I didn't grow up in a neighborhood. I lived on a ranch where our nearest neighbors were my grandparents 1/4 mile down the road (and we were separated by a creek and several trees). So, the last two years in our house have been quite an education for me. Here are some things I have learned:
1. Kids have no concept of personal space. This means that they will throw balls at your garage door during nap time, ring the bell continuously until you get to the door, and run through your flower beds no matter how many times you ask them not to.
2. Stay out of neighborhood politics. I have a firm "non-involvement" policy in these matters. I ask no questions. If someone tells me their beef I will let them vent, but that's it. I take no sides. I also do my best not to form my own grudges. This is not always easy--because, believe me, I can think of three specific instances when I had every right to be offended. But, I found it better to spend a couple of days stressing over it and then let it go.
3. Don't fool yourself--your kids are capable of it. Goosey isn't old enough to play outside by herself, so for the last two years I have spent several hours on the grass observing the neighborhood dynamics. Now, again, I didn't grow up in a neighborhood. Therefore I was rarely in situations with multiple unsupervised children (playing with other kids meant going to their houses). This has been an eye-opener for me. I am amazed at how mean and violent kids can be to each other. Even more so, I'm surprised at the unwillingness of parents to admit that their child would ever be involved in these acts. Just because your kid doesn't do or say it in front of you doesn't mean they won't do or say it when you're not watching--they go to school, watch TV, and interact with other kids. They pick things up.
And so I continue to learn. I now know that I need to be willing to have my yard be public space, that neighborhood dramas are usually very junior high, that I will teach Goosey to respect others and act a certain way despite the actions of her peers, and that I will take all reports of misbehavior by my children seriously. I am also sure there are many more lessons to learn.