Thursday, March 7, 2013


Is there a specific age or grade level that can accurately rate the adeptness of a babysitter?

When my older girls were little, I hired our seventh grade neighbor to babysit for us when we went out.  Seventh grade equals 12 or 13 years old.  I had no problem trusting her with the care and well-being of my four and two year old daughters.  I, myself, started babysitting in seventh grade.  I started out as a mother's helper.  The mom worked from home in a basement office, while I was upstairs with her 2 (and eventually 3) children.  Eventually, I graduated to watching them at night when she would go out to dinner with her husband.

Seventh grade seemed just right to me, but then I started to get to know tweens and teenagers, my own included.  Age does not equal maturity or responsibility.  I have one daughter, who until fairly recently, would only be allowed to babysit if I was sure my other daughter was home too.  Those who know us may be surprised to find out which was the one I was uneasy about. I won't divulge that secret, now that I have two very competent babysitters, both together and on their own.

Recently, a 39 year old mom from New Cannan, Connecticut was arrested for leaving her four children, ages 13, 10, 4, and 1.5, home unattended.  To me, that seems very well attended.  Most 13 year old girls and boys are more than competent to be left home to babysit for their siblings or neighborhood children.  Unfortunately, that was not the case with this girl.  The four year old was able to get out of the house and cross the street to a neighbor's yard.  The neighbor called the police who found the children "home alone."   Upon returning home, the mother was charged with "risk of injury to a minor."

Who is at fault in this situation?  The mother?  The teenager?  The neighbor?  Obviously, the teen was not paying enough attention to her siblings if she did not notice one slip out the door.  Then again, this four year old might be a little escape artist.  Maybe, the mom should look into installing a few locks out of the preschooler's reach.  The neighbor could have taken the child back home and spoken with the teen and her mother when she returned instead of calling the police.

This story could have ended badly.  The child could have gotten hurt, or worse.

A few months ago, there was an episode of "Good Luck, Charlie" where the toddler, Charlie, under the supervision of her older brothers, walks out of the house and visits the neighbor.  The neighbor immediately called the child's father and then played games with the little girl until he arrived to bring her back home. In the end it was all a big joke, everyone laughs, cue the happy music, "Good Luck Charlie!"

Times have definitely changed since I was 13, and children wandering out alone and in the street can lead to many dangerous situations.  Do you think that this mother should be charged with neglect for leaving her 13 year old daughter home to watch her siblings?  At what age do you think someone becomes qualified to babysit?

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