Would you leave your 8- and 9-year-old kids home alone to go pick up takeout? Susan Terrillion of Maryland did, during a family trip to Delaware. And she was arrested. Seriously.
According to USA Today, the mom of two has been charged with two counts of child endangerment because she decided to run out to a restaurant five miles from where the family was staying, while her children stayed behind.
It turns out the kids went outside to walk their dogs, and that's when a "witness" found out they were by themselves. I guess that was Terrillion's first and second mistake: allowing her kids to leave the house while she was out, and then, not instructing them to keep the information that she was not at home to themselves.
Police were then called to the "scene" of this mom's "crime." She returned 45 minutes after leaving the family's vacation rental.
So, did Terrillion do anything wrong? According to the law, it seems the answer is "yes."
Believe it or not, some states have laws that regulate the age at which parents can legally leave their kids home by themselves. And each state is different. According to Maryland State Law, a child must be at least 8 years old to be left alone in a house or car. But according to Delaware State Law, "While there is no law in Delaware regulating an appropriate age for a child to be left home alone, the Division of Family Services will accept for investigation any report of a child under the age of 12 being left alone. DFS will also accept reports for children age 12 and over if there are any extenuating circumstances (e.g. developmental delays, physical disabilities)."
Okay. But morally, is 8 and 9 too young to leave kids by themselves? I mean, seriously, how young is too young for kids to be left home alone?
In addition to knowing your state's laws (and those of the state your family is visiting on vacation), I think that decision comes down to what you as a parent feel comfortable with. I personally would not leave my 8-year-old home alone. Unless I was going outside to check the mail...at the end of our driveway. It's not that I don't trust her, but look, things do happen. She could get hurt, with no one home to help her. Plus, I don't trust other people. What if someone came to the door, and she got scared? What if she had a right to get scared, because the person was up to no good?
I'm not sure when I will feel ready to leave my kids home alone. But when that day comes, it will. Be. Glorious. No more paying for babysitters!
In the meantime, it is my personal belief that children require adult supervision. Leaving them alone, even for 45 minutes, is not cool. I know a lot of people would disagree with me. And so be it. But I would just add that these kids were not at home, but rather at what was presumably an unfamiliar vacation property, in an unfamiliar town.
It's also worth noting we don't know the mom's side of the story. So, the truth is we should not send in the mom judgment mob quite yet! All we can do is make the right decisions for our own children.
What age do you think is appropriate to leave a child home alone?
Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.