Other people’s children

By Mir
July 16, 2007

I’ve mentioned that we have children in our new neighborhood. Real! Live! Children! This is a novelty for us and an exciting one, at that. Boys Monkey’s age! A girl Chickadee’s age! Heaven.

Well, it was heaven for about two days.

Let’s just say that I am learning a lot of patience and also exercising my boundary-setting muscles. Boy, am I flexing. FLEX FLEX FLEX. I am about two incidents away from standing out front with a rake and screaming YOU DAMN KIDS GET OUT OF MY YARD.

And I seriously doubt anyone will bring me pie if I start doing that.

I am already familiar with the notion that it’s very hard to be friends with people who parent their children in a very different way than you parent yours. Non-parents are glazing over, while I say that, but those of you with spawn are nodding, because it’s just one of those things. I can tolerate lots of differences between me and my friends. But if you’re potentially going to be bringing little Johnny over my house and every time he shrieks so loudly that my wine glasses shatter you giggle and say “Snookums, you’re silly,” I am going to stop inviting you over.

Not having ever had neighbors with kids, before, I’ve not had to deal with the phenomenon of ever-present children whose parents I don’t know all that well. More specifically, I’ve never had to deal with children who don’t basically come with parents attached. I know my kids are getting older, now, but at least with school play dates or whatever a parent must be involved to drop off and pick up.

I don’t want to alarm anyone, or anything, but I think there are feral children living in my neighborhood.

We have this pool, see? And I’m happy to have other children come swim in our pool and entertain MY children. That’s fine. But I am not happy to have children try to invite themselves over to swim in said pool. I am also not happy to have children invite my children to their house only to reappear five minutes later proclaiming that they want to go swimming.

I was very happy to receive a delicious pie from our neighbors which their little girl baked “all by herself,” and I smiled and chuckled at the proud mama hen who likely helped more than she let on… but then she told a story about how this child has been cooking forever! Why, she once got up on Father’s Day WHEN SHE WAS FIVE and cooked her daddy an omelet, all by herself! And all I could think was HOLY HELL WHERE WERE YOU?

And so I don’t know why I was surprised when I let Chickadee go over there for an hour and she came home telling me that the other girl had been playing with matches. That made me Really Not Happy.

“What did YOU do?” I asked, trying not to scream, because I WANTED TO SCREAM.

“I didn’t do ANYTHING,” she assured me. “I know better than to play with matches!!”

“Did it occur to you to do something to stop HER from doing that?” This was not in my handbook. Do I convict her as an accomplice for non-action?

“Well, I told her that her mom was coming. She put them out after that.”


This same girl has invited Chickadee for a sleepover no less than five times since we arrived. The last time, she insisted that her grandparents had said she could bring a friend and did Chickie want to go there with her? Chickadee was completely game, of course. I managed to demur without the use of “OVER MY DEAD BODY” but nonetheless, HELLO? Should I be letting my 9-year-old go sleep over at a house that I don’t even know where it is with people I’ve never met?? Why don’t they just come over here and shoot some heroin, instead? (The mother witnessed this exchange and after I refused only said to her daughter, “Don’t pester, now. Another time.” And I wanted to say YES, ANOTHER TIME WHEN I HAVE BRAIN DAMAGE, PERHAPS.)

The neighbor kids play out in their driveway and then they come play in OUR driveway whether we’re there or not. The other day I saw a couple of them playing with some rubber balls from our garage. While we were across the street. They just helped themselves. And were pelting each other with the balls right next to Otto’s car, which is a great idea because he REALLY LIKES IT when his car gets scratched. Ask anyone!

Again and again, I come back to wondering where the parents are. And this is a nice family we’re talking about. A respectable family. The parents have been very pleasant. But they’ve also been somewhat absent, or maybe it’s just okay with them when the kids wander around and invade surrounding homes.

When we got to VBS this morning, there were the neighbor kids! They pounced on my kids immediately. And then at pick-up they wanted them to come over and play and I managed to get us out of there, just barely, but it was a very close call. We swam this afternoon JUST US and it was downright relaxing.

