Friday Flotsam


spring blooms

Were you a latchkey kid?

Do you remember latchkey kids?

Do we still call them latchkey kids?

As in, you got home after school and your parents weren’t there until hours later? After THEIR work day was over. Was that you? Did you absolutely love it?

I never grew up that way. My mom was RIGHT THERE at the glass screen door the second my little sister and I hopped off the bus and schlepped our way down the wide New Mexico street with our backpacks hanging off ONE SHOULDER, hello we were so hip.

Aaron was a latchkey kid. Along with his two slightly older sisters. And dude. The stories he has to tell.

The whole thing fascinates me, truly. The concept of a small child using his or her own key to unlock the front door, go inside to an empty house, climb up on the counter to grab a snack (he did this), turn on the tube for a show and/or do homework and/or ignore said homework and leave the house to ride his or her bike all over town for hours (he did this). It’s so ’80s! I’m completely obsessed. Yet I feel like no one could do this now days without getting locked in prison forever. The parents. Not the kids.

Well, maybe the kids.

My childhood was nothing like this. I got home, ate a piece of cheese, watched Rin Tin Tin K9 Cop for thirty minutes, played my Nintendo for thirty minutes, practiced piano for 45 minutes. Then finished homework before my dad got home. Then we had supper (not dinner. supper), then The Cosby Show, then the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, then a bath, then bed. The end.

Not that I wanted to be a latchkey kid, but if you WERE, I desperately need stories. Tell me everything. Every juicy detail. Were you diligent about your homework, or did you bail and go cause a ruckus in town!? YOU DID, DIDN’T YOU, YOU LITTLE RASCAL.

building in nyc

Do . . . your toes ever go numb?

Like randomly go numb. Not because you’re cold. The long one. The long middle one. Does it ever just go numb?

Let’s say my long middle toe goes numb from time to time. Hypothetically. We’ll just be living our lives, and it decides to numb up and get all weird and shy. Let’s say it does that. What does that mean? Is it a circulation thing? A getting-older thing? Does it need therapy? A little alone time without the rest of my toes crowding it and suffocating its need to feel free and empowered? Is that it?

Am I going to die?

blooms in nyc

Let’s also say that I have a splinter in my right thumb that I can’t get out for the life of me. A tiiiiiiiiny splinter that is no longer on the surface of my skin, but hibernating underneath the epidermis in protest of a life it once knew.

The tiniest little thing. A speck, really! And let’s say it’s been there for . . . oh, over two weeks.

Will it get infected? Will my thumb turn green and fall off in the middle of the night? Or will it just dissolve (gross) eventually and turn into a nothing?

Am I going to die?

ivy in nyc

Okay so the other day I took the kids to the doc for their five-year checkup before they start the BIG K this August. And the doc goes, “Do they take vitamins?” And I chirped, “Nope!,” without even a thought. She type-y type types into her little laptop in silence, and we moved on.

I know that was such a riveting story for you.

SHOULD THEY THOUGH? Are the Flintstone gummy things still a thing? When do kids need to take vitamins? Or do they at all? Or is it all hogwash? GUYS IF THEY WERE LATCHKEY KIDS THEY WOULD SO FORGET.

“Ten million strooooooong, (and the little girl’s voice all delicate) and growing.” And then the little piano key reach. You know you remember.

white building in nyc

Weekend plans?

We’re in Fayetteville! (apparently I’m excited about that.) But the high today is only 62 (but sunny!) and I need it 72. I’m such a diva.

Will you dye eggs today? Eat smoked salmon? Organize Easter baskets? Sneak some candy? All of the above but backwards? ‘Atta girl.

