Parenting Fail, Or Honest Mistake?

Yesterday we were hanging out in the living room, just enjoying one another’s company when there came a knock at the door. I opened it to see the little boy who lives upstairs (we live in an apartment) who appears to be, oh.. Maybe eight. Nine at the most. He looks worried, and is all sweaty (it got to almost 80 degrees yesterday). He says to me in a very polite and timid voice that he needs some help and isn’t doing so well. I asked him what was wrong and he tells me that his mom isn’t home, she’s at work and he’s been trying to get ahold of her for a while now. He says that he can’t get into his apartment and she isn’t answering her phone and he’s afraid of these bees and wasps that are buzzing around. I asked him if he’d like to come in and wait for her, and he tells me that he’s not allowed in other peoples’ homes (good job little guy!). I asked him when she was supposed to be coming home, and she said 5:00. This was around 3:45. I suggested to him that he could go to the office and see if they could maybe let him in. He looked worried, and said that he wasn’t allowed to go that far (we live at the top of a big hill and the office is at the bottom near the entrance to the complex). I asked him if we could go down for him, and he looked even more worried and said no, he didn’t want to get in trouble and his mom would probably get mad at him. I began feeling frustrated (not with the boy) and asked if he’d like us to CALL the office and have them come and let him in. Again, worried look and a shuffle of feet saying he didn’t want to; it would make his mom mad and he’d get in trouble.

I’m starting to feel a little wonky about this whole situation, so I asked him what we could do to help. He stuttered around a bit and stumbled on words and wondered if he could call his mom. I asked him if he’d like to use my cell to call her and he nodded. I dialed the number for him and he called. It went to her voicemail. He left her a message and was trembling a little bit the whole time he was talking. The poor thing looked on the verge of tears the entire time. He said something along the lines of, “Mom, please pick up I can’t get into the apartment and it’s hot out here, I don’t know what to do please please call me back.” I asked him where she worked and he said he didn’t know.

I asked him repeatedly if he wanted to come in and he just shook his head “no”. At this point Josh was already pulling on shoes to go down to the office and he kept telling us, “No no no, don’t go down there, she’ll get mad and I don’t think they have a spare key anyway.”

I, of course, didn’t argue with him and tell him that of course they have a spare key, how else are they going to get into your apartment for maintenance if you’re not home? But I didn’t, because the poor thing was already distraught enough as it was. I didn’t want the child to get in trouble with his mother and he seemed genuinely worried about making her upset. I was beginning to feel more and more “off” about this whole situation. Josh kept insisting that he go down and talk to the office people but I told him I didn’t feel right about that either; that I didn’t want the boy’s mother to get pissed and take it out on the kid. The little boy said he’d just wait on the stairs for her. I told him to come back if he needed to use our phone again, and not to hesitate to get us if he needed anything.

Around 4:50, he came back and asked to use the phone. I was holding the baby and rocking her to sleep so Josh gave him his phone. He called his mom again, and there was no answer. He left her another shaky message, and handed the phone back to Josh. Josh asked him if he was SURE he didn’t want to come in and he just shook his head quickly and repeated that he wasn’t allowed to. We told him, again, to get us if he needed anything. Josh shut the door and looked at me. I know that look, it was a “I want to smash something” look. We were both feeling pretty crappy about the situation and were also feeling angry. Now, I know we don’t know this woman’s situation or circumstance, but here is what we did know:

  • 8-9 year old kid gets home from school and can’t get into his apartment.
  • It’s almost 80 degrees outside.
  • He’s terrified of these bees and wasps.
  • He can’t come in where it’s cool.
  • He’s afraid to ask for help.
  • His mother won’t answer her phone.
  • HE’S 8 OR 9 YEARS OLD. Did I mention that?

Does this seem a bit wrong to anyone else, or are we being too quick to judge? I’m inclined to say that we aren’t, but again. I don’t know this woman’s situation. I believe she’s a single mom; I don’t ever see a man coming and going from the apartment. Just the mom and her son. But still.. This situation just seems a bit off to me.

Speak of the devil, I just watched her get into her car and leave him by himself. I don’t know where she went or how long she’s going. I’m trying really hard not to be judgemental but it’s getting more and more difficult.

