Sunday, March 29, 2009

What is the right age?

I have been contemplating this question a lot lately.

Maybe it's because Ellie is almost 10 and she's growing up so fast.

I feel really bad for firstborn children. (Maybe only because I am one!) They are always the experiments. It's just always harder with the first one. Letting them venture out into the world on their own is a frightening thought.

So that brings me back to - what is the right age?

To be left home alone.
To walk around the neighborhood with friends.
To babysit.
To have their own email address. (Ellie has been begging!!)
To have their own cell phone.
To go to the movies with friends (but no parents).
To walk around in a different section of the store - alone.
To run into the store alone to buy something.
To have a cell phone.
To wear make-up.
To (gasp!) date.

Some of these are obviously not going to happen for a very long time. But time creeps up on you. Before we know it, they're all going to be teenagers. Yikes!

I see kids walking home alone from school. Playing alone in the neighborhood. Gabbing on cell phones. I remember babysitting kids when I was 12 or 13. I can't imagine leaving my kids with a 12 year old!!

Am I just completely overprotective? What is the right age? I know that a lot depends on the responsibility level of the kid and the area that you live in and the values your family has. There is no "right" answer.

I just don't know when I'm going to ever feel comfortable with them venturing out into the big, bad world.


SmallWorld at Home said...

I'm always wondering about these things as well, and it was so much different for my firstborn SON than I know it will be for my daughter. For example, he got a cell phone at age 15. I imagine we'll get her one when she's 13. A lot of that has to do with that WE didn't have cell phones until he was 15, though, but also because she talks on the phone a lot more!

She is 11 now, and I am comfortable leaving her alone or with my 8 year old for about an hour, while I run my older son to some kind of lessons.

But I often think about how when I was 11, I was riding my bike 5 miles alone! Or how my DH was a latch-key kid when he was 10!

Make-up: she is just now getting a bit interested. I imagine she will begin wearing a tiny bit sometime during her 12th year. I don't wear much, and I don't see her wearing a lot--but you never know!

She does have her own email address, but everything comes through me first.

She walked through the neighborhood with a friend for the first time last month!

Movies and shopping--I can see that happening when she's 12 or 13.

Dating? Ask her dad. ;-)

Daisigirl said...

Time really does fly! My daughter is 12 already! She has a cell phone, does not have an email address, has a blog (for invited readers only), doesn't like to wear makeup, does not go out by herself, doesn't babysit. I am pretty protective of my babies. I don't really like they way things are in the world and I would like to hold them close as much as possible for a bit longer.:0)

heidi said...

It's like you said depending on the child.

I know I trust my 10 yr old but I also know she doesn't know how to fully be responsible w/out panicking. I have young sisters...all the way down to 8 yrs old. My step-mom lets the 13 yr old stay home on her own but not watch independently the other kids till they are 15 yrs old and they would have to go thru a CPR class first.

My 10 yr old, her I trust her. I don't trust the world though. She has been instructed don't stop to talk to strangers and always be aware of surroundings, steer clear from vans or vehicles that can house people hidden. An adult DOESN'T ever need help from a child. An adult will seek another adult or use their GPS, etc. (I had this discussion with her because she is a girl scout and sells cookies, didn't want her helping any stranger carry their cookies somewhere.)

Cell phone...I'm thinking about it (mind you I would turn the phone's GPS on and limit her calls). Own e-mail, not happening for a while.

Hmmm, make-up, for recitals only...haha. She loves any chance to get into my make up but to me it seems like an older teenage thing, so she knows the answer is no for now.

To date?? This is a personal choice. But my children will not date. We believe in purity rings. I believe in group/friendly outings even till they are in their high teen years. Not being left alone with opposite sex for sometime. All the girls in my family have done this and followed a path of eventual courtship. I can say, I like how this has turned out, and we girls didn't go thru all the emotional baggage of dating and our spouses have gotten some pretty special women!! =o)

Same principles apply to my boys.

Christina said...

Good luck figuring that one out. Ellie is a responsibe little girl. I don't think she'll have a hard time putting that into action if need be.
William (8) and Emily (7) and roams our apartment complex freely and William goes on missions for me to the bakery and convenience store which are out the back entrance of our complex. I don't let him go to more than one place at a time. Neither one of them is particularly mature, but we live in a very kid friendly place.
And then I was a latch key kid at 10, and I constantly remind myself of the freedom my sister and I had as kids...

