#AtoZChallenge: N is for Not Science, but Art

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photo credit: Shelf via photopin (license)

I should have invented a slide rule for this sort of thing.

NAt what age should you leave your kids alone at home? This slide rule could have a side for age, one for maturity quotient. One for boy craziness, probably, couldn’t be discounted. What of that kid in your brood who fosters a healthy obsession with setting things aflame?

(Is that just us?)

There’s serious stuff to consider, outside of the kids destroying my stash of graham crackers and provolone (Not together. That’d be gross.) There’s opening the door to strangers, unsanctioned living-room MMA, or setting a Betty Crocker cookbook on a hot stove (okay, that one was me.)

In 47 states, and, I presume, Guam and Puerto Rico, when to lets the kids fly solo at home falls solely on those who raise them. Three states actually have laws for when you can leave your kids home alone.

In Illinois, it’s against the law to leave a kid at home alone before they turn 14.

Oregon’s law sets the age at 10.

As long as your kid’s 8 in Maryland, you’re all set.

3 kids home, ages 4, 8 and 11

“The first time I got left home, with them,” Grace said and pointed to Marie, “I learned to write my name. All over the dresser.” She was 4, Marie 8, and Elise 11. Grace’s age, now. Who taught you to write your name? I asked.

Marie smiled at pointed at herself.

I remember how it shocked Grace that we implicated her so easily. Marie, too. It’s not what the girls will do, it’s what they won’t do that gets them in trouble. Just unload the dishwasher, or pick up your beads and strings from those girl jewelry-making kits.

Try not to break shit, okay?

Only, when we got home, we’d find them vegged out, open mouthed, watching Zach and Cody bewilder and dumbfound every adult in that damned hotel (and cruise ship). When it comes to knowing what age to leave the kids home alone, I just went by feel.

Like this cool blogger here.

So far, no EMT visits

What did my dad senses tell me? Dad senses are to mom senses what a butter knife is to a machete, but they’re there. They’re the Buffalo Bills of parent senses – in the same league, but not really. Anyway, so far, no EMT visits during kid-alone-time.

Also, I’ve never had to tell one kid how to set a bone in a compound fracture for a sibling.

Grace got left home recently and felt compelled to text me at work to tell me. “I’m going to invite lots of boys over and order pizza!” her text bragged. Kid knows I’m a state away at work, and probably entrenched in a grueling bowling match at any given time.

Or on a porch eating a slice of pizza, myself.

“I’ll come there and grind those boys into a pile of stinky boy dust,” I retorted. “And I’ll steal your pizza.” Grace knew I meant business. For the record, we settled on an exclusion of boys and a 50/50 split on the pizza.

No slide rule required.

So at what age did you leave your kids home alone? Link the news story to it if you have one.

home alone quote.jpg



  1. My daughter is 18. Recently she said she couldn’t have a party when I am out of town because of the house. I am a piler, not a filer and she and work come first. “We’d never be able to get the disorder to be the same and you would know INSTANTLY!” and she’s right because my filing system is in my brain rather then neatly in a file cabinet.
    And my father said that his maternal grandfather repaired instruments as well as playing saxophone in John Phillip Sousa’s band. His shop was dusty piles of instrument parts that NO ONE was allowed to touch but him… because he knew where everything was….

    1. What an awesome quote from your daughter! My disorder is such that I wouldn’t recognize a reshuffling of it. Your father’s grandfather reminds me of Radar O’Reilly from M*A*S*H*! An order to the chaos known only to the creator of it.

  2. The kids were at home at 5, 11, 14. They rolled up the youngest in a blanket and told him he was a burrito. He could not un-burrito himself. Their Pops got home before I did. It was not a joyful scene. Something like “little savages” was mentioned and the story is bantered around family gatherings as it was one of the only times their dad really got mad at them. Good thing I didn’t get home first.

    1. Sounds like a post, Cricket. If burritoing was the worst that happened … well, have you ever seen Malcolm in the Middle? Dewey’s been through some stuff.

      What would have happened if you got home first?

      1. I would have either laughed heartily (it must have looked hilarious) thus spoiling any aspect of discipline or been enraged enough that they would be banned from dessert and movie nights until they repented. The hubs is more consistent in outrage.

  3. Asher is 9 and quite responsible. He’d probably be fine for short trips to the store but there is no way in hell I’d leave him yet.

  4. My parents used to pay my best friend, who was three years older than me and lived two houses up the street, to “babysit” my brother and me right up until I was in middle school. He’s only two years younger than I am. When her parents asked her why we needed a babysitter, she insightfully replied, “It’s so they don’t kill each other.”

    1. Ha! Great story. It’s more a referee job at that point. My youngest loved when my mom would babysit them. “She lets us get away with anything!” was the reason.

  5. I always thought the “legal” age for leaving children alone in New South Wales, was 10. But after some checking, it turns out there is no legal age for leaving a child in the home alone. I never left my kids alone until they were in high school. I could, however, send my ten-year-old son into town with $50 to do the week’s shopping if I was sick with the flu or something and would be completely confident he’d get the best value ($ per pound etc) for everything on the list. He would buy his lunch when shopping was finished, and then come home in a taxi. There was usually a couple of dollars change, which was his by default. That was 30 years ago and $50 could buy a goodly amount of groceries. He’s taught his daughter well and within twelve months of starting work as an apprentice pastry chef (at 15) had saved enough to buy a car. You’re a great Dad, Eli, and how you train and relate to your kids will stand them in good stead when they get older.

    1. What an amazing story. Giving kids responsibility like that gives them a chance to prove themselves to us, plus the experience of what they can do for themselves when they need.

      I know parenting is a long game, and we can’t get too bogged down in the failures and losses of the day.

  6. My eldest (boy) is 11 and he started staying home alone – for about an hour or two max at age 10. Totally legal in Canada. The girls are too young at 9 and 6 and omg NEVER. Nor will the boy ever be left in charge of his sisters because honestly I would fear for him. Either his life, or at the least his sanity. I mean I LEAVE the house to escape his sisters!! What can I expect of him? LOL So it will be a long time yet with the mister and I being able to leave all 3 at home alone. The struggle is real.

    1. Gotta play it by feel, Rore. and good call on the girls. Are these girls just little you or what? You don’t need a babysitter – you need a lion tamer. Take it from me.

  7. I’ve just started leaving Little Guy (10) at home alone every now and then so I can dash out for 10-15 mins. to the grocery store or see the chiropractor (who is always ready for me). There are only 4 rules including do your homework. He’s so elated to be trusted, he strongly adheres to all rules! For now…

    1. That’s a good deal for Little Guy, Jen. Beats going hungry or with a back out of whack. I can’t get my kids to do my homework when I’m in the room – can you help straighten them out?

  8. This is great!

    We left our two home alone when the older one was 11. We kept outings short at first, no more than 30 minutes and close to home. With each outing that was successful and no rules broken, house fires, broken bones or blood to be discovered, we increased the outings and the distance until there came a time when the kids asked if we were going out.

    To which we responded”why what times the party start?”

    We warned them we could come home at any time and did test them once. Left for 20 minutes and came home before our movie and came in the back door.
    While no shenanigans were taking place, we got our point across for any future plans that they were plotting.

    Happy to report I have two amazing and level headed, thrust worthy kids!

    1. It’s like a test, isn’t it? and we saw enough movies in the 80s to know what could happen when kids are left home alone. I fear Ferris Bueller more than I do Home Alone!

      You did good, Tiff, you did good.

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