So what do you think, guys? Parenting fail, or should I back off?

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  1. devilneedle says:

    Ok, I'm a SAHM so I can't even BEGIN to imagine my 8 year old needing to be home alone while I'm at work… but yes, I know that not all moms are as lucky as me to be home when their children come and go from school in which case, the kids become latch-key children. Alright, fine, whatever. But, I still think that 8 or 9 is still a bit too young for a child to be completely unsupervised for extended periods of time. Maybe the mom can't afford childcare and the child is a very mature 8 year old and she trusts him to be home alone. I dunno, the mother knows the situation better then any of us, but in a case like this, I think she needs to at least have a back-up plan set in case an emergency like this should ever come up. There should always be one or two extra keys hidden outside just in case the child is locked out. Or, the mom should've gotten to know her neighbors so that in case something happened and the little guy needed help, he felt safe to go and ask for it. Kudos to that family for having the typical "stranger danger" knowledge, but the mom should have planned for emergencies in advance and found someone the family COULD trust in case something like this should ever come up. So, while it's something I would NEVER have done with my own child, I won't bitch about the mother leaving her child alone in the apartment, but I WILL bitch that she didn't have an emergency plan set up just in case of something happening. And quite honestly, (for the sake of that little boy) I think if I were you I'd go over and introduce myself and make it crystal clear that you're always there to lend a hand if the family needs it. It's great to have a neighborly neighbor. :)

  2. criticalcrass says:

    oh, that's a tricky one. it sounds as thought she's being neglectful, but if you approach her to discuss it she'd most likely become irate. how often do you and she talk about anything in general? maybe if yall became better acquaintances, you could offer to watch him, politely, when she won't be able to?

    thanks for stopping by my blog!

  3. Kristi Nommensen Dorson says:

    8's pretty young, regardless of your situation. I don't yet HAVE an 8 year old but I don't think I'd be comfortably with leaving them alone… I hate to throw the word 'neglectful' around but at the very least make sure you can ALWAYS answer your phone and be there for your child if you're at work or whatever! JESUS.

    In TN there is no law with a minimum age for kids to stay home alone, but the state guildeline is age 10.

    The National SAFEKIDS Campaign recommends that no child under the age of 12 be left at home alone.

    I'd be really uncomfortable about this situation. You don't want the kid to be uncomfortable or unsafe, but at the same time you don't want him to get in trouble with the mom, and if she is in a desperate situation where she's doing her best to care for him you don't want to call DCFS on her either, worst nightmare to me, having someone interfere with my parenting. SUCH a hard situation. I'd keep an eye on the situation, maybe try to introduce myself to her and get to know her, before saying anything. You could try to find out what her situation IS without looking threatening. You COULD even offer to let him come to your place if he's nervous or scared, but then you're putting yourself out there more than you might want, I don't know. :/

  4. Miracle Pending says:

    Seems like a fail to me. Parents like that have nothing but denial for things like this though. My fiance and father were both raised in a very similar manner. I notice a lot of parents of boys tend to give freedom earlier than those with girls.

    She should have picked up her phone, but I was allowed to walk home from school (with friends) at around that age. Of course, I'd forget my keys at times and just stay at the neighbor's until my parents got home.

    I'd say just to reach out and try to become "neighborly."

  5. KarmaPearl says:

    @critical we've not actually formally met before. She stopped us as we were coming into the apartment once and asked if they stomped around too much or were too loud (they are our upstairs neighbors). That's it, though.@Everyone the general consensus seems to be that it was a bit irresponsible, and that I should keep an eye on the situation. And possibly try and be nice to mom and offer help when needed. I still feel off about this situation and I got a distinct "I'm afraid of pissing off my mom" vibe from the kid which really bothers me. I think it was ridiculously irresponsible of her to not have a spare key for her child available and also to have been so unreachable on her phone. Plus, the fact that the kid didn't know where his mom worked? I was a latchkey kid and I knew my mother AND father's work numbers and the names of where they worked. Something just feels amiss to me and I will definitely keep my ears and eyes open.@Toni I definitely would not call DHS or DCFS.. I'd never jump the gun that quickly and probably would not call DHS unless I knew for a fact that the child were being abused, or very seriously neglected. As far as sitting outside with him, I had people over and was feeding Nellie and rocking her to sleep so that wasn't really something that was an option at the time.

