged teen home alone during the summer. My 18-year-old daughter tells me that the new pastime is "Grill and Chill Parties:" daytime BBQ bashes teens stage while moms are at work. Last summer it was garage beer pong. (Substitute ping pong paddles for shots of Corona.)
So what's a working mom to do? One of my co-workers came up with a clever way to get around the "babysitter" issue: she dubbed the teen-aged babysitter who watched her tween son "his summer concierge," explaining that "He's here to help drive you to baseball practice or else you would have to walk. He's here to serve you."
Luckily for her, her son bought it. I've never been so lucky.
Many Circle of Moms members say they too don't know what to do with tweens while they're at work. Sherri M. says she tried to leave her 12-year-old step-son alone during the day and thought he was going to be safe because "he's taken the first aid courses." She also says, "You know when the dog's away, the cats will play."
Biting the Bullet
As I've learned, and Circle of Moms member like Ana R. point out, "at some point you have to leave them home alone." You just have to bite the bullet. It's one of those "letting go" moments we all despise.
But Ana suggests a trial period: "You might try leaving work to go see what is happening in your home. Surprise visits to see what is going on are a great idea. I randomly sent neighbors or relatives over to my house to make sure my son was not causing trouble."
Hmmm, maybe that back-up team of Navy SEALS is not such a bad idea after all.
Do you leave your tweens home alone?
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