The Latchkey Kid [Stay-at-Home Nerd]
I was a latchkey kid before they were called latchkey kids. At 5 years old I would walk home from kindergarten and stay with my great aunt for a few hours before my mom came home from work. My great aunt was great because she was really old, not because she was anything special. Her apartment was decorated with yarn crosses and other religious paraphernalia that did nothing to inspire my faith. In fact it was all quite depressing and somewhat scary. One time she stepped on a plastic castle of mine. It was a castle I had spent considerable time constructing, and seeing it smashed to pieces by an ogre who constantly wore slippers and clutched a rosary was the last straw. I told my mom I didn’t need someone watching me.
She caved. All I had to do was promise not to use the stove. Fine by me. We lived in the apartment across the hall from my great aunt. I came home the next day after school and knocked on my great aunt’s door. She said hi. I said bye. Next thing I know I was sitting in the comfort of my own living room, watching cartoons on the television, and eating sugar bread, which like the name suggests is bread with sugar poured on it. Was this heaven?
Not really. I picked up some pretty bad habits during those years. The time was unstructured so I wasted much of it. I wasn’t on a sports team, learning an instrument, or participating in any group activity. I received no certificates of achievement. I had friends, but they obviously weren’t allowed to come over and play. My eating consisted of sugar bread, syrup bread and soda, a habit I’ve yet to break. I spent most of my time in my own head imagining wild stories of adventure, but it was years, maybe decades, before I found creative outlets for them. I’m sure with proper parental control I could’ve been more… productive.
Now I look at my own son and I find it hard to believe he will ever be alone. He hasn’t been alone yet. While my wife and I have certainly called on parents and relatives to baby sit and give us a break (that’s a whole other post), the kid hasn’t been without adult supervision since day one. When does that end? I have no idea. Five? Six? Seven? I’m sure there are books on the subject and at some point I will do my due diligence. I’d also like to believe that I’ll be able to assess my own kid and his needs when the time comes. Some parents I’ve talked to said 10 years was the magic number. 10 years? Three thousand six hundred and fifty days of adult supervision? That seems like an awful lot of time to wait for a key to your own home. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. In the meantime, I long for those periods of unstructured time where my mind was free to run wild without the outside world crashing down on it – a bird in flight, destination unknown.
featured image credit: alicia rae