I was a latchkey kid.
Once I was in sixth grade, my mom went back to work full time. When my brother, sister, and I got home from school, we let ourselves into the house.
I honestly cannot tell you what we did once we let ourselves in. We probably had some milk and cookies. I recall watching 4 p.m. cartoons. Mom was usually home in time to make dinner.
I certainly was not in charge when we came home, which is to say that I didn’t tell my siblings what to do. For all I know, Krissy was watching TV as soon as we walked in the door, and Timmy went to the neighbor’s house to play. Seriously, no clue. I don’t think I did homework until after dinner.
I don’t remember being stressed or my mom being stressed.
So why am I so stressed about my children being, technically speaking, latchkey kids? Although I haven’t heard this term recently, so maybe it is no longer in the parenting lexicon.
Flora comes home first, and Kate and Michael are home an hour or so later. Everyone usually checks in with Bella next door, and/or texts me as soon as they are home. I come home about 30 minutes after everyone is there, so it’s not as if they are on their own for a long time.
I’m not worried about them needing to call 9-1-1.
I want them to come home, do their homework, and do their chores. If they have a snack — and given that Flora is eating lunch before 11 a.m. at school, I fully expect her to have a snack — I want them to clean up after themselves.
I would lament, “Is that so much to ask?” But given the state of my house when I get home, apparently it is.
The tablets have gone away. I have told them the TV is not to go on until I get home and give permission. I come home to homework scattered all over the kitchen table. I come home to a room that looks like the toy box, pantry, and the arts and crafts drawer exploded. I come home, and feel like I have to start barking orders. “Flora, empty the dishwasher! Kate, set the table! Michael, pick up your toys!”
I don’t want to come home and start ordering my children around.
Flora and Michael each have one evening of soccer practice; Kate will be starting gymnastics in a couple of weeks. Pretty soon, also, Flora will be bringing home her violin to practice, and Kate will either be bringing home a trumpet or a glockenspiel (according to her, this is an option).
I was a quiet, solitary child. I’m sure that I came home, had a snack at the kitchen table (probably didn’t clean up after myself), and dove right into a book. And that’s all she wrote. We had after-dinner chores: clear the table, rinse the dishes and load the dishwasher, wash the dishes. Timmy used to *love* washing dishes. He would fill the sink up with water, bubbles, and dishes, and he would take forever about it. He hated rinsing dishes, though; he was totally grossed out by leftover food.
Yeah, my brother, the dermatologist, was grossed out rinsing food off plates.
I didn’t think about it that much. I liked clearing the table the best, because it was easiest and fastest. Homework was done in the dining room or at the kitchen table. I didn’t hate homework. I didn’t love it either. Much like chores, it was just something that needed to be done. I’m sure I had to be *encouraged* to practice piano.
But I feel like I am stressing out my children with my expectations of finished homework and a clean house. Are my expectations too high? Should I try to come home sooner and walk them through the process of after-school activities (it’s not undoable, just means I will have to fit in another hour of work at home after dinner — flashbacks of after-dinner homework).
As far as bedtime, for Michael, it is unmovable. Little dude cannot make it past 7:30 now that he’s in a classroom setting all day long.
We are only a week into the school year. I’m not going to survive. I either need to lower my expectations, or find a way to encourage my children to step it up.
How do you manage after-school time?
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