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Rachel-K
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Empty-House Status

What is "empty-house status?"

 

How do Benji's and Reggie's lives on Sag Harbor create a picture of childrearing different to what most experience today?

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kren250
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Re: Empty-House Status

Empty house status refers to when the parents would leave the kids out in Sag Harbor for the work week, and return just for the weekends. In Reggie's and Benji's case, maybe not even then. I imagine it was a teenager's paradise;-).

 

I think it in current times, most parents would not allow teens of this age (14 and 15) to stay alone for such long periods of time. Nowadays, it would probably get you a home visit from CPS, actually. Especially when they came in and saw the state of the house (dishes often piled up, no food in the kitchen, etc).

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DSaff
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Re: Empty-House Status

I found "empty-house status" interesting and disturbing. It meant that the parents had gone back to the city and the kids were on their own all week, and sometimes into the weekend. It was the place where friends would hang out. Benji and Reggie would go food shopping on credit, but when the credit was maxed out, their parents would have to be called. I wondered if the parents had taught them enough to figure out how long the money would go each week. This practice disturbed me because it seemed like no big deal, but I wondered what would happen if there was an accident or a break-in? Who were the responsible adults in the area? But, to the kids, this was a normal practice.

 

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candeny6
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Re: Empty-House Status

Having empty house status may have been a teenager's paradise at first, but it did have its drawbacks.  The food would eventually run out and they'd be unfortunate enough to get stuck eating the meals they normally wouldn't have eaten had they had a choice. 

 

Their parents also waited til the last minute every week to call and say they weren't coming out after all.  I think the novelty of the empty house status wore off at this point because the boys were all but forced to get jobs to buy themselves food because of the uncertainty of when the adults would return to fill the cupboards and fridge.

Candi
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READERJANE
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Re: Empty-House Status

While it certainly refers to a time when parents were not afraid to leave their children alone, I was surprised that it was set in the mid 80's. Growing up in the 60's, my sister and I were left alone every day after school and the parts of the summer that we did not go away on vacation. My parents were home every night after work so our freedom were really temporary. I think that Benji's parents probably felt that there were enough other adults around to pitch in if things got really bad.

I think t hat it added to the story in a way that having parents around would not. I was not disturbed by it. Jane :smileyhappy:


rkubie wrote:

What is "empty-house status?"

 

How do Benji's and Reggie's lives on Sag Harbor create a picture of childrearing different to what most experience today?


 

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READERJANE
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Re: Empty-House Status

You are probably correct about CPS coming in, but it's it a shame that children cannot be left alone in our time and age until they are almost out of the house. Growing up takes longer now that it then. Benji and Reggie certainly had to grow up and figure things like food and money fast. They seem to have done it and not become whining or clinging in the process. It had to be tough though. Who can say which way is better. Jane

kren250 wrote:

Empty house status refers to when the parents would leave the kids out in Sag Harbor for the work week, and return just for the weekends. In Reggie's and Benji's case, maybe not even then. I imagine it was a teenager's paradise;-).

 

I think it in current times, most parents would not allow teens of this age (14 and 15) to stay alone for such long periods of time. Nowadays, it would probably get you a home visit from CPS, actually. Especially when they came in and saw the state of the house (dishes often piled up, no food in the kitchen, etc).


 

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artist4nature
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Re: Empty-House Status

Both of my parents worked and the 3 of us were "latch key kids".   Through the 60's and 70's. Letting ourselves in after school and waiting til mom got home.  I can't imagine that parents would leave two young teens alone for a week or more -  and this was before cell phones.  I think it does facilitate the story - no parents means more fun.
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dhaupt
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Re: Empty-House Status

Coming from a complete Midwestern upbringing, I found the empty house status rather disturbing. I mean it's great to trust your kids enough to leave them alone for an evening or while your at work during the day, but for an entire week? And it's not my thought that these kids would get into trouble while being left alone, but what if an injury would occur or what if the house burned down while they were fixing their tv dinners? These kids are about 10 years older than my kids, but even when I was a kid my parents wouldn't have thought to leave us alone for so long.

But as far as the brothers thought, it didn't seem that they thought it out of the ordinary, their only concern was finding a job to supplement the credit at the local grocery store. 

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booksJT
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Re: Empty-House Status

Empty house status is when your parents away. I think that Benji and Reggie had to fend for themselves there. Their parents were probably enjoying themselves while the kids were away. Benji and Reggie were reckless and irresponsible while the parents were away. They had no clue of how to feed themselves or take care of a household. It is a good thing they never got into any serious trouble. If something would've happen child services would have taken them away. The parents showed very little affection for the kids. Parents just don't dump kids unsupervised and go away. I guess Benji's and Reggie's parents thought the community would take care of them. I think this was awful. All kids need supervision until they are adults. Benji and Reggie were not mature enough to be left along.

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carol08
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Re: Empty-House Status

I don't have kids, but I can't imagine leaving teens alone for days/weeks at a time. Even in a safer time and place, Benji and Reggie just didn't seem to be quite savvy enough to be left to their own devices. Likewise, I can't imagine my parents letting us fend for ourselves.

I did get a kick out of remembering Stouffers boiling bags rather than the convenient little microwave trays we take for granted now.

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nfam
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Re: Empty-House Status

If you've got an "empty house" you're the owner of the summer's meeting place. I have to admit that having unsupervised teenagers running the house for most of the summer sends shivers down most parents spines today. I wonder if it was really all that different when Benji and Reggie were growing up. Sometimes parents have no option but to leave teenagers in charge. I assume that was the case in this instance. Both parents were busy professionals. It was probably better, in their minds, for the boys to enjoy the freedom of Sag Harbor than spend the summer in the city.

