When our daughter was born in 2003, I have a distinct recollection of the moment I realised that if I wanted to go out with my husband we would need to book a babysitter. It was an abrupt change after years of being footloose, fancy-free and able to leave the house at a moment's notice, without planning and without consulting anyone else.
I remember the feeling of being trapped, the sense of hunkering down for the long-term. I felt like my freedom had been severely curtailed; I'm guessing that's not uncommon with new parents.
Even back in 2012 when I pondered the issue of what age you can leave children home, I approached it from an inquisitive point of view; I hadn't genuinely anticipated that this dilemma might one day apply to me. Even then, the prospect of escaping the house on a date-night without lining up a babysitter seemed a very long way off.
So I was as surprised as anyone when we left our thirteen-year-old home alone one evening last week in order to dine out with another couple. As detailed in my original article, "it is against the law to leave children under 14 without making reasonable provision for their care and supervision".
We made the following reasonable provisions. We ascertained that she was a sensible child, unlikely to get up to mischief. I'd previously left her for short periods during the day; these trials were without incident. We intended to return before darkness fell. The restaurant was less than 3-kilometres from home. She was happy and confident with the arrangements.
In fact, our daughter was highly enthusiastic about the idea of being left home alone at night. I'd mentioned it to her a couple of days earlier. Her eyes lit up and she said, "Really, what date?" I was about to tell her when I remembered I hadn't come down in the last shower. What parent would give a teenager advance warning of being home alone? Not this one.
As it was, when we were out at the child-free dinner last week, one of our friends (knowing this was a first for us) said: "Apparently it's all over Facebook that there's a party at your place right now". We knew he was kidding because teenagers these days don't do Facebook. If he'd said Snapchat instead, I might have believed him.
Anyway, it all went smoothly. I'd asked my daughter to text me every thirty minutes so we knew everything was okay. She had sent two texts before I even thought of looking at my phone. Is that a) slack and unmotherly or b) evidence that I am not a helicopter parent? I will go with the latter option.
I have to confess I enjoyed the liberty involved in having a babysitter-free night out. I love the idea of spontaneity. For fourteen years, if we've wanted to catch up with people we've had to plan quite a long way ahead to make sure we secured our babysitter of choice. Now we can head off out at a moment's notice if we want. It's a whole new world.
As previously mentioned, we would have been able to give the judge or Child Youth and Family (or whoever we would have had to answer to if we were accused of child abandonment) at least five examples of the ways in which we had made reasonable provision for our daughter while she was home alone. We had done our homework. Our ducks were in a row.
I'd no sooner decided that we were quite good at this, when I realised that this requirement for reasonable provision applies only if the child is under the age of fourteen. But our daughter actually turns fourteen soon.
What sort of provision must be made if we leave her home alone then? Unreasonable provision? Slack provision? No provision? We're adaptable so I'm sure we'll be able to arrange whatever is required. We will nail that brief. But it does seem a little strange that you're supposed to cast them adrift at such a tender age.