Latch-key Kids


Latch-key Kids y Pestillo-llave Ninos

He was a latchkey kid. For those of you who don’t know what this is, it’s a kid who has a key to get into a home when parents are working. No one is there when they get home from school.

Arthur was a sweet child. I wanted to gather him up and squeeze him to death. He was about eight when I learned about him. He was a friend of my children, and I immediately took to him. He was soft and warm.

Arthur’s hair was unruly. I took him to a barber with my children a few times. His mother was on welfare, which didn’t often give a family enough to survive. She did side work cleaning houses. I tried to help by engaging her to clean my mother-in-law’s bathroom. It cost me $40.00 a week.

I remember the glow on Arthur’s face as the barber tamed his locks. His brown mop had an unruly cow-lick which refused to fall into line. He was really never a cute kid, but his insides effused cuteness to the max. I loved him then, and I love him now.

I offered to watch him after school. I wanted to offer him the structure he seemed to lack. He was an A student. I felt he was worth the effort. I brought him into my home, but as latchkey kids often do, he bucked the structure and the caring. He had become too independent at a tender age. I followed him home, one day after he refused to stay in my house after school.

I entered his home; he had left the door unlocked. He was sitting on his bed. I sat beside him and tried to cajole him into coming back to my house. He moaned his depression—this little kid—and told me he wanted to jump out his bedroom window and fall on his head and crush it. It was clear he did not want my help. I often think I was foolish to not force it on him. I was a psychology student at the time and saw the danger.

I gave up on Arthur. Years passed, and I had no further contact. My remembrance is that he stopped coming to my house. I lost track.  I once sat in our local police station and overheard officers speak of him disparagingly.  I leapt to his defense and said that Arthur had had a hard life, and officers should find a way to mentor him rather than speak poorly of him.  One officer hung his head in shame.

Years later, one of my sons came home and informed me that 18-year-old Arthur had dived, head-first, off a college in the area. His self-fulfilling prophecy had come true. He had not jumped out a window; he had climbed scaffolding and plunged off a high building–a college he probably felt he would never be able to attend. His family guarded all access to him, so I did not have the opportunity to visit. I didn’t even try.  He was pulled off life support days after his plunge and died. The funeral was restricted, but my heart was there—breaking.

He wasn’t my kid—he wasn’t my kid—he wasn’t my kid. Yet, why do I feel so guilty?

The only picture I have of Arthur is in my mind—and it is of that sweet little boy of which I became so enamored.


Copyright 2017 Joyce Bowen

About the Author:  Joyce Bowen is a freelance writer and public speaker.  Inquiries can be made at
Sobre el autor: Joyce Bowen es un escritor independiente y orador público. Las consultas pueden hacerse en
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