Tonight we were eating dinner when the phone rang. We let it ring. The machine picked up, our message played, and then the caller hung up. “Telemarketer!” Otto and I declared.

Thirty seconds later there were children in our garage. A face peered through the window in the door, briefly, but didn’t knock. Otto went to deal with them.

“Can Monkey come out to play?” asked the neighbor boy.

“Sorry, we’re having dinner right now,” Otto said.

“Okay, when you’re done can we come swim?”

“Sorry guys, the pool’s closed for the night.” The children left amid a chorus of “awwwwww!”s.

Where are their parents? After witnessing this exchange, I pointed my fork at my children, in turn.

“Do the two of you understand that you are NEVER, under ANY circumstances, to invite yourself over to someone else’s house? That is RUDE and you will be punished severely if I catch you at it?” They both nodded and rolled their eyes because SHEESH, they’ve known that forever, what’s my problem? “And do you further understand that you are not to leave our property without asking me first?” Again, the aggrieved agreement.

After the kids had headed upstairs, Otto turned to me and gestured back towards the garage door. “It’s like living in a Stephen King novel,” he said.

I hope this has a better ending than “Children of the Corn.”


  1. chris

    I have always been happy that there are no direct neighbors with kids who want to come over and play at my house.

  2. Susan

    We have a kid like that in our neighborhood. He appears in my back yard on his wee little motorcycle thing and invites my kids to shoot off fireworks in his secret clubhouse. Nice.

    He is NINE for god’s sake. And where the hell ARE his parents?


  3. Heather

    Yikes. It’s good that you’ve already trained Monkey and Chickie so well, though! Good luck with the managing of other people’s children :-/

  4. meghann

    Oh yay, it’s not just me. I wondered if I was being too anal about my personal bubble or what.

    We have these neighbors, and their FOUR year old just climbs the fence into our back yard to play. (Yay for chain link. NOT.) He also started a habit of sneaking out of his house and ringing our doorbell early in the morning. And he’s not one to just ring it once. He leans on it so it goes off over and over, ensuring that everyone in the household gets woken up. One day I opened the door, and he looked up at me and said “I’m hungry.” Yyyyyeah.

    I tried to be cool about it, since his mom just had a new baby, but I have to admit, I disabled the doorbell after that one.

  5. Jenn

    We just moved and I share your pain. We used to live on an Army post where it was very normal for me to have kids at the house from 8 in the morning until 9 at night- but they were nice kids and I definitely knew their parents. I’ll trade you your new neighbors for ours- they think we’re all going to you-know-where for reading Harry Potter and playing Pokemon. I’ll happily take some matches and crack smoking, thank you very much. :)

  6. Andi

    We moved to the South about 2 weeks ahead of you and I swear that every. single. one. of your Southern blogs has nailed it on the head! My kids have gone insane since we’ve moved, I miss my girlfriends from back home and we, too, have feral kids in our neighborhood that invite themselves over to use the trampoline.

  7. Aubri

    Seriously, if we had EVER acted like those kids, my mom would have had us flogged. There was a neighbor girl like that when I was probably about Chickie’s age… I’m glad your kids are polite. Gold Star.

  8. Sarah

    I’ve never seen Children of the Corn, but a friend once traumatized me with a rendition of it at 6am, while we were on our way out to detassle. In a field of corn. Far away from civilization. And each other. I’ve never worked so fast in my entire life as I did going through my part of the field so I could get out of there!

    That being said, you could always just round up the stray children and dump them in a corn field somewhere!

  9. tuney

    My mom’s next-door-neighbor’s kid vanished one afternoon. They had all the family and neighbors yelling for him, searching the woods, and were just about to call the cops, when my mom came home from work and found him, curled up in the middle of her living room floor, asleep. He had crawled in the cat door.

    The same kid came over after I moved in a couple of years later, and instead of knocking, just opened the door. I have a habit of being less than fully-clothed, but he got lucky that day. Now the door stays locked 24/7. The best part? His Grandma told me, “I’m glad he feels comfortable enough to do that.” Criminy.

    If I had blinded him with boobs, she might have had a different POV.

