Pandemic parents creating different kind of latchkey kid
Bringing back memories of my latchkey kid days
When my grandmother first heard that I would be coming home alone at the age of 5 (going on 6 years old in three months), she wasn’t having it. I rounded the corner after my first day of first grade, and there she was — on the porch. To this day, that is my favorite story to tell about my maternal grandmother. I just adored that woman. At the age of 56 and never learned to drive, she walked a full mile (20 minutes) to make sure she was there before I got home from school. From that point forward, I always imagined her sitting on my front porch — even into my high school years after she’d passed away.
I enjoyed being a latchkey kid. I say that with 100% confidence. However, I would’ve been perfectly fine to have my grandmother sitting on my porch like a (angelic and much prettier version) gargoyle. I didn’t need her to be there, but I liked her there.
That porch memory came to mind while I listened to last week’s “This American Life.” On the podcast episode, a mother needed to go to work while her child was in virtual school during the pandemic. The mom wasn’t having the best of luck (or affordability) finding people who could watch her daughter while she was at work. She then set up an indoor surveillance camera so she could keep an eye on her daughter and their dog. I think the idea is genius.
Some listeners (and readers) will probably frown at the idea of a mother leaving her daughter at home — in my case and hers. Mine was in the ’80s, and I lived less than a block from my school. My older brother got out of school one hour later and was ordered to come directly home. So really, I was only home alone for 60 minutes. I think that’s the only reason my pop-up grandmother and my paternal grandparents were able to tolerate the idea.
I can’t speak for all latchkey kids, but the ones I know become adults who are extremely independent and borderline contumacious. (None of us had these behavioral problems, but we also didn’t have parents who would even humor some of the antics in this report.) We’re so used to being the boss of ourselves for that minimal amount of time that we become best at minimal supervision jobs (or being the manager or owner on our own) and tend to have an “I don’t need any help” mentality. This is both a good and a bad thing. Interestingly though, that wasn’t the case for the kid in the surveillance video story.
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