Here’s a parenting question that’s come up recently: how old do you think your kids have to be go for a “hang out” at a friend’s house, when their parents aren’t home?
I mean, clearly you would not take your five-year-old over to a friend’s house for a playdate when there’s not going to be any parental supervision. (And unless you are a much bigger person than me, you’d be giving those absentee parents the side-eye.)
And clearly, your twenty-year-old man-child can go play video games in his buddy’s basement without having said buddy’s mom around to bring them Kool Aid and Pringles (because that would just be weird, no matter how much both boys would likely love the service).
But somewhere in the middle is a foggy area where you wonder. If you let your young teen go over to a friend’s house and there’s no parents there…what kind of trouble will they get into? But if you’d let them stay home alone, then isn’t that good enough to let them stay home alone…with a friend?
This came up recently because the Captain, who just turned 14, now plays Dungeons and Dragons once a week after school with a bunch of his guy friends (and I have to actively stop myself from gushing all over them, because I just LOVE it that they are playing, and LOVE it that they LOVE it, and it’s just so adorable). Usually they play at one guy’s house, and usually this guy’s dad is around, but this week the dad couldn’t be there due to a late meeting at work.
And that led to some questions. Would it be okay for them all to just gather at the house with no supervision? Would all the parents think that is okay, or do we need to check? Most of these boys are already home alone from the end of school for a few hours until their parents get home from work – so is it okay if they are at someone else’s house instead?
We certainly wouldn’t hesitate to leave the Captain at home alone if we were going out. He’s also our go-to babysitter now, taking care of his sisters some evenings or afternoons while Sir Monkeypants and I go out like Actual Adults. And if he wants to hang out at the local corner store with his buddies after school, getting a slushie and chilling on the corner, that’s approved.
So in this particular case, I was fine with the parent-less D&D gathering – I suppose that means that in my book, 13 or 14 is the age when parent-less hangouts become okay.
Do you feel the same way? Do you think every parent should be consulted? If you had a couple of 12-year-olds over for a playdate, and you had to run out and drop some other kid at gymnastics, would you? Or would you feel like you had to send the guest kids home first?
It’s these grey areas that make up the fabric of parenting, don’t you think? If only they came with a black-and-white rulebook.