  10. jenn

    Welcome to community parenting. One would hope if the parents were aware of this behavior they would DIE of embarrasment, but you never know. I got chewed out by my carpool partner because Drama Queen refused an invitation (politely), citing previous plans with another friend. Carpool Mom was mad that her daughter was not included. In a camping trip. Planned months ago. To take place after they were scheduled to move to Oregon. Did I mention the plans were formed before the girls became bestest friends? And that WE were not the family camping?

  11. tuney

    Oh, yeah. Worst whippin’ I ever got was when I left the yard without telling anybody. Make that whippings, plural. I was a wanderer…

  12. Fairly Odd Mother

    Wow, that is just bizarre! Playing with balls in your garage while you aren’t there??? And the matches incident!?!? Scary! Good thing your kids sound like they can see this behavior for the weirdness that it is.

  13. Karly

    Neighbor kids are EVIL. Evil, I tell you!

  14. Jenn

    The houses in our neighborhood are close together (about 8 feet between the houses) so there are always kids hanging around on our lawn. I’m not going to force them to stay in their 4 feet of the yard. BUT when I see kids start climbing the tree in our front yard? That makes me want to get out a broom and start waving it around.

    Actually, they’ve been better recently because the kids who were the biggest pain in the butts have disappeared. Three of them belong to a family who was evicted a few years ago. The answer to “Where are their parents?” was “Selling drugs.”
    This post really hit a nerve with me and I don’t even HAVE kids. I can’t imagine letting my kids do what some of these kids do.

  15. Sheila

    Apparently, Southern Hospitality = “I brought you some pie, now you watch my kids while they roam freely around your garage and pool AND teach your children some stuff that’s dangerous and rude… Sugar.”

  16. Heather

    Whoaaa matches?????? watch out for my little Chickadee! I thought it was bad when the girls poured out the sand art onto the carpet a couple years ago remember? HAHAHAH.

    We swam alone today too and then played scrabble just me and my two kiddos- it was nice.

    I feel ALOT better about not living in a neighborhood with lots of kids now. Although I could make room for a few visitors… hint hint. :)

  17. Melissa

    I have spawn. I am nodding.

    And if you DO end up out there with the rake, don’t worry. The internet will still love you. And maybe will even send you pie if you ask reeeeally nicely.

  18. Brandy

    I normally lurk, but had to comment. Those kids are scary. If my kids ever acted like that I would have to punish them. And, by the way, I live in the South (SC) and not all Southern parents act that way. (However, I have seen instences of just such manners in my own neighborhood.)

  19. Jan

    Not to be the pessimist in the group, but do be careful about the pool. If the little neighborhood angels were to come and play in it, even without your permission, and drown themselves, you and Otto would likely be liable.

    I think neighborhood-y neighborhood are just kind of like this. I’ve always wished we lived in one, but you’re making me rethink things. Maybe our nice older couple with grandkids older than our little ones and even the in-and-out-of-jail-for-theft ‘bad’ neighbors aren’t so awful after all …

  20. Anna

    After moving from the city life in California, I chose the country life in The South primarily to avoid these kind of neighborhood twilight zone incidents. Well that and my husband came with a house in the country.

    One word – Boundaries. Seriously, boundaries. You may not additional baked goods in the near future, but it will make for a smooth road living in the community.

  21. Lady M

    Ya know, I’d been talking about wishing we lived in a neighborhood with children, but this is a good reminder to be careful about those wishes!

    Perhaps visiting children can be put to work cleaning and unpacking.

  22. Angel

    Oh yeah, nodding my head like crazy.

    Glad I’m not the only parent who cares about these things too!

    I know that I can be quite the OCD mom, but really, other people’s parenting and kids can drive me bonkers.

    Here’s to you finding a sensible family with sensible kids for friends!!

