Latchkey Kids

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?

Copyright for featured image: naypong / 123RF Stock Photo

10 thoughts on “Latchkey Kids

  1. You are stressed because other parents are judging you. Because that’s what they do, and honestly its really starting to piss me off.

    Paul called this morning and told me how another parent made a snide remark about my 2nd graders crossing the street in the morning to get their bus. Something we’ve been working on for weeks. While Paul watches from the porch, ONE HOUSE AWAY.

    Bella is one house away. Your children are brilliant. They will be fine, and are learning valuable skills of independence. You know, those skills recent college freshman are severely lacking.

    1. I don’t feel like I’m being judged by other parents. Where we live is private enough that I don’t even know if the neighbors are aware of the situation. We aren’t at the bus stop in the afternoons, but my district isn’t a stickler about that. The children in my neighborhood walk to their houses from the stop in a group.

      I feel like I’m stressed because I just want a neat house, and it’s completely gotten away from me. I do feel that I am helping them to become independent. Heck, they can cook for themselves if they want to! I just want them to clean up.

        1. Oh, I’m sure I get judged by other parents, just not on this particular issue!

          You, too, should be commended. You are doing a good job letting your children be independent. Sorry your neighborhood moms can’t handle your awesomeness! ** hugs! **

  2. my 2nd grader walks to school by himself. he has to cross one 4-way stop. soon his kindergartener brother will be walking with him.

    as for the chores, etc., my mom always left a list of chores, which would include housework and dinner prep (vacuuming, peeling potatoes, etc.). in the fall/spring, we had 15 min from the time we came home to have a snack, get changed and get out to the field to work (i grew up on a vegetable farm).

    my kids? um, not so much, haha. they need to be NAGGED to do their work.

    as for your situation, what about a staggered approach to the work you want them to do while you’re there? maybe in the first week, stress that the dishes need to be cleaned up. focus on that, use a star chart or whatever, and then when that is (somewhat) ingrained, move on to the next thing. maybe small, simple steps will help. i dunno.

    regardless, i would LOVE to hear updates about this, as we’ll be moving into this territory in the upcoming years. and i’d love an update to your technology post of a few weeks back, as well, if you have time :).

    from what i can see, you guys are doing a great parenting job.

    1. So last night, I explained, very explicitly, what I wanted: clean dishes put away, table set for dinner. I’ll let that sink in for a bit before trying anything else.

      Bella (my MIL, who lives next door) gave me a good line to try with them as we work out this territory: “Do it right, or do it twice.”

      I’ll let you know about the tablet situation. They have actually done okay this week without them. The real test will be parent-teacher conference, and homework.

  3. My kids are still too young for this, but I feel the same way. When my siblings and I were young, my mom didn’t work so we came home and had an adult present. When we were old enough to all be trusted, she went back to work but still made it home to cook. Once I hit high school, she worked later so I made dinner for the family.
    Now my wife and I already work later, so in a few years when this becomes an issue we’ll definitely have to adjust our routines somehow. I’m just stressing about those grade school years where they’re too old for daycare/after school but still too young to be left alone. Once I’m there, I’m sure I’ll be stressing about the same things you are now!

    1. I would say that if you give your children the tools now that they will need, you can help them grow into independence. For example, make sure they know their address and phone number; make sure they know how to reach you and your wife. Make sure they know how to call 911 in case of an emergency.

      As they get older, there may be after-school programs offered by the YMCA. Or you may have a teenage neighbor looking to make some cash who can get your children off the bus and stay with them until you or your wife get home. Good luck!

  4. What you’re asking isn’t too much. It’s just that – in my experience, anyway – it takes seven thousand repetitions before something actually sinks in. Consistency is it. Now if only I could remember that on a daily or even monthly basis 🙂

    1. My husband had a good suggestion yesterday, that I grade the children on their efforts. As they improve, they get better grades, and then, eventually, a dog. (Pretty much.)

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