26 October 2005

Won't You be my Neighbor?

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.


Queen Scarlett said...

I think what you see may also be... Utah centric... you know...with everyone in each other's business that it's nearly incestuous?

I think kids are in large part taught by their parents re: personal space. We never did, as kids thrown eggs, toilet papered... and all that stuff. The only TPing I've done in my entire life... was a YW activity. So we got permission. It's a respect thing that you either learn, or don't learn from parents.

And... I haven't had any neighborhood politics out here... in general we keep to ourselves unless we've gotten to know each other... if that makes sense.

While I agree... that taking seriously accusations of your kids being bad... the ones that do are ones that generally have good kids and teach them responsibility...and even then they have rare cases. The ones that don't take it seriously are often those that don't discipline and are lax in their parenting.

Also... I think it is so important as parents to trust our kids. When they come to us and there's a couple version of stories... I would hope we know our kids well enough to trust them. To have taught them that we will always expect the best and trust them. This helps prevent predators from preventing open communication when our child needs us most.

Forgive me if I've rambled... I'm not operating on much sleep. About to keel over.

cabesh said...

I completely agree with everything you said. The root of everything is parenting--I take it very seriously. I also think that Utah amplifies this problem (I have a few theories/concerns about the lack of parenting here because parents think that it's a "safe" or "mormon" place to grow up. I see it with the YW all the time).

And, not to be misunderstood, I will always question my kids about the reports of their behavior (as opposed to simply dismissing it because "my kid doesn't do that") to hear their version/explanation.

~j. said...

Yikes. I hope my kids aren't any that have done those things...not that I'd expect you to tell me if they are. I do know that my kids use language outside of our home that they are not allowed to use in our home - I've heard it out the window when, I'm sure, they didn't think I could hear them. And they got into major trouble.

I feel like I'm too trusting of letting my kids play in the neighborhood, but I'm romanced by the cul-de-sac atmosphere. I grew up on a country road, 55 mph speed limit. I do have them call me or come home to let me know if they're going to be anywhere other than where they initially said they'd be. I've only had a few problems with Em in her not reporting in - it's hard to let them go and test their boundaries to learn what they're capable of.

And now my gripe (would you expect anything less from me?): Yesterday, a mom called to say that her daughter wants to play with mine. Is that an invitation? You'd think so. No, when I agreed, the mom said, "Okay, I'll send her your way." The friend was here for three hours. I was honestly fine with it, but a little concerned with the lack of concern of the other mom.

Queen Scarlett said...

Jenny - sounds like you got pawned off with babysitting. That's a rotten trick.

With the way things are today... unless I know, KNOW the parents of my daughter's friends... all playing time will be at our home.

~j. said...

As far as testing limits, I was mainly referring to playing outside. I don't let my daughter go to this person's house. I don't trust the mom. So that's why I didn't mind that much...but that babysitting idea did cross my mind. Small price to pay to be able to know that my daughter's in a safe environment.

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