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35 Responses to Friday Flotsam

  1. Dana April 19, 2019 at 7:43 am #
    Are those beautiful buildings in Fayetteville? Gorgeous! My daughter is 15 and vegetarian. She never took supplements as a toddler or kid, but now....she’s like a senior citizen. Her pill organizer is full to the brim. But we had blood work done and found she was deficient in a few key areas so I feel it’s necessary.
    • Misha french April 23, 2019 at 7:37 pm #
      I was a latchkey kid starting in 6th grade. But, the bus dropped me off on our street! I was only home 2 hours before my big brother got home from track practice. I couldn’t leave the house or open the door and I followed the rules. We lived in so cal so it wasn’t a town where you left your doors unlocked hahah In 7th grade I walked home 1.5 miles and opened the front door and was home alone for a few hours. I can’t imagine my kid doing this in 2 years!
  2. Jackie April 19, 2019 at 8:28 am #
    For whatever it's worth, as a pediatric RD, this is what we'd tell families: Kids generally don't *need* vitamins but they are recommended if there are food groups that kids regularly do not partake of, e.g. no fruit/veg. They're really more for "insurance" especially after infancy, or if there's a specific illness/disease that could cause deficiency. However, Flintstones (or the store brand version) actually are the typical recommended brand because they tend to be the most complete, but not the gummies. Gummies for the most part don't include minerals (zinc, iron, calcium, etc) so generally not recommended.
    • Kristi April 23, 2019 at 10:21 pm #
      I was a “latchkey” kid in a way. Pretty sure the door wasn’t locked though. By 5th grade I was in charge of my 6 year old sister. My dad’s television repair and sales shop was next door but he was working. My mom worked full time. We had to get our snacks and start on homework and this was true for every day after school that didn’t include cheerleading practice. My sister and I got in the worst fights and cussed each other but we also played and watched soap operas and Oprah lol. If there was homework we had to start on it and I’m guessing we got it done. Some days we had laundry. On Fridays we cleaned the house (dusting, vacuuming, bathrooms) and the older I got, I had to start dinner. I’ve prayed to Jesus during terrifying summer storms, got caught buck naked by some random customer of my dad’s ringing the doorbell to the house, hidden behind the door from sketch people in our driveway, you name it. In summer, we were there all day with my dad coming over for lunch. We had chores and yard work and then he’d drive us to the pool where we’d be from 1-5 with only a lifeguard watching us and $2 each for snacks!! What a time to be alive. Lol.
  3. Jennifer C. April 19, 2019 at 10:28 am #
    I was a latchkey kid and I would go home and eat Flintstone vitamins like candy! Those were the days!
  4. Bianca April 19, 2019 at 10:42 am #
    I was a latchkey kid and those were some of the best days! My friend, who lived two houses down from me, and I, would take the bus home and decide on the ride home whose house we would go to, depending on who had the best snacks, of course. A few times I forgot my key and had to break into my own home, usually through my bedroom window - good thing we lived in a one story - and didn't have a house alarm! I wasn't allowed to turn on the TV, but always did. And always to MTV. Always. Those were the days.
  5. Megan Lynch April 19, 2019 at 11:01 am #
    I was a latchkey kid and it was the best! I’m trying to turn my own into latchkey kids. My kids are probably the only ones in PV who just show up at other people’s homes to see if kids can play rather than me playing cruise director and making all the plans, lol.
  6. CJ | A Well-Read Tart April 19, 2019 at 11:03 am #
    I remember Dawn once telling Kristy in THE BABY-SITTERS CLUB books that she was a latchkey kid, and I was like, WHAT IS THAT?!?!?! My mom always picked me up from school, and most of the kids in my classes growing up had stay-at-home moms. When I finally figured out what a latchkey kid was, I desperately wanted to be one. It sounded so cool! Like being an adult for a few hours (which, now that I AM an adult, is admittedly less fun. Bills. Errands. Ya know.). I just wanted to be able to watch "illicit programs" like MTV (my mom was strict) without anyone hanging over my shoulder. Alas, it never happened. Mom was there every day after school until I went to college. Oh, well. Also, to add to your splinter story, I've have the tip of a pencil point lodged in my thumb since I was 19. I'm 35 now, and I can still see it just under the skin. It doesn't hurt and never really did. It's just there. I used to be freaked out that I was going to die of lead poisoning...until someone witheringly pointed out to me that pencils are made with graphite now instead of lead. Bottom line: I'm still here. Not sure if the same goes for splinters, but...there's a shot, at least. :-D
