The small community of Valley Springs, California is still reeling from the stabbing of 8-year-old Leila Fowler by an intruder. Leila wasn't alone in her house. Her 12-year-old brother was babysitting her while their parents were away. Considering it was the middle of the day, I'm sure Leila's parents figured this was a perfectly safe arrangement. But now that this has happened, parents everywhere may be wondering: Is it really safe to leave a 12-year-old alone to babysit?
As the oldest of five kids, I babysat my siblings and other families' children starting around that age. It was no big deal at the time. Just what you do. I think some 12-year-olds are more mature and trustworthy than others, and parents are usually a pretty good judge of that. But there are some things even the most mature 12-year-old is just not capable of handling.
We still know so little about this case. Did the intruder break in, or did he just knock on the door? Did he pick the Fowlers' home because he noticed the parents were gone? Did they know this man? Regardless, you know that the same exact time Saturday afternoon, there were millions of homes around the country where a young teen was home babysitting a younger sibling or two. It's a pretty common thing.
Unfortunately, a 12-year-old probably isn't going to be very helpful in an attack like this. It sounds like he was in another part of the house when Leila was stabbed, which is typical and understandable. A young teen is unlikely to be physically capable of fighting off an intruder. He may even get hurt as well. The best he'll be able to do is call the police. (Unless the teen was actually involved in the stabbing, but that's a whole other issue.)
But cases like this are so rare! Most of the time parents can expect to leave a responsible young teen home with their siblings without anything terrible happening. And goodness knows we parents are incredibly busy and sometimes it seems easier to leave our kids at home rather than drag them around with us on our errands -- or paying a lot more for an adult to watch our kids. Still, it just takes one horrifying incident like this for parents to re-think their habit of letting kids babysit kids.
Do you think 12 is too young to babysit?