[twitter]A few weeks back I wrote about kids walking to school alone. I won’t let Zacharie and Charlie do it, despite being old enough IMO, because of the craziness around school parking lots. When a streetlight is installed in the spring, we’ll reexamine it. Settled.
But others in my community have different levels of comfort with their kids out on the road.
There’s a kid who looks about 7, whom I cross paths with en route to picking up boys from school every day. I’m walking to my son’s school, I’m guessing he’s walking home from the bus that drops kids off across the street from the school. He’s usually with an older brother, but the last two days he’s been alone.
A kid in Grade 2 walking home alone? It’s awesome!
I want to ask him about it. I want to know which school he goes to, if he’s got a parent home, or if he’s latchkey. I want to know how long he’s been doing it for. I want to know if he’s scared. I want to know his experience so I can compare them with my sons. Maybe I can loosen the leash at let the boys come home on their own.
But I can’t ask him about it. I’m a man. I’m a stranger. It’s that same feeling I have around kids I don’t know at the pool. I hate not being able to talk to kids, but I don’t want to appear creepy to this kid and blow this totally awesome thing he’s got going.
It makes me sad.
A news story broke this week that has me wanting to ask even more questions of the kid. A court in BC has ruled that a single mother can not allow her 8 yr old to be home alone.
The case stems out of concerns by a social worker and the boy’s father, who is separated from the boy’s mother. They had objected to the mother allowing her son to stay home unsupervised after school, between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. each day, and when she continued her actions, she was threatened with the removal of her child.
In court, a social worker testified children under 10 lack the cognitive ability to stay safe on their own at such a young age due to potential incidents including accidental poisoning or fires.
The mother argued there was no proof her child needed protection, that children mature at different rates and there’s no law stating how old kids have to be to stay on their own.
But the B.C. Supreme Court judge upheld the findings of the previous trial judge, that “children under the age of 10 could not be safely left alone, therefore establishing there were reasonable grounds to believe [the boy] required protection, and that such protection could be effected by a supervision order.”
Last year we contemplated leaving Zacharie home alone at 7. Seeing these kids walking home alone has me thinking about it again. But the courts say no? We’re not allowed to leave our kids home alone until they’re 10? (This is opinion, by the way, there is no law on the books regarding to this issue).
Age of consent is a funny thing. We in North American society all agree that you can drive when you’re 16 and vote when you’re 18, but if you want to have a beer that’s up for debate. You need to be 21 in the US, 19 in BC, while Alberta says 18 yr old kids in high school are fully allowed to have a beer on a break between classes.
So who is to say what age is appropriate to leave your kids home alone? One kid’s 8 is another kid’s 10, or 12. It should be a parent’s right to decide. You know what’s best for your kid. If you’re being reckless, that’s one thing, but if you’re in a small town and you’ve raised your kid right, there should be no issue.
“There are seven-year-old kids that I would trust with the keys to my house, and 17-year-old kids I would never trust with the keys to my house,” John-Paul Boyd , executive director of the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family, told the CBC.
This whole thing got tossed into a mess for this mother because she’s separated from her child’s father. She got called out by someone looking to make trouble. Much like the neighbours who call the police on kid’s playing in a park by themselves, or walking home alone. It’s the lookie loos and nosy nosersons who make things worse.
Which makes me grateful that nobody has called out these kids in my community for walking home alone. I love that parents think our community is safe enough, that people will watch out for each other, and trust in their neighbours.