I was a Latch key kid.
If you are under the age of 25 I can already see the contorted look on your face right now , followed by the confused question ” what the hell is a latch key kid”. Without going in to a great deal about a time much before you were around I will explain it this way:
We wore the keys to where we lived around our necks.
Usually the product of a broken home where one parent was left with most of the responsiblity to provide for and take care of the collateral damage from the marriage: meaning, us children. Because our parent had to work sometimes two or three jobs to survive and day care was for rich people back then, our parents came up with this bright idea that we could watch ourselves, and our siblings- at the age of five, six, seven.
This is where the saying ” I did the best I could and you did not come with a manual ” was invented by parents who really deep down knew better but had no freaking choice.
Anyway, us kids would find our way home after school and in my case I would then knock on our neighbors door and pick up my brother, where we were then instructed to let ourselves in our apartment and basically hide there until my Mom got home. She would usually have a snack left out on the table for us to eat, we would watch TV or play with our toys until she got home from work a couple hours later.
We were left with a simple set of instructions:
DO NOT ANSWER THE DOOR FOR ANYONE * Probably because my mother was worried it would be child welfare coming to check on us.
IF ANYONE CALLS AND ASKS FOR ME, I AM DOWN THE HALL DOING LAUNDRY * Because I guess back then child kidnappers would call before they took you? And they certainly would know that they did not have enough time to do it if your Mother was just down the hall doing laundry….
NO FRIENDS IN THE HOUSE WHILE I AM GONE * Because such friends would probably go home and tell their parents there was a five and seven-year old just down the hall ALONE and then such friends would never be allowed to come visit us again, therefore if you ask my Mother she was actually looking out for our lifelong social status and the fact that she wanted us to have friends.
LOCK THE DOOR BEHIND YOU, AND CALL ME WHEN YOU GET HOME. *Listen, if we made it in the door period we were safe. I would have thought there would have been more rules for when we were walking home from school alone or to the fact that we actually had the key to where we lived proudly displayed around our neck like a big billboard that says – ” HEY, I am all alone and there are no parents around when I get home. And didn’t my Mother ever watch scary movies? What if I was kidnapped but the kidnappers knew I had to call my Mother right away after I got home and so they were just standing over me with a gun pointed at my little brothers head saying ” Just tell her your home and your fine and we won’t shoot your brother”.
Those were our rules, yep all four of them and that was it.
As we got older the list of rules changed to a list of chores: Clean the bathroom, separate the laundry, peel the potatoes, then cube them and start them at 430 so they are done when I get home from work, do your homework and Oh, call me when you get home so I know you are
safe, doing your chores.
Suddenly our safety was of little concern anymore, she knew our strengths and she was going to use them, which is why my brother never did a damn thing when he got home but ” play” and I was left to do most of the child labor. Yes, my brother was obviously the intellectual one, learning at a young age that if you act like you can’t do anything- people just leave you alone.
It didn’t kill me , it taught me to be responsible , it taught me how to clean, cook and care for those younger than me, which when I think about it were really great things to know when I got pregnant at 17….must of broke that don’t let any friends in the house when I am gone rule on that one. ( Sorry Mom)
Listen, I know my Mother did it for the greater good, she saved all that money to put us through college, to buy us our first car, she put all that money in savings and when we graduated we had this nice little egg nest on which to start our lives with. SERIOUSLY? She did it so she could buy groceries and pay the utility bill.
I listen carefully to kids now ( anyone younger than me is a kid by the way) , when they explain their childhood. I listen to them analyze everything and blame their parents for all that has gone wrong in their lives , how everything is unfair and unjust . And I think to myself ” I am just glad I got out of mine alive”.
And yes, I still lock the door as soon as I get home , I make myself a snack and usually I call my Mother.