Friday miscellany, one day late: Getting stuck at O’Hare…

I first started writing this in a hotel cafe in downtown Chicago, where I flew to give a speech Friday. The flight in was fairly charmed. I got up on time to run on the treadmill, then drove to the airport, where the trip from Philadelphia to Chicago, which took days 200 years ago, took all of 1 hour and 45 minutes.

Alas we then sat on the runway for about half an hour waiting for a gate to clear. Not a problem the travelers 200 years ago anticipated…Also, I kept getting alerts from United that the weather was going to be really, really rainy…and maybe I wanted to change my travel plans? Not really – I wanted to get home Friday night, a quick in-and-out trip, but…it was not to be. Schedules get disrupted; life happens.

This week has featured a lot of conversations with people tracking their time for my future series that I’m tentatively calling “Tranquility by Tuesday.” First observation: It’s never a typical week! Of course, everyone who responded to my call for time diaries/makeovers has been reading this blog or my books and so they know this. We share a laugh or commiserate about exactly *why* the particular week was atypical. I’ve been developing a set of very practical time strategies that are widely applicable and can help life feel more productive and calm. It’s fun to study people’s schedules and then share some of these ideas and how they might work. Individual coaching isn’t part of my business model but I do enjoy thinking about individual schedules as part of larger projects.

Some of the week’s highlights: I walked my 4-year-old to preschool on Tuesday. We live close enough that we can do this. It’s not going to work every day but I’m aiming for once a week or so until the weather gets cold enough that it’s unpleasant. He’s got all kinds of fascinating thoughts these days, and various observations on the dandelions, leaves, pine cones, skid marks, squirrels, and other things we encounter along the way.

These outdoor walks are nice because I’ve been running on the treadmill (indoors) more. This summer I really got in a habit of running early on the days my husband or another adult was here, and I like it. I like to get this taken care of before everything else. I like to experience the morning outdoors, then come home, start brewing the coffee, take a shower, and come down to relax and savor my cup. But the sun is now rising at about 6:50 a.m., and there’s only 10 minutes of light before that moment. We don’t have sidewalks and I’m a little wary of running in the dark. Friday morning when I pulled out of the driveway at 6:10 a.m. to go to the airport, I passed a woman walking her dog; it was almost impossible to see her until my headlights were right on her. On Wednesday morning I ran from 6:40 to 7:20, but that’s about as late as I can go without throwing the morning off (unless I make special arrangements. Possible, but requires extra logistics).

And that will be changed by a new development around here: my 7th grader auditioned for, and was accepted into, his school’s advanced chorus. Very exciting! This meets two mornings a week at 7:20 a.m. More logistics! There are a lot of logistics with four kids. There will be more logistics with five kids. However, the good news is that by the time the baby has much going on in terms of activities, my eldest will be driving. The age spread does make some things easier, especially now as the older kids enter the ages where they can stay home alone, or even start babysitting.*

This weekend we’re hosting a 10th birthday party. The kids have Monday and Tuesday off school for Rosh Hashanah. I’m working on Tuesday, but I blocked Monday so we can do something fun. Alas, I was better at blocking the time than figuring out what, exactly, we’d do, so that’s a work in progress. I planned to go to a Saturday morning flag football game, and my husband’s office picnic, but then as I was going to O’Hare Friday afternoon, happy after the conclusion of a well-received speech, I got a note. My flight was delayed two hours.

Awesome…but still worth going to O’Hare. Then later on the trip I learned the flight was canceled. I tried to see what else there was but the one other United flight to Philly that night only let me book standby. I took that, and then went on Travelocity. The pickings were slim — basically nothing on United, American, etc. until late Saturday, if that. I found a Frontier Airlines one-way flight to Trenton early Saturday morning. So I grabbed that. The travel people at my speaking bureau were looking too, but everything was canceled. So they booked me a hotel. I only had my dress and suit jacket to wear, but fortunately I’d at least anticipated that something might go wrong, and I packed a toothbrush and contact lens solution in my purse. So I was prepared.

Then the dilemma. I went to O’Hare but I was going to be there for quite a while, with an uncertain outcome. Would I get a seat on that United flight? Would it go? I really hate deliberating over stuff like this. It wastes a ton of time. I read for a while, and got dinner (and ice cream, pictured), then finally figured out how to use the United app to see where I was in the standby line. Not high up, so then when that flight got delayed for an hour I bailed and took a cab to my hotel, where I slept, sort of. Not the best night ever. I got up, put my business attire back on, and went back to O’Hare on a packed 5:30 a.m. shuttle full of others people who’d also been stranded overnight.

