It happens pretty much every day. Because I need to leave my house at a certain point to pick my 5-year-old son up from preschool, I end up having to cut my twin 2-year-old daughters’ nap short to take them with me.
Here’s how our schedule actually plays out: I need to feed my girls lunch around noon—doing so any earlier is hard because they tend to sleep late and eat breakfast on the later side. Once I manage to clean them up and get them down for a nap, it’s already 12:45. By the time they actually stop babbling at each other in their cribs and start getting tired, it’s 1:15. If all goes smoothly, they’ll actually fall asleep by 1:30, which is great, except for the fact that most days, I have to wake them by 2:15 so we can get in the car and pick up my son. And while what’s effectively a 45-minute nap is better than no nap, it’s just not enough for them, as evidenced by the crankiness that typically ensues by the time evening rolls around.
But here’s the really frustrating part: I know that if I had someone—a neighbor or family member perhaps—who could just pop in and watch them for the 15 minutes it takes to go fetch my son, they’d stay asleep longer and get the rest they need to keep it together through dinnertime. The problem, of course, is that I don’t have such a person, and leaving them home alone isn’t an option…or is it?
No, of course it isn’t. You can’t leave children home alone. Period.
But part of me can’t help but wonder why.
Why can’t I leave a pair of sleeping infants tucked away in their cribs for a 15-minute stretch—especially since, conceivably, there’d be nothing wrong with taking a shower during that time, which would render me equally unavailable?
When my son was that age, he took a consistent nap every day. During that time, I’d usually go down to my basement, work out for 30 minutes in our little home gym, and then take a shower. And while I’d often check in on him via video monitor while jogging on the treadmill, I’d be lying if I said that my eyes were glued to that monitor the entire time I was down there. I’m sure I went 10-minute stretches or more without a glance. And during what was often a 15 to 20-minute shower afterward, he could’ve been screaming his head off for all I would’ve known. Yet the reasonable part of me knew I was allowed to shower. So why can’t I apply the same logic to leaving my girls home while I go out to get my son?
I know that leaving children unattended for any period of time is a slippery slope. Sure, it may be OK to leave them alone for three minutes to go drop something off at the neighbor’s house…or five minutes to quickly walk the dog…but when five to 10 minutes turns into an hour, it becomes way more problematic. I get that. But I also know that my son’s pick-up routine is short and predictable. And it would make things so much easier if I could just leave my girls sleeping, bring him home, and let them wake up on their own schedule, as opposed to being whisked out of bed mid-nap.
Also, for the record, I realize there’s a big difference between leaving kids unattended when they’re up and about versus when they’re sleeping in a crib inside a baby-proofed room they can’t escape from. I’d never even remotely contemplate the former. And I’m not considering the latter either, because it just isn’t right.
But again, I can’t help but ask…why?