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As a father of 6, I am quite familiar with the conflicts with wanting to travel while also keeping a semblance of a normal family life / schedule.  We believe in the benefits of family travel and over the past several years have been to California, Disney World, on 3 train trips, Yellowstone and more.

a man and a girl holding signs

We also do “long distance” dates where one parent takes an individual trip with one kid – we’ve done those in New York City, Hoover Dam, Texas among others

But I also firmly believe that one of the best things that you can do for your children as a parent is to strengthen your relationship with your spouse, which is why Carolyn and I also believe in taking trips just the 2 of us.

Iowa woman goes to Germany; leaves 12 year old in charge

Reports from CBS News and KCCI have come out regarding Erin Macke of Johnstown, Iowa – a mother of 4 kids (ages 12, 12, 7 and 6) who had plans to go to Germany.  It sounds like she had babysitting options lined up, but for whatever reasons they fell through.  Rather than cancel her plans, she left her 12 year olds in charge and just went anyways.

The father of the 2 younger kids got a phone call and tipped off police.

My favorite part of the story was the comment that “when the police entered the home, they found the 12 year old in the middle of putting food on the table”

She was also charged with transferring a firearm to a person under 21 as there was a gun left in the house that the kids had access to.

So how young is too young?

So let me just state up-front, for the record, that I do not believe Ms. Macke was correct to leave her 12 year olds in charge when she left the country.  I think most people would agree with that.

On the other hand, I do feel a bit of sympathy for her, especially if we give her the benefit of the doubt that she DID arrange childcare but it fell through at the last minute.  As I mentioned, Carolyn and I have taken a couple of trips without our kids over the past few years – Peru, London, Monaco, around the world, Hong Kong, etc.  So believe me, I understand the logistical trickiness of arranging babysitting, and that’s even having a fairly stable home and family situation.  We’ve bartered for babysitting (twice) and used family / grandparents.  For our last trip to Machu Picchu, we actually had to split up our kids to 2 different sets of grandparents because 6 kids is a lot (understatement of the year)

I’m comfortable with my 15 year old in charge for evenings out.  In thinking about it, I think that I would not feel comfortable leaving my kids home for any longer period than that until the one in charge was at least 16 or 17 and probably 18.  I will also admit that I have not checked local laws if any.

When making those types of decisions for our family, I tend to think of both what would be safe as well as what would likely get me in trouble from the law if something happened / someone “found out”, which are, unfortunately, not always one and the same.

So I’d be interested to hear from other parents what criteria they’ve used for leaving children in charge

  • At what age is it okay to leave children in charge of siblings for an evening?
  • What about overnight?
  • What about for a few days and/or when you’re further away?

I’m sure a lot of it depends on your specific situation, the maturity of the child, etc., but I’m curious to hear others’ opinions

Have you ever left your children in-charge to travel?  How old were they?

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