Jennifer said...

Thanks for all of your input!

Ellie is a very responsible almost-10 yr old and I know that I'm going to have to let go a little in the next couple of years. She wouldn't get into trouble or do anything she wasn't supposed to. My biggest worries are OTHER people.

I should note that she does have a cell phone right now, on a temporary basis. Andy can't use his while he is in Iraq, so I have allowed her to take it with her when I drop her off at classes. It actually makes me feel a bit better knowing that we can get a hold of each other when needed. I might just have to get her one of her own when he comes back to claim his!

I know, looking back, there is SO much that I did alone as a kid. My mom was always home, but we rode bikes alone down the road and went to the store and I babysat a lot. It's just different when you're the one worrying!!

abba12 said...

The world has changed a lot since you were a child, things that were safe aren't anymore and things that were for adults are becoming for children (wether thats right or not is another matter). Maturity levels have lowered a lot as well. Children might do adult things earlier in some respects, but their maturity and responsibility has become even less. For example, you babysat at 12 years old. those same 12 year olds might be wearing push-up bras and have their faces covered in makeup, things you didn't at their age, but you still don't trust their maturity with your children.

I'll give you my opinions and how things happened for me, but I am 17 so wether my age makes the opinions more relevant or less is up to you.

For myself, it really came down to nececity for most things. at 10yo I was left home with 4yo and 2/3yo for an hour while mum ran 9yo to school (back when she was attending and i wasnt) because it wasn't practical to load everyone up to drop my sister off. Then in the summer where mum was running a storefront for the family business I, 12, and my sister, 10/11, would stay home alone all day while she went to the store because we hated being in the back room all day. We were responsible at that age though, and I couldn't ever see her doing the same thing at the same age with my brother.

I was allowed to use the family cell phone when I was 14 and began attending youth group and going out with friends so needed a way to contact mum if I had to, but it was for emergencies only, not casual use. I got my own cell phone when I was 16 and began at TAFE (technical college?) because i was on public transport and studying away from home and it was a nececity, they decided I was responsible enough to have it for personal use as well.

Walking around the store, provided it was the same shop mum was in, I probably began doing around 8 I suppose. Walking around the mall on my own was another 'nececity' thing, I guess it began one christmas when I needed to do christmas shopping without everyone following, around 10 or so?

Mum was very paranoid about the internet, but I finally convinced her to let me have my own email address when i was 12 or 13. I didn't need or want one until about a year before that, however if I'd had people to email before that I think I could have been allowed one earlier, and it should still be monitored. Mine came through to outlook, rather than being hotmail or something, so mum still had open access to anything I was sent until I finally got on hotmail at 14 or so (that one took a bit more convincing).

Going to the movies with friends but not parents started once my first friend got his own drivers licence, I was about 15 I suppose? I had supervision later in this because it was always the same group of friends, and one girl was 18 months younger than me, so her father came with us most of the time until she turned 14. Being allowed to go in someone elses car was the trick here, and that involved my parents having known the kid for awhile and a check over of the car itself :D

Makeup was banned in my house until I was 16, which was excessive, but mostly caused by the fact mum never wore it and dad didn't like it. I think a little make up now and then is fine from 12 or 13, nothing too excessive, which really most girls aren't going to want anyway.

Dating... hahaha. I know how many christian parents say no dating till you finish high school, but speaking as a 17 year old who is currently engaged to be married in 4 months I have to disagree :P. All that is doing is pushing the idea of getting married later in life, and it being a secondary idea to school or careers. I don't think there should be an age limit on dating, however, I think parents should have an active role in it. Many christians talk about courtship rather than dating, and the key differance is courtship involves the parents, this is important to me. If you don't like your girls boyfriend (for legitimate reasons mothers :) ) reserve the right to say so. Of course, you need to ensure your children know about sex and waiting for marriage before this happens. There is a maturity level to it as well, if they seem to be changing guys more often than you change your bedsheets then they might need to be spoken to ;) And of course, if they're immature you're going to want to set some limits, you don't want a child that you wont even trust to babysit go out until midnight, there's nothing wrong with daytime dates, or hanging out at someones house.

Hope this helps a bit, and good luck!

Jennifer said...

Thanks for your insight. It's nice to hear from someone that has recently been there :) Congratulations on your engagement!