No. of Recommendations: 3
Venting here.

Last year I babysat my niece while Sis (her mother) went gallivanting off to Europe. When Sis subsequently floated the idea of my doing it again, I graciously sidestepped hoping she'd get the idea that the week I'd already given was a one-shot deal:

Apparently she didn't get the idea. She recently made plans to visit another sibling (a 6-hour drive from her) for a long weekend in October, leaving niece home alone, and asked my opinion. My response was:

Well, since you asked, my thoughts are "Bwah ha ha ha!"

Living in a dorm is different than living in a house by oneself, where if one's peers find out, that becomes Party House. At parent meetings at DD & DS's high school, the principal was emphatic to "NEVER leave your kids home alone! You think you can take a weekend vacation without children because your high schooler is a straight-A responsible person who won't do anything stupid? Think again. In fact, don't even think about it. Just don't do it. Even if you cling to the mistaken belief that your kid is perfect, guess what. His friends aren't. You can have a vacation after your kid is off to college." There were indeed a lot of high-achieving kids at <DD & DS's HS> who studied hard and partied hard. When DD came home from Beach Week (the week when seniors frolic on the beach without adult supervision, which they claim they should be allowed to do because they're "going off to college soon, so you should TRUST us!"), she said I would be surprised at who went to the emergency room for morning-after pills. I guess her knowledge of my high standards gave her the impression I was also naive.

Even if pouncing friends/acquaintances weren't a possibility, might <niece> feel lonely coming home to an empty house, or being in an empty house at 3 am? Even when the two of you are in separate rooms, if you're home she knows you're there. And when you're at work she knows you're just minutes away.

I'm all for lengthening the leash as they get older. For example, senior year my kids didn't have curfews. They had plenty of opportunity to do whatever they liked. But I think they considered home a safe haven, and having an adult on the premises was part of that. I see you're also all in favor of granting as much freedom as possible, with <niece> having a car, going off to a summer program 600 miles away, gallivanting at an amusement park with her friends, etc., and that's fantastic.

What I'm hesitant about is that, given her maturity, it'd be very easy to over-estimate her comfort level or capability in independent situations. You think "She's 17 (going on 37) already, where did the time go?" and I think "She's only 17."

So, if it were me, I'd stay home. Better safe than sorry, only one more year, and all that.

On the other hand, it's possible the principal was wrong. He found out about the kids who got into trouble in empty houses, and knew how little relation that had to their levels of responsibility otherwise, but he didn't hear about the kids who were home alone without incident. And I'm pretty much a homebody anyway, so it was very easy for me to stay put. It was an easy decision for me, but I can see it's not a slam-dunk for you.

So I figured Sis would either cancel the trip, or arrange for niece to stay with friends. Nope. She asked me to babysit. I said, "Thanks for the invitation, but I'll pass."

I hope that wasn't too abrupt, but if so, too bad. It was far more tactful than saying what I really thought, which was, "(1) Your kid is your responsibility, not mine, and (2) your kid is really obnoxious, so my staying with her last time around was a HUGE favor for which you should be forever grateful. Of course I'll pitch in in case of a true emergency, but short of that, fuggedaboutit."

* sigh *
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