When did you start leaving your oldest in charge of his or her siblings? I'm not even talking about for an evening out. I would like to know when you felt comfortable enough to have your first born watch his or her siblings while you ran a few errands in your neighborhood?
I just need to know if I'm the only one in Silicon Valley with a 12 year old that still needs a babysitter?
Last week I needed to run a quick errand to our neighborhood grocery store to get some milk. The kids had just returned home from school and rather than drag everyone to the store, I thought I'd leave my oldest (he turned 12 this summer) in charge. Typically he gets along well with his siblings (ages 8, 8 and 10) and he is a responsible kid. I've let him alone before and he was fine, so I figured this would work out too.
So after giving explicit instructions to the gang: "Sit at the table, do your homework, and have an after-school snack. Do not open the door or answer the phone unless it is mommy or daddy calling. I'll be back in 30 minutes," I ran to the store.
When I was his age, I was babysitting for various families throughout my small town. I would work for a paltry 50 cents an hour (good grief I sound old), watching three little girls ages 18 months to 4 years old. I would clean up dinner plates, change diapers, read stories, and put the kids to bed (and walk five miles in the snow to get there … just kidding). So leaving my 12 year old in charge of his three siblings for 30 minutes while they did a few worksheets and enjoyed a couple of cookies seemed like an easy job for him to do.
Unfortunately, when I returned home and walked through the door, with groceries in hand, I was met with tears and tattle tales. My younger son sat crying in the living room and my oldest (the one in charge) was sitting at the table quietly sulking. Evidently (per one of the tattle tales) what started off as playful banter between my oldest and one of the twins turned into ugly smack talk. Eventually the verbal insults turned physical and arms were bitten and legs were bent up to one's ears (think forced Cirque du Soliel moves).
Needless to say, seeing and hearing all of this resulted in smoke coming out of my ears. I ranted and raved and started speaking in a high-pitched voice that only dogs could hear. It went something like this …. Why can't I leave the house for 30 minutes without you guys fighting? You were supposed to be doing your homework? Don't even think about asking for dessert tonight! And on that note, forget about watching any television. You are all taking baths after dinner and going straight to bed!
This wasn't my best parenting moment, but I was so angry and disappointed. I really thought that my son could handle the responsibility. Many of his friends have been watching their siblings (even at night) and I thought he could do it, too. I've realized, for now, he is comfortable being left on his own and is able to remain scuffle free if he "watches" only his sister. But if I throw one of his brothers into the mix, trouble will ensue — they push his buttons too easily.
Much to my dismay, it looks like we have a long road to travel before we go out for a night without needing a babysitter. I only hope that my son is OK with having someone watch him and his siblings until he is 15 because at this rate, that is what it is looking like.
(When Sidney isn't wishing that her kid was mature enough to watch his siblings, she can be found blogging at Parent Grapevine.)
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