  23. LuAnn

    Hah! That will teach you to get a house with amenities like a pool. Maybe you need to post some “pool rules” outside your home so you don’t have to deal with the stream of OPC (other peoples’ children) wanting to use yours … like hours the pool is available, and that they have to bring an adult with at least a nominal claim to being their parent! :p

  24. Anne

    Boundaries are a *really* good thing…
    Pool rules…To seriously cut down on pool invasions, a friend of mine had a rule..no swimming unless the child’s parent came to watch them. OH, and bring your own snacks and towels.
    If you don’t want to go that far, you might say to the parents something along the lines of “like your kids, but would you let them know we are very strict about the pool? C and M are only allowed to invite friends to swim after they have cleared it with me first.It’s a safety thing.”
    Toys in the garage?? If feel your pain. we had kids take them out of a closed shed while we weren’t home and then left them all over the front step..little army men everywhere. We had to start keeping them all inside. So, I don’t know…maybe move the toys to the back yard or get a locking rubbermaid cabinet. It’s a pain.
    There’s an old teacher rule…don’t smile till December…meaning start strict, and then loosen up. It’s easier to do it that way. It will get easier, you’ll adjust to them and they’ll adjust to you…you’ll find your people and it will all work out. Just hang in there.

  25. Momma Em

    Yeah, we have neighbors who will just stand there dumbly watching their children playing in the middle of our street as we maneuver our way around their children and multiple toys scattered all over the cul-de-sac. Gotta love non-parent-parents…the idiots.

  26. JustEnjoyHim/Judy

    Oh. No.

    I think it’s called: The Cons Of Having The Neighborhood Pool. And kids who are Future Hoodlums in your neighborhood.

    Just start going out in your street and yelling: “see you in the police section in the local news rag when you’re 18!!!”

    That’ll learn ’em!!

  27. Niki

    I grew up in Minnesota, where having a pool was quite the novelty, but our across-the-street neighbors had one. They solved the “inviting yourself over” dilemma by putting up a flagpole with a large Swedish (they were) flag – when the flag was up, you were welcome to come over and go swimming without being invited. Otherwise, not. The flag probably flew only twice a month, but we learned quickly!

    When we moved to NC, my dad quickly learned how NOT to have your neighbors’ kids come over to swim – he asked them all to have their parents sign a release form that released him from being sued in the event of their injury or death, and it stated they would not be supervised. Most did not return. The main event that spurred him to that is when my brother broke his ankle on a neighbor’s trampoline – several other neighbors advised him to sue!

  28. Brigitte

    I agree with all of the pool liability issues and rules!

    And I like Lady M’s idea about putting them to work – if you do it to them enough when they show up, they might be a little more leery about showing up on your doorstep. :-)

  29. blairzoo

    Ah, neighborhood children. The blessing and the curse. It sure is handy to have friends around without needing to arrange playdates, and the down side is having friends around all. the. time. A bunch of years ago we moved from a relatively kid-less area to a neigborhood with close proximity to a few other families. I was in culture shock. I clearly remember unpacking boxes only to turn around and see SEVEN children in my living room, only 3 of which were mine. Now I laugh because we always have extra kids around and it doesn’t faze me at all, but back then, oh boy, I was traumatized.

    The way it goes around here is that each mom makes her own boundaries, and whatever doesn’t work, she lets the kids know. Truthfully, when my kids run out the door to another house, I don’t follow along and make sure it’s OK. That mom can either send them back if it doesn’t work for her, or let them play. Same thing when they come this way. Overall, we’ve had great experiences with best friends, hard kids, etc, and I think it helps the kids figure out relationship issues in a way they don’t with their own siblings.

    Now I’ve got teenagers as well as small kids, and the teens have friends over almost daily. Exhausting to always be on chaperone duty, but I sure am glad I made our house a friendly place to hang out, as I’d much rather they were here where I know what they are doing and who they are with.

    Give yourself time to get used to it, as it is a big change, and don’t be afraid to make your own boundaries. In another couple of years, you might be glad that they are at your house where you can see them.

