Home Alone…with Friends

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.

5 thoughts on “Home Alone…with Friends

  1. I think I’d be comfortable as long as both sets of parent’s know. When my 12yo goes his his buddy’s house where he’s alone usually until his mom gets home approximately 30 min later, he sometimes requests a kid to play with (and they plug in, that’s all they do). His parents asked me if I’m ok with it, because they’re ok, so we said yes.

    Likewise if my son brings them home and I have to take the girl child out for a minute, I do it (but let the parents know and if they’re not comfortable, then the playdate can’t happen).

    I guess as they get older (15, 16…) it’s no longer a question of whether anyone trusts them, but rather would they 9i.e. YOUR offspring himself) have the foresight to put at least partial dinner on (make a salad, set the table) when they know/realize that a parental element is going to be late…

    Or something. 🙂

  2. I have yet to step into the world of playdates and I’m delaying the moment, considering that 1) we aren’t super social 2) we both work from home.

    I remember spending time with friends without parents present around 11-12 yrs old. Mind you, we were also walking to school alone, etc. We were pretty responsible and society was perfectly fine with it–French kids are taught to behave like adults from a young age.

    You’re right, there are no set rules. It depends on so many things… the kids (how responsible are they?), the neighbourhood maybe (can the kids feel safe and find help if needed?), etc.

  3. BG is only ten, but I’ve had to leave to pick up Bonhomme from a playdate when she had a friend over, and I left them both at home alone while I did it. I did check with her friend’s dad if he was ok with it (he was fine with it), I wouldn’t have left them alone if he hadn’t been comfortable. I didn’t worry about it and probably would have been ok leaving them alone even for an hour or so. I’m wondering now if I would have felt so comfortable if it was Bonhomme who was ten and home alone with a friend… he’s not as mature as BG so I’m thinking probably not- not until he’s 16 or so. 🙂 Guess for me it totally depends on the kid, and the friend.

  4. This is tricky. I leave my kids at home all the time and have for a while (I mean, short periods of time, not like all day or anything). I guess it would depend on the friends and the household. I’m still scarred from a local story a few years ago where young teens (say, 13, 14) accidentally burned their own house down. They were super good kids, latchkey kids, but they were just sort of playing with matches while their mom was at work and somehow ended up burning the house down. TRUE, TERRIFYING STORY. So I guess it would depend if you had matches in the house, or if you knew exactly what kind of kids the friends were. I mean, I’m pretty sure my own kids wouldn’t play with matches but that mother probably also thought that. Possibly this is the least-helpful comment ever. I currently have a hundred boys in the house (not really, only 4, but they are loud) and I would probably leave them unattended if I had to, but you know, they are so goddamn clumsy it would have to be an emergency. Oh, and the boys in question are 11, 11, 12, and 13.

  5. I think it depends on the kids (are they responsible? are they the type to think inviting another 50 friends over is a good idea? Will they try to microwave the cat just to see what happens?), the situation (are there other adults accessible if necessary?), and the amount of time.

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