 

Nancy

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emmagrace
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Re: Empty-House Status

Empty-house status means that this summer Benji and Reggies parents leave them to their own devices throughout the week and sometimes even the weekend. Their house has become the place where all of their friends come to hang-out.

 

These days, parents are less likely to leave their teenagers alone for long stretches at a time. Times have changed and the world is not a safe place.

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Carmenere_lady
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Re: Empty-House Status

Shocking?  yes.  Disturbing?  a little.  Rite of Passage?  I think so, definately.  Benji and Reggie's parents did just as their parents had once done.  It is a lesson in responsiblity and Benji seems to be a good kid. I would think that his parents knew that the boys would be able to handle situations as they arose or they wouldn't have left them alone.

Perhaps they're parents became a little too comfortable with the way things were when they were growing up but things do change.  It's something I certainly would not do, I know I would never be able to sleep at night, not because I don't trust my kids but because things happen.

Lynda

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hookedonbooks09
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Re: Empty-House Status

I agree with Readerjane---there were probably someone's parents around most of the time.  Sag Harbor almost feels like a club, where the parents looked out for each other's kids and the kids felt at home just about everywhere.  Very Open Door kind of an atmosphere.

 

And I'm wondering if because of the venue, parents actually were more lax than they were when at home in their own neighborhoods.

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vivico1
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Re: Empty-House Status

When I was in grade school, we lived in a very small farming community and kids ran free all day long, even at my age of 8 and up. Everyone just looked after everyone else's kids. It was just that way, but this was back in the early 60s. We werent left alone at night but we roamed the town and through people's yards on our trails from here to there, never worrying about anything and once in a while even hearing a grown up saying, "kids, your mother just called and said if I saw you to tell you to come home for dinner". Life was good, you felt safe and some of the greatest exploring then. Today, definitely CPS would have a raging fit for an 8-13 year old running around without an adult, and rightly so, its a different world.

 

What disturbed me most about Benji and Reggie being left alone all week, if I take into consideration that communal feeling of your kids will be watched and helped if needed, was that idea that they worried about having enough food, or the lights going out. I worried that the parents weren't even taking care of their basic needs when they left them there and they couldn't tell other adults about  this aspect of being left alone, after all, it would look badly on their parents when they did come out. Benji couldn't even leave a message for his mom that the electricity was out. Why did they not take care of these things better? The boys can't do much about what they are not allowed to talk about. Given the community watching out for the kids, I think I would be more likely to call CPS on the parents for not making sure they had enough food and power in the house, than the fact they left them alone here!

Vivian
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Rachel-K
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Re: Empty-House Status

I'm the same age as the author, and I can certainly vouch for the veracity of this picture of the times!  The idea of paying a sitter after a child was old enough to stand at the stove and make macaroni was unheard of in decades past.

 

But you bring up a great point, Vivian. The lights getting shut off and the credit running out is a bit wild west for me, too. The parents seem to toss a lot of independence and responsibility on the boys with a fairly light attitude about it.

 

It's really interesting how fast ideas about what's appropriate for kids has changed. Maybe contemporary culture just pays much more attention to the idea of what's harmful in child rearing than we or our parents did in the past?

 

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vivico1
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Re: Empty-House Status

Yeah, but you know the food and electricity thing was wrong even here, because his mother would have a fit if anyone knew. Of course thats because their family would then become the object of gossip about their finances, not because of the kids. Still I think other adults there would find it wrong even beyond the gossip.

 


rkubie wrote:

I'm the same age as the author, and I can certainly vouch for the veracity of this picture of the times!  The idea of paying a sitter after a child was old enough to stand at the stove and make macaroni was unheard of in decades past.

 

But you bring up a great point, Vivian. The lights getting shut off and the credit running out is a bit wild west for me, too. The parents seem to toss a lot of independence and responsibility on the boys with a fairly light attitude about it.

 

It's really interesting how fast ideas about what's appropriate for kids has changed. Maybe contemporary culture just pays much more attention to the idea of what's harmful in child rearing than we or our parents did in the past?

 


 

 

Vivian
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CathyB
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Re: Empty-House Status

 

Empty-house status was when the parents spent only the weekends at Sag Harbor while the children stayed the full week. The kids are essentially left on their own.

 

In today's world, most parents would not do this. Children of this age still need some form of supervision. Additionally, with the increase in crimes against children, it would be terrible to expose your child to this risk.

 

 

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PinkPanther
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Re: Empty-House Status

I, personally, would be absolutely terrified to have an empty house status. I am the type of person who loves to be alone at first, but after a while, I need some company. I am pretty sure that in times like these, empty house would be the worst thing that could ever happen to the teenagers of today. Many years ago, children would be working and helping out by the age of 5. Nowadays kids that are 17 still do not get jobs, or even wash the dishes. To be honest, people are lazier now, and if the children are left alone, they would most likely not survive. We are too used to having most things handed to us.
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eadieburke
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Re: Empty-House Status

[ Edited ]

Empty house status is a little scarier now. In the past, you could rely on neighbors to look out for your kids if the adults weren't around but today it's sometimes the adult parents of your kids' friends who are corrupting your kids by introducing your kids to drinking, sex, etc inside their homes. Adults acting like friends instead of parents.

 

Today, a lot a parents are working and trying to survive. They hardly have time to watch out for what their kids are doing let alone watch what the neighbors kids are up to.

 

Is it the fact that things were going on in the past such as child abuse, underage drinking but nobody talked about it like they do today or is society really getting worse?

 

 

Message Edited by eadieburke on 02-16-2009 03:23 PM
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