  6. KarmaPearl says:

    @Toni yeah, the thing that bothered me the most was how worried and afraid he seemed of pissing off his mom or "getting in trouble".. And he was just so timid and soft spoken like he was afraid of saying the wrong thing. I could be reading WAY too much into it, but I just had a really wonky feeling about the whole thing.

  7. She definitly cares for her son or she wouldnt have such strict rules on him not going into other apartments and such.

    She definitly sounds single, and honestly, I was staying at home by myself at that age. Would I leave my own child home at that age? Nope, but that's just me.

    Is it illegal for him to be alone at that age? Yep, I'm pretty sure you have to be 12 in this state to stay alone. Do you want to call DHS?

    I would have gone out and spent some time with the child. Took him out some water and maybe a snack. You could have just hung out around outside your place just to keep an eye on him. I'd also talk to the office about a bee problem, and you wouldnt even have to mention about the boy if you didnt want.

    Make a note of it, write it down, and then keep an eye out to see how often it happens, then you can make the decision to call someone or not.

    Also, try to say hi to the lady whenever you can. Maybe befriend her so that if this happens again, the boy can come in and wait.

    I feel as a mother I'm responsible for all children.

  8. We're having abuse awareness month at work right now so I'm all about reporting "bad" parents.

    I was just a little concerned about the way the boy reacted in regards to pissing off mom. I mean, come on, my kids upset me all the time and they aren't scared of it cause I don't beat them. And, by asking if they are too loud above you, well, mom seems to definilty be concerned with her image and what others think of her, again going back to how the kids didn't want you contacting the office. Mama seems to want no drama…. Or maybe it's the office that mom has the problem with rather than what you may think of her.

    But, yeah, the kid should have known where his mom worked. This falls into neglect to me. I would seriously keep an eye on this little guy.

    Also, sorry your lunch thing fell through. Definitly a good idea to get out when you're a SAHM. :)

  9. I think it was a good idea to tell Josh not to go down to the office. It sounds like to me, parden my french, but that the kid would get his ass beat if mom found out about it.

    This type of parenting just really stresses me out. This poor kid shouldn't have been left outside his house all day.

    Alright, Maddie's nap is now over so my time is now done. :)

  10. The Moniak Family says:

    That is a tricky one. I feel bad for the little boy; he does sound kind of afraid of his mother, but then again, I was "afraid" of my mother too and the worst thing she has EVER done to me is raise her voice. I was just "afraid" because I hated getting in even a little bit of trouble!

    There are a lot of things about this situation that we're not clear on, and there's no way I would call DCFS based on this particular instance. In fact, I think DCFS is called a little too quickly sometimes. Don't get me wrong; I'm ALL for children being in the safest, most loving environment possible, but just because a parent doesn't do things the way I would doesn't mean it's downright abusive or neglectful. For instance, I was never spanked as a child and probably wouldn't spank my own… but I would never report a mother that did spank her kid (unless it turned into actually BEATING the kid). Also, while I agree that he's awfully young to be left alone for extended periods of time, I'm not sure it falls into the category of "neglect"… like someone said, the kid might be really mature for his age and I'm sure he generally does have a means to get into his house, and a mother who answers her phone. He seemed really distressed by the situation, which tells me this is NOT something that happens often.

    Generally, I agree with everyone else – let the neighbor know you care, and keep a casual eye out for the kid.

  11. Emelie Stanfield says:

    Very tricky. Sounds like you did what you could at the time, though. Maybe have a chat with the mom about having you guys be the boy's 'go to' people if this was ever to happen again? (Meaning it would be ok for him to come inside next time etc.)

    Thanks for stopping by my blog :)

  12. Mama2primus says:

    Yeah, sometimes the extra cautiousness can be a cover for mom not wanting her son to tell anyone anything. Sounds like the poor thing was terrified about anyone finding out anything. I can't imagine being unreachable to my child. My son is 1 1/2 and whenever my husband and I go out on a date I'm always worried that I won't hear my cell phone, even though 99% of the time it is his grandparents who are watching him! I don't care where she works the mother NEEDS to be reachable when she has a young son. I would probably casually mention that you saw him outside and wondered if she needed you to keep an extra key for her or something like that. I would imagine you would be able to tell a lot by her reaction. I can definitely see why you feel 'off' about the situation, though.

