How old is old enough?
The question runs like an invisible thread through most of the conversation here yesterday about how to keep our children safe. It is a constant balance — of giving them independence but also security, of them wanting to be big, and us wanting them to wait just a little longer. Except when it’s the other way around.
Sometimes the question is answered by the law. Car seats. Driving licenses. Marriage.
But even where the law weighs in, parents still hold sway. Drinking alcohol is illegal until age 21. But what about that sip of wine at home? That taste of beer while out to dinner? And what about Wisconsin? As Dirk Johnson wrote a few days ago, bartenders may serve minors of any age with their parents permission. At what age do you give that permission when the law says the choice is yours?
Sometimes the questions are answered with the help of the family doctor. When to introduce solid foods? Allow a first taste of honey? Start using sunscreen?
But most of the time it is up to us, to make countless decisions, based on lots of advice but no firsthand expertise, and most often just our gut.
Lisa Foderaro recently explored the question of how old is old enough for a child to stay home alone. It is the one I would put at the top of a long list.
At what age would you allow your child to:
See a PG-13 movie?
Stay in the car while you run an errand?
Baby-sit for the neighbor’s children?
Baby-sit for his or her own younger sibling?
Walk to the store to do some grocery shopping?
Have a credit card?
Ride a bike to school?
Stay up later than you do?
Use the stove?
Stay out after you’ve gone to bed?
Have a cell phone?
Watch TV without a parent monitoring the content?
Use a computer?
Use a computer without parental blocks?
Use a computer in their own room?
Go alone on a play date to a friend from school you do not know?
Have a sleepover?
Go on a date?
To repeat the advice from a friend that I first quoted when I started Motherlode: “It all depends on everything.” But even if you don’t know everything, you have to take a deep breath and choose. What factors have you weighed in your personal equation when making these, and other, choices for your children? Did your answers surprise you? Were they the right ones? READ MORE