  30. Terri

    We bought our house 8 years ago when pregnant with our first. The previous owners were very lovely, welcoming people (we got to know them pretty well because it was a For Sale By Owner situation, and still exchange Christmas cards), and next door was a 6 year old, with no playmates on our end of the street. He would just show up to watch us do our projects in the garage, out in the yard, whatever. Plus we had a pool and so we were informed that the previous owners had told them they could use the pool whenever they liked. No pressure or anything. ;)

    As it turned out, they had their second son 2 months after our son was born, and then they had a daughter 8 months before we did. Yay! Built in playmates right next door! And it’s been good, in a way. Anytime my kids need to get out and play, they’re there. But she homeschools (and this is NOT to bash homeschoolers) and the 2 younger kids don’t get much (read, any) socialization so they will literally wait for mine to get home from school or other activities and then pounce on them. When Josh started kindergarten, they would wait for the bus to drop him off and he wouldn’t even get to my driveway before they wanted to know if he could come play … and the bus drops off into our front yard. Drives.Me.Insane.

    You’d think that as desperate they were to play with my kids, they’d all get along well. But half the time one of them would make one of mine cry, and oh, how much I love to deal with that.

    They’re in the process of moving now, so I’ve just bitten my tongue for the past few months. But it drives me up the wall because we have daily reruns of their girl coming over and asking if ours could play. Not 10 minutes after they’re outside, she’d come in and inform me that she needs water and/or a snack. And her mom “told her” that they need to play in Jessie’s room, which they trash every time they go into. Argh! And heaven forbid the answer is no, we have somewhere to go or someone else to play with. I’d get this look like I was conspiring to ruin her life.

    There are definite advantages to having built-in playmates, but I have to admit that I’m not at all desperate for the new owners to have kids. I feel terrible for it, but there it is. I have 3 kids of my own to raise, and don’t need more, especially when they make my kids more high-maintenance. And I while I’m glad that my kids’ friends are comfortable here, I don’t like them just walking in and making themselves at home. What do you say to a child who leaves your child outside playing happily and comes inside to play in her bedroom — alone. Like it’s not the playmate she wants, but the dollhouse?

    We’re about to build a playhouse out back for the kids, and I’m actually glad that we put it off to the end of summer, since they’ll be gone. On the one hand, I know the kids would have all loved to play out there, but on the other hand, I think they would have moved in with their “su casa, mi casa” mentality. And call me weird or antisocial, but I don’t like them playing in my yard when we’re not home.

  31. paige

    When I was a teen, our house was where all the kids came to hang out. My parents say it cost them a fortune in food and electricity but they always, always knew where we were and who we were hanging out with.

    Now I live out in the sticks, with no kids around who are my kids ages, our kids are the youngest by 5 years or so. We import our kids’ friends when they want someone to play with…which means it’s an all day thing because no one wants to drive 30 minutes out here for an hour playdate.

    Pros and cons both ways. I like the idea of having parents sign a release form for the pool! You’ll get boundaries straightened out eventually. There are clueless parents everywhere…I teach kindergarten and I’ve had parents assume that my teaching just would continue as free daycare for their kids in the summer–that I’d be just pleased as punch to watch their kids “since you’re not doing anything, anyway”.

  32. Terri

    Oops! Sorry for the super-long comment … guess I needed to rant a bit. But I wanted to ask how the kids you’re meeting are addressing you — are you Mrs. Otto or Miss Mir? And as a transplant, how do you feel about Miss Mir? Most of my friends are Miss Firstname but some of my northern friends are uncomfortable with that. Just curious.

  33. Erin

    We have good friends named Mike & Becky–Mike’s brother, Oscar, has four kids ranging in age from 17 to almost 5. I think they’re tired of parenting, because they let the 5 year old run completely rampant. We were with them for the fourth of July, and the 5yo kept running TOWARD THE FIREWORKS and NO ONE SAID ANYTHING except for me and (our friend) his Aunt Becky.

    Becky has this “joking” line where she says in a funny mock-British voice, “Where is this child’s MUTHA?!”…and everyone laughs.

    But we’re serious.

  34. Tal

    We had a BIG pool growing up, and lots of neighbourhood kids. Mir, you NEED rules, and you need to make them known asap. The standards are bring your own towels and snacks (and drinks). Depending on how you feel about the supervision, insist that parents have to come supervise too. If you don’t feel like entertaining, then a simple “sorry, I’m not able to supervise today” should be fine. I’m assuming that your fence is at least 6′ high, but maybe consider getting a gate that locks from the inside? I hate to tell you this (and maybe you already know, but you and Otto WILL be liable if anything untoward was to happen with the pool, so better safe than sorry.

