August 26, 2009

Helicopter parents going broke rather than letting kids play unsupervised

Here's a funny WSJ article on what's happening in the wake of after-school programs having their budgets slashed, "forcing" parents to find other ways to ensure that their kids are being monitored. One woman has decided to fork over $7,800 for a school year's worth of babysitting (at $200 per week), while another pair of women are handing over $6,000 each for a sitter who will watch both their kids during the school year. Others are disrupting their sleep schedules or endangering their jobs to shuttle the kids around themselves, while others still are simply hectoring their poor relatives into playing the babysitter role.

Earth to nutjob parents: get a grip. Unless your kid is a born criminal, he'll be fine alone. The bus will take him home. I'd understand if the kid were 3 or 4, but once they're in elementary school, they can figure enough stuff out around the house that they don't need you there to make sure they don't light the cat on fire. You might worry about what they'll eat, but get real -- you already stuff them full of sugar with all the blueberry muffins, yoghurt, jelly, and fruit juice or soda that you have them eat. In reality, your 8 year-old will merely be glued to the TV, video game console, or the internet. And if he's discovered his sexuality, he'll be too busy indulging in a good "ain't no one home" jerk to be causing any trouble.

However, if you do have a real hellraiser on your hands, just supervise his behavior from afar the good ol' fashion way -- threaten to punch his lights out if he fucks shit up when you're not home.

Whatever the case, the sudden lack of after-school free daycare is no cause for carving up your budget even leaner during hard times. Stop hyperventilating and grow up -- it's not worth that much money just to prevent your kid from playing unsupervised for a few hours.


  1. But only prole children play unsupervised in the ghetto.

    You're missing the point - it's about buying status, not good parenting.

  2. One thing the article notes is that state laws generally don't specify a minimum age at which children can be left unsupervised. This lack of a bright-line test can make things more difficult for parents, because they have to worry about possible legal troubles if they leave children alone even if the children otherwise seem responsible.


  3. Like Peter says, this is partly about the possibility of legal trouble. Although you probably won't get *charged* with anything if Something Happens while your 8-year-old is home alone, you might end up getting regular visits from your local Child Protective Services or local equivalent. Which (aside from its status implications) is really not something you want.
    You can see the change in cultural attitudes if you look at old children's books. There's The Cat in the Hat (two kids who seem to be about six or seven, left at home alone); I also have a book about a five year old boy who goes out to town by himself and gets lost, until a friendly policeman brings him home. I don't think the police would be so sympathetic these days if I let my five year old daughter go out by herself and they found her wandering lost a mile from home.
    I think there is a double standard here, too, where minorities are cut more slack on this than whites. Which is a double-edged sword; having the police stop to see if a white 8 year old in a bad neighborhood is OK, but having them ignore a black 8 year old, can be good or bad depending on the situation.


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