The good news is that the Frontier Airlines fight went. I landed at the tiny Trenton-Mercer airport, which I have never been to before, probably because the flight service is limited. I took an Uber to the PHL airport (about 45 minutes), grabbed my car, and drove home. After a good long nap, I’m finally ready to face the day…

*For those with older children, when did you start letting them stay home alone? How about looking after siblings?

17 thoughts on “Friday miscellany, one day late: Getting stuck at O’Hare…

  1. My husband and I have eight children ranging from 25 down to 10. When our kids are about 11 or 12 we feel comfortable leaving them home alone for a few hours at a time. Once they’re about 13-14, we trust them with watching a baby but only for a few hours at a time and a couple check up calls during the time they’re babysitting. As they get older into their teens and the older the smaller children get , the more comfortable we feel about leaving them without having to constantly check up on them.

    1. @Christine – thanks for your advice! I’m comfortable with the 12-year-old staying with the 10-year-old and (almost) 8-year-old. I probably will not have the 12-year-old watch the 4-year-old for another year or so, until they’re both a little older. The new baby will likely need an adult for the first year or two. This will likely be fine, as it’s the older children who are most unhappy about being dragged to stuff when they have their games/books/computers/etc. at home.

  2. We start letting kids stay home alone for very short periods of time (like 5-10 minutes) at 7 or so. Then gradually expand. At this point our 12 year old stays alone for as long as ever is needed given that we have an au pair. I will leave our 6 year old home with either the 12 or the 8 year old if I will be near by, but not by himself. I don’t ever leave the 3.5 year old home with the older kids. I think by next summer when my kids are 13, 10, 7 and 4 we will let the 13 year old babysit if the au pair is not available if we are out locally (as opposed to in NYC which can take up to an hour to get home from). I am looking forward to this milestone! Our neighbors’ daughters are in 8th and 10th grade and babysit regularly.

    Of note in many states (but not in NY) there are laws about this. Worth at least knowing what they are.

    1. @Gillian – we have a similar spread, and I think our policies are probably similar. 12-year-old can stay with 10-year-old and 8-year-old. The question is whether I could leave the 10- and 8-year-olds together at home. PA law appears to be silent on this matter! I’m still debating that one, but might experiment with 20 minutes here and there. The 4-year-old requires adult supervision, likely for the next year or two. Baby will fall in this category too.

      1. @Laura We leave the 9 and 6 yo home alone for short periods. I think it really depends on how well they get a long. We have a similar gender breakdown too, but my 9 yo is my girl (#2/4) and she is excellent with her younger brothers. If she were the 12 yo I would have no qualms about leaving her with the 3.5 yo. I think if your middle kiddos are apt to fight it gets more difficult to think about leaving them.

        NY law literally says use your judgement, which is unusual for NY. This doesn’t bother me particularly, but it is interesting. As an oldest child responsible for babysitting younger siblings at an early age I find most of these laws preposterous.

  3. Your running streak is all the more impressive given your pregnancy! I’m inspired to do some kind of streak but can’t commit to a specific activity. Maybe just “exercise”?

    So good that you have healthy pregnancies with apparently not much nausea. I’m also wondering the time line of the “weight gain and loss” you talked about this summer. I was impressed by how quick you lost the weight and I wonder if it was simply related to phases in early pregnancy (bloating, etc..)

    Final though…that ice cream looks SO GOOD!

    1. @Ana – the ice cream was, indeed, good. Just what I needed to tolerate a bad airport situation. I highly recommend it.

      I like the idea of an exercise streak. You could commit to *something* for 15 minutes. A good day might feature an intense hour long workout. But a crappy day could still get 15 minutes of walking. That would probably be doable.

      The weight loss timing – I was trying to get myself to a healthier state. My relatively quick weight loss (about 8 lbs in 3 weeks) happened during what turned out to be the first 3-4 weeks of pregnancy – when I did not know that I was pregnant (and I guess technically wasn’t until week 2 or something). However, some of the steps were probably great for that. I pretty much stopped drinking, and ate a ton of vegetables and cut out most junk food. All good for a healthy conception.

      I never gain much weight in the first trimester. I just passed my initial weight (pre weight loss) a few weeks ago – which makes me happy that I lost the weight in the spring. It makes the pregnancy easier on my body, and at age 40, I’ll take what I can get!