  13. Amaprincess says:

    I think you are wonderful for caring! I am not sure too many people would. I hate the thought that an 8 year old needs to be left at home alone. I can't imagine the amount of stress that he was under during that time! Poor little guy! I read here that you said you barely know her…but is there a way to talk to her without getting the kid in trouble?

  14. On one hand part of me is screaming REPORT HER!! Leaving her child alone IS neglect, and she should learn she can't do that! Then the other part of me says what if she was this abused woman just trying to make it on her own, raising her kid with no support, no friends, no family. If it were me I might ask her she needs a baby sitter for the times when he is home but she is gone. That way he then feels safe that you are mommy approved, and he is out of harms way. Then again I was a babysitter and nanny so I am totally used to having a brood of kids, but it might be overwhelming to try with your own newborn so only take it on if you feel comfortable with it. Other then that I would have offered the kid some water at least while he waited.

  15. Pop Culture Casualty says:

    This post made me cry a little on the inside. Poor baby and poor mommy. I agree with the other commenter that suggests going over and introducing yourself. Mom might enjoy hearing that you are a safe place for her son if he needs anything at all. In fact, perhaps you should suggest she leave a spare key with you in case the problem arises again.

    Sometimes kids think they are going to be in big trouble, when parents really just want them to be safe and happy.

    Being a good citizen sounds like the best approach! And thanks for checking out my blog and leaving a comment.

  16. Melissa B. says:

    Hmmmmmmm…you might want to visit her when she's home and explain what happened. Volunteer to keep a house key for her? Good luck figuring this out. SITs sent me by, and I'm glad they did!Like a Fish Out of Water

  17. Silver Spoon, Paper says:

    1. Hi Natalie. You're right, it's a funny coincidence indeed that we both know Shamaiah. I've popped over to your blog more than a few times in the past, and I knew exactly who she was talking about when she asked. I should have said hello earlier, but am glad you did!2. I read this post days ago and definitely got the impression from you that he was extremely scared of getting into trouble, which makes me wonder what all that entails. I'm willing to bet that mom's single and leaves him fairly often, but I'm not sure where the spare key plays into it all (except that it might be hard to find a place to leave it outside of an apartment). But he should still have his own set. Either way, you're right, at 8 he should have known WHERE she works, but probably should also know the number. I think you did what you could at the time, but maybe you could leave a note on her door telling her that the situation concerned you and that you're willing to take him in if it ever happens again (and hopefully she won't abuse that as a safety net).

  18. I'm thinking that since he was so afraid of getting into trouble, he had probably done something like lose his key or lock his key in the apartment. Especially if you've not often seen him hanging outside in the winter. We had a cold winter and if he had been left without a way into the apartment before, I'm certain you'd have seen him. Hopefully, the mother will take this situation as a warning and work out some sort of backup plan for her son getting into the apartment or having a second place to go.

    In the meantime, it can't hurt to introduce yourself. Next time you see her, tell her that you're the family who let her son use their phones to call her. It could be a way to let her know that you're there if he needs any help.

  19. I agree with some of the previos poster.

    If its something you feel comfortable with. Maybe make it a point to "run into" her. Tell her her son needed to use your phone and he's a sweet boy etc… And let him know if he's home alone he can come visit the baby…

    if you dont want to "nose" in make a story up about how you locked yourself out once and had to wait for the door to be unlocked and it would have been nice to wait somewhere.

    HOWEVER that being said. If you leave your 8 yr old home alone you should be accesible by phone at all times
    Personally if this happened to me I would prob ask my mom what I should do LOL

  20. The fact that he was so worried about making her mad worries me. My mom was way overprotective, and I would never have been left alone at that age. Having said that, there is no way I would leave my children alone by themselves that young. I see kids that look about that age out by themselves, and I get all twitchy and cranky and think, "WHERE ARE THEIR PARENTS?!" Poor kid, I'd like to give him a big hug. :(

  21. Poor little guy. Eight or nine is too young to stay at home. What did you end up deciding to do?Stopping by from SITS.LisaDay

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