What’s your excuse? Leaving children alone, revisited

A few weeks ago I had a lovely conversation with a friendly babysitter in the park. She was telling me and another babysitter how she so much enjoyed working for this family and how close she was to all their four children that she had practically raised herself. The youngest, a baby, is with her all day. She picks up the older brother from gan and the others come home from school by themselves. I went home thinking that if I were to go out to work, that would be the way to do it. No pressure to get the kids out to day care in the morning, no worries with strikes or school letting out early (both common occurrences), being a few minutes late is no big deal, you don’t need to wonder whether the ganenet remembered to send your child on the bus to the tzaharon (afternoon program) and you come home straight to your kids and a reasonably clean house. You know your babysitter and her values, you trust her, and you just hope that she doesn’t get sick too often or quit. I have to admit that I was a bit jealous of that mother and her carefree life (as presented by the babysitter of course).

So I noticed the last few days that the babysitter was coming to gan without the baby. Today I caught her and asked her where the baby was. “Oh, she’s home asleep!” So I started to ask her whether she had heard about the boy from Beersheva, who died from smoke inhalation while locked inside his apartment when his mother brought his younger brother to gan. She said, “It’s only for five minutes! The baby can’t machzik maamad (hold out) after 1:00 (gan ends at 1:20),” and quickly ran off. I think I’ll offer to bring the boy home from gan next time, as it’s on my way. Why she can’t put the baby to sleep in the stroller is beyond me. I’m also surprised that a babysitter would want to take such responsibility, even if the mother approved. Babysitters are usually much more careful to avoid letting their charges climb or otherwise risk injury.

I saw the neighbor mentioned in the post linked above at a recent wedding, and she thanked me for something I had said that day in the park. I had told her that when I was debating leaving a sleeping child at home or some other questionable action, I would ask myself the following question: “If something happened to the child, and I were being tried in court, what would I give as my excuse?” Could I say that I left him sleeping because I didn’t feel like taking him out in the rain? She said it better in Hebrew, with feeling: Mah tihyeh ha-taanah sheli?


  1. Hi. I just came across your blogg by accident, but then again maybe it wasn’t an accident. I just returned from a 12 day trip to Israel with a tour group. I love Israel and the Israely people.

    While riding through Jerusalem one morning on the tour bus, I saw a lot of children walking alone. I’m assuming to school because of the backpacks they had. As the bus continute through town I remarked to my husband everytime I saw young children walking alone. Some holding on to one another, others talking carelessly and others, no more than 5 years old, walking alone. The more children I saw alone the more upset I became. At one point I thought I would cry. I even prayed for them while passing through.
    I was shocked to see how young some of these children were knowing they were all alone. I don’t think I ever saw children walking with adults.
    I wouldn’t think of letting my child walk alone to school everyday.

    It just broke my heart. It may be your custom but something I couldn’t do. I don’t understand how anyone could let their child walk through town alone. And to leave a baby in bed alone in the house…..Isn’t there a law against this. If this happened in the U.S. and you got cought you could be sent to jail. I can’t imagine leaving a baby alone in bed and leaving the house for a 20 minute trip into town to pick up another child. It just breaks my heart.

    Don’t you have more love for a child than that? Is this your custom? Do all parents and sitters do this?

    Concerned in the U.S.

  2. mother in israel says

    Thank you for your comment! I plan to address it shortly in a new post.

  3. mother in israel says