  4. Congratulations on your pregnancy! We have a 13 yr old girl, an 11 yr old boy and a 5 yr old boy. Started letting the big kids be home alone after school when they were about 9. Our country (Norway) has subsidized after-school daycare but it only goes up to 4th grade. Also, it is really boring for the older kids, so they stopped going after 3rd grade. They are home alone from about 2 pm til 5 pm when I get back from work. I trust my oldest to watch little brother 5 for a full evening. The 11-year-old can handle the 5-year-old for an hour or so. They have both been “babysitters” for about a year. Littlest brother was very slow to potty train which made the big siblings reluctant to watch him when he was littler- dealing with poopy diapers was beyond their pay grade haha.
    Having big kids at home has made my life so much easier lately. I do several hobbies on weekday evenings, and almost never need an “outside” babysitter.
    I do think it is important to pay the big kids- I never want them to feel like I am taking advantage of them.

    1. @Sarah K – big kids do come with advantages! I’m happy to hear that your 11-year-old son can be a good babysitter for an hour. I do agree that poopy diapers are probably above the pre-teen pay grade, though I know I changed plenty in my 11- and 12-year-old babysitting days!

    1. @Claire – I should probably look into better reflective gear – even just to get an extra 10-15 minutes in the morning. Light me up like a Christmas tree!

  5. We only have 1 kiddo, just turned 11 this summer. She started staying alone for an hour or two this summer…starts to get lonely if it’s much longer than that. But she is also now comfortable walking home from the school bus alone (one block) and letting herself in as well as taking the subway to school in the mornings (she meets a friend on the other end of the train trip to walk together). Funnily enough she is more comfortable being out in the world alone (and I am more comfortable with her being at home alone!)

  6. We leave our 7 year old daughter alone in the house for 20 min at a time while we walk the dog from time to time.

    I remember when I was 8, my mom let me walk home from the bus stop by myself in Manhattan. The walk was from 72nd and 2nd to 70th and 2nd, and I had to cross 72nd street. When I was 10 I started taking the public bus or walking to and from school in the morning (it was about 1.25 miles each way). I would sometimes take a cab with friends around that age. When I was 11 was allowed to walk by myself to my friend’s apartments on the East side pretty much everywhere they lived. We moved to CT when I was 12. When I was 15 I’d take Metro North by myself to NYC to visit friends on the weekends. We were taking the subway all over the city at this point, and I barely remember seeing any adults at all on these trips.

    I think times have changed, and it depends a bit on the kid, but your 12 seems pretty mature and could probably watch your current three now for an hour or two if you wanted to give it a try.

  7. We have a 12, 10 and 8 year old. In our city, the police department offers a stay-home-alone class for any child 8 and over, and offers Red Cross Babysitter Certification to children 11 and over. We took advantage of those classes as soon as we could and have enjoyed freedom ever since! Every family is different, and it may not be the right thing for everyone, but our now 12-year old was able to get a few babysitting/mother’s helper jobs early on, such that now we are all comfortable having her babysit for several hours at a time, even in the evenings as late as 10 or 11. It’s weird to let go of the reins, but with a little role-playing ahead of time, reliable phones (we have a landline “bat phone” just to feel safer!), and really great neighbors that the kids feel comfortable going to, we have no regrets. The kids like the freedom, too, so sometimes we come home to a surprise few extra chores done, just so they get to do it again. Pizza and movies always work as great bribery, too. 😉

  8. My 4 boys are ages 7, 9, 10, and 12. I would leave any of them home alone, but my 7yr old doesn’t want to. This weekend I just needed to run his brother to practice and it was pouring rain and I tried to get him to stay home for the 10 minutes it would take, but he doesn’t feel comfortable yet. I do leave him with any of the other boys. And my mom reminds me he is very young and I shouldn’t push him to grow up too fast.

    My “rule” for leaving a younger sibling home with an older one is that the younger be pretty self sufficient in an emergency. Can they get out of the house if the smoke alarm goes off and other things like that. I don’t want my older kids to actually be responsible for someone else’s life until they are older.

    My older kids hate running errands so they are pretty motivated to behave when they are home alone.

    1. @Jessica – good to know. I agree with your mom that it’s not worth it to push on the 7-year-old if he’s not comfortable with it. I’m not planning to leave my almost-8-year-old home alone, but I’m coming to believe that the 10-year-old and 8-year-old could stay together for a short period of time, which would make my logistics MASSIVELY easier this school year. I’m thinking of getting the 10-year-old a cell phone though. We have a landline, but only two jacks in the house work. And they’re not anywhere close to where the kids usually play (master bedroom + my office). Plus I can’t text that way, which could be a better way to communicate (I don’t want them to pick up a ringing landline and deal with a telemarketer). Probably a flip phone, which he would hate, but he’s the kid who’s most likely to get in trouble online.

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