  7. Vicky April 19, 2019 at 11:10 am #
    My middle toe goes numb too. Only on my left foot. I'm not dead yet, so there's that.
  8. Robin April 19, 2019 at 12:11 pm #
    My sister and I were latchkey kids on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Our mother's big rule was don't touch the oven! We didn't have a microwave, but we were allowed to make toast. So we ate a lot of toast with butter and would sprinkle sugar on top. We would watch game shows and do our homework. We both went to fancy schmancy colleges. I think it was the buttered toast and game shows - especially Hollywood Squares.
  9. Tiffany April 19, 2019 at 1:52 pm #
    I was a latchkey kid. Me and my sister would usually fight, sometimes almost death would happen. One time knives came out, knife marks are still in my bedroom door at my parents. We survived, were best of friends and laugh and laugh about our fights now. We never did anything responsible when my parents weren't around, we'd have a snack and watch TV. It was the best.
  10. Karen Bunch April 19, 2019 at 2:37 pm #
    I was an only child, my mom and dad worked. My grandma lived next door so I'm not sure that counts as latchkey, but I had a key and would let myself in and then I would visit my grandma because she spoiled me with treats. If she wasn't home I'd let my cat, Tiger, in (which she wasn't allowed). It was the 60's and my mom grew up on a farm where cats and dogs were outdoor pets. No psychological damage done! :-) Karen
  11. Lori H April 20, 2019 at 7:44 am #
    Re: numb toe, most likely Morton's Neuroma, which I don't believe is fatal :) I always leave a tiny splinter in, and it works its way out, or develops a kind of bubble around it that will make it easier to get out. Of course, pay attention for redness or soreness which could indicate infection. Not fatal if you don't ignore an infection for a long time and probably not then. Thanks as always for making me chuckle with the Flotsam!
  12. Tifany April 20, 2019 at 8:29 am #
    You tell me how beautiful you are. You took me to my childhood. I really miss my childhood. When I was a kid, everything looks great.
  13. Stef April 20, 2019 at 7:58 pm #
    I was a latchkey kid. The only one in my family, though, because my parents never trusted my younger brothers to be home without them, ever. I was allowed to walk home (to and from actually, uphill both ways ?) from school and let myself in and do my homework and watch whatever I wanted. There were no girls my age in my neighborhood, not after Melissa moved to California when we were eight and left me her twin bed with the built-in bookshelf, sothat maybe played into the fact that I was trusted to be home alone from ten to high school. BUT I will say, like one of the other commenters, I was NEVER allowed to touch the oven, mostly because of when I tried to make peanut butter cookies one time and burned them so badly our dog, Sally, would not touch them. Anyway, the craziest thing that ever happened while I was a latchkey kid was probably the cookie incident.
  14. B.A April 20, 2019 at 8:09 pm #
    Latchkey kid from the 90s/early 00 in rural Ohio. My brother and I would fight about who had to unload the dishwasher before our parents got home from work and would chase each other around the kitchen table with butter knives to determine the winner. Seemed normal at the time, now seems psychopath-ish. But being solo after school was some of the best times!
  15. Stephanie April 22, 2019 at 9:23 am #
    Not technically but once I hit about 5th grade I think (?) my mom went back to work but my dad worked nights so while technically he was home, we were on our own while he slept in the summers. Oh man, I still can't believe we all made it out alive. So much fighting! LOL!
  16. Nancy April 22, 2019 at 10:17 am #
    I've had a splinter in the bottom of my foot since I was about 10 years old and I'm old as dirt now and still alive!! If you push on it just right, it hurts a little and you can see a dark spot where it is but it's in too deep to try to get out without surgery! But hasn't killed me yet :)
  17. Jen April 23, 2019 at 9:36 am #
    I was a latchkey kid. Best was walking home from school get to my house having to pee so bad, fumbling for my keys to unlock empty house and peeing my pants right there on the walk way. Fun times! You missed out on all this having a greater at the door lol i would get home and sneak MTV. I was not allowed to watch and i will never forget the 1st music video i saw was Faith No More
  18. Shannon April 23, 2019 at 9:42 am #