    Another suggestion, my parents enforced swimming lessons throughout the year with the exception of summer (since we had a pool), so as to be safe. We never swam on our own, ever (which I’m sure you already enforce). Also, we had to go through lessons until we completed the highest level of lifesaving before lifeguarding (which we both went on to do).

    Sorry for the long comment, but I thought you wouldn’t mind hearing from someone who had a pool growing up. Good luck!

  35. Megan

    One of our moves was to Texas (well, two were but only one’s pertinent!) and there were two… interesting children next door. The girl was named for a kind of hat and was whiny and clingy, the boy apparently was raised by rabid weasels. They were over constantly – honestly six hours or more to harass my children. I decided it was the lesser of two evils after my Child 1 came home from their house and said “Hat Girl’s mommy is reeeeaaaaaaaally jolly today!” Hmmmm…. thank goodness we were only there for four months!

  36. Janet

    We had neighbors that called us and asked if their daughter could come ride our horses. When I said “sure” she then asked “how good is your liability insurance?” I then told her not to bother bringing her daughter because I had changed my mind!! Some people!!

  37. tori

    We have a bunch of neighbor kids that are always in our yard. I don’t necessarily mind, but sometimes it would be cool to be “just family” for a while. Although in the fall, I usually have all the kids in the yard plant tulips for me, so it works out ok. My house always seems like the place to be for all the neighborhood kids.

  38. BOSSY

    Ruh-roh. Years ago Bossy made a deal with the neighbor kids… there would be a signal, like an open screen door, that indicated Play Time — and when the door was not open it was Family Time. Of course the other parents in the neighborhood have to partake.

    You could always get a divorce and move? Haha.

  39. Karen

    It is great when there is such a sense of community in a neighborhood that parents feel safe letting their children run around without worrying. That is how I grew up. Maybe once you feel more comfortable in the neighborhood you won’t mind the kids visiting. In the mean time close the garage door. And of course it is rude to invite yourself to someone else’s pool. And I have no comment for playing with matches….that is just insane.

  40. Sara

    Argghh. Feral children. We have a few in our neighborhood. And the absentee parents? Yep we’ve got them too. (At least I think so,given their absenteeism. I’m assuming the children don’t go back to empty homes) I’ve written many letters in my head to the parents at the neighborhood pool who bury their noses in a book or sleep while I play with and supervise my 4 and then their children as well–children I don’t even KNOW!! We’ve also dealt with the “home invaders” and the “self-inviters” and I’ve had the fork pointing conversation wtih my children as well. They know they will catch hell from me if they do either.
    I’m the mean mom, yet our yard is full of everyone’s children. Go figure.

  41. RuthWells

    Ooh, boy, I feel this post. When we moved to our current house 6 years ago, it quickly became obvious that the twin boys across the street (who are the same age as my younger boy, and therefore should have been a great fit) had been the victims of no-boundaries parenting. They truly were devil spawn, and after the first indoors playdate (at our house), I quickly decided that any further playdates would be outdoors only.

    During one outdoor playdate at age 6 or so, I caught one of these little angels pulling his pants down and squatting to take a dump on yet another neighbor’s front lawn. When I interrupted him and hustled him over to his own house (a mere 20 feet away) to do his business, he declared, “But our mom lets us!”

    I have had to set boundaries for these kids everywhere — in our yard (and our garage), in their yard, at the busstop — while their mom (who is, inexplicably, a lovely person) simply stands by. My rule is, if it’s on my property or is affecting other kids and innocent bystanders, it is entirely my right — nay, duty! — to slap some boundaries on these kids where warrented.

  42. Deanna

    Except for the southern thing, I’m pretty sure you are living in my neighborhood. My darling husband and I are outcasts because we have bizzare beliefs such as “we should watch our own children” and “you must come in after dark” and the real doozy, “do not wander into someone else’s house during a party and eat food and STEAL JEWELRY” I caught one of our