    I was absolutely a latch-key kid, BUT I didn't get in with a key- it was a keyPAD on the garage door. From about 11-12 onward, I was instructed to go straight home from the bus stop, lock myself in the house, and phone my mom to let her know I was safe. Once, when I was in high school, we had moved to a new house and the phone lines were out all through the neighborhood due to construction. I arrived home, locked myself inside, and then shrugged because -what could I do?? I can't call mom, what even is a cell phone anyway??? (Totally kidding, they had cell phones. I just didn't have my own.) I sat upstairs doing homework when the front door burst open, and my frantic and panicked mother yelled my name into the foyer. to her relief, I appeared at the top of the stairs, perfectly safe and sound. She had left work and probably drove like a bat out of hell after not hearing from me, convinced I was kidnapped or murdered, or choked on my after school snack. But she had no one to be angry at, there were no phones! And the courier pigeon wasn't around to send. I would have done the same thing, wouldn't you?? I got a cell phone after that.
  19. Crystal April 23, 2019 at 9:54 am #
    I was not a latchkey kid but my husband was. He grew up in California and said every day he would come home, do his homework, and then hop on his bike with his friends and go to some abandoned fruit orchard where they would eat apples until they were practically sick. And sometimes they would ride to the beach and swim in the ocean alone. This 50% gives me anxiety and 50% makes me really jealous of his entire childhood.
  20. Laura Lee April 23, 2019 at 10:11 am #
    Our Father died when I was 6 so at first we had a babysitter but when we were a few years older we stayed home alone after school, which was only across the street. We'd either play with other children from our building out on the sidewalk or hang out at our friend Danielle's apt. downstairs...she had cable!
  21. Danielle April 23, 2019 at 10:40 am #
    I was a latchkey kid. When I was younger (elementary school age) I would walk with friends to the town library after school, we would hang out, get yelled at my the librarian for laughing too loud, play tag at the park right outside, and stop at 7-11 for a slurpee or Foster’s Freeze for a Flury (soft served ice cream mixed with candy) - I would scrounge the house for coins so I could get these treats. Initially, my mom had arranged for an older kid to walk me to the library because she was worried about me walking on my own/with my young peers, but that was SOOOO uncool, so I would pretend I didn’t know him and try to avoid him until my parents gave up. My mom would pick me up after work around 6pm. Then I started walking home from school (1 mile), I had a key, but sometimes I forgot it and would have to pop the screen off the back window and climb in which completely annoyed my parents. I remember being pretty good about doing homework, would definitely help myself to a snack, would watch the soap opera Days of our Lives (ha!). I sort of enjoyed the freedom finding my way home and entertaining myself.
  22. Sarah Hendrix April 23, 2019 at 1:11 pm #
    I know every single word, and dance, to Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Why? I was a latchkey kid. Dolly was my idol and I couldn’t understand why anyone would be horrified that I LOOOVED such a cool movie. At least not until my teens when I actually got what it was all about. I ate brownie batter and watched old movies on laser disc. I loved The Omen, Jaws and Best Little Whorehouse. I rode my bike all over, across highway 54 in Osage Beach and hung out on the docks by the water. I would sit on the roof and take electronics apart and put them back together. Alone. It was totally normal. The 80’s. :)
  23. Jessica April 23, 2019 at 2:24 pm #
    Latchkey kid here and in the 90s/2000. Was not allowed to leave my yard. I'd lose my key all the time and have to climb in my window. I had egg fights with neighbor. All super normal things. My dad installed a camera once to see how well it worked for work.. I sat super close to the TV watched TRL and ate ramen. That's it. My parents just assumed that's what happened everyday.
  24. Paula April 23, 2019 at 3:56 pm #
    I was not a latchkey kid however my mom usually only got home from work about 10 minutes before I got off the bus. One day mom was late due to traffic, I was 7 and didn’t know what to do so I went to the State Farm Agency that was two houses down from me. Luckily I knew my phone number and my mom came and got me not too much later but I was PISSED and stormed out of State Farm, stomped home and and didn’t talk to my mom for the rest of the night. I had a key of my own after that!
  25. Anonymous April 23, 2019 at 5:02 pm #
    Starting in the early 80s when I was in the 6th grade I was a latchkey kid...a Gen X’er from divorced parents and an only child. After watching GH (the Luke + Laura, Robert, Anna, Holly, Frisco, Felicia days) I’d get all my homework done because I was a studious child. My mom didn’t get home until 6-6:30pm. Being an only child, TV was a big part of my childhood...and I’m still a BIG TV watcher.
  26. Heather April 23, 2019 at 6:42 pm #
    I was a latchkey kid starting in 2nd grade. I would get hone, call my moms (office) phone, leave the exact same message “hey, it’s me. I’m home.” every single day. Make a snack (or three) and do my homework all while watching whatever trashy and completely inappropriate show was on (Maury was a favorite) and then I would turn the TV to Disney channel when I heard the garage door opening. It was great!
  27. Angela April 23, 2019 at 6:49 pm #
    Yes! I was a latchkey kid. I did my homework on time and then watched as much MTV and bad movies as I could before my parents got home.
  28. Jess Garrett April 23, 2019 at 8:53 pm #
    I was a latchkey kid in that the kids whose parents weren’t off work yet to pick them up had to stay late at a program called “latchkey.” It was the worst! I always resented my parents for working because I couldn’t go home like the other kids. I had to stay late at school. And then by the time I was able to walk home and unlock the door by myself I was never productive. I ate snacks and watched tv and at that point had a narrative going so I still resented my parents for working and envied the kids with stay at home moms. And now I’m parenting out of those narratives. Swinging the pendulum of course as we do.
  29. Stephanie Lee April 23, 2019 at 10:05 pm #
    I walked home from school and wasn’t allowed to go in the house. I was supposed to play outside until my parents got home. However, I knew how to “break in” and one time I broke in to get my roller skates and left my books on the floor inside, which got me so grounded when I lied about how I had my skates. I also roamed all over the neighborhood before my parents got hone from work. I can’t imagine letting my kids ever do that!
  30. Laura April 23, 2019 at 11:55 pm #
    I was a latchkey kid starting in 6th or 7th grade. I was an only child and my parents worked. I grew up in NWA and would walk home and let myself in the house (if I hadn’t misplaced the key....which then resulted in me having to climb a tree to get onto our second story deck and then let myself in the house through a door off the deck!). I have a 5th grader right now and I cannot imagine him doing anything like that to get into our house! It would never occur to him to try to break in! I usually had at least a few chores to help get dinner started, then some homework and then I’d sneak a tv show or 2. I wasn’t allowed to watch tv and my mom would check the tv as soon as she got home to see if it felt warm. I knew all kinds of tricks for cooling it down quickly! My parents had a deep freezer in our laundry room and they kept buckets of frozen margaritas left over from parties and occasionally I’d “treat” myself to a tiny plastic cup for frozen margarita. I recently fessed up to this and my parents were equal parts proud and mortified!
  31. Kelly @ Turned up to Eleven! April 25, 2019 at 11:33 am #
    I was a latchkey kid from about 5th grade until graduation. To be fair I think it was a pretty boring existence for me. I was an only child and pretty big on following the rules for fear of the wrath of my parents. That being said the only memory that sticks out in my head at first thought was walking home from the bus stop which was pretty far for me (we had a really long 1000 ft driveway) so I actually cut through the neighbors yards to the main road (through a whole hood to get to the bus stop). That being said one day I was rushing home... and had to pee SO bad... like can't hold it a second longer. The moment I put the key in the door and turned it... my bladder let go. Oh to be in middle school with jeans soaked in your own pee. Thank GOD there was no one else to witness it - can you imagine?!?! Wait, why am I sharing this now, in the internet for the WHOLE world to see? Oh yeah... that's right, because I'm not as worried about what others think as I was in that season of my life ;) haha Otherwise it was after school snacks, tv, video games and homework... And I was only a latchkey kid on Thursdays and Fridays since my mom only worked part time.
  32. run 3 January 18, 2020 at 8:15 pm #
    Your share is the great knowledge I have gathered, you are an important person I admire, thank you


  1. Friday Flotsam | Bev Cooks - February 26, 2021 […] Remember when you all told me stories a couple of years ago about your own personal latchkey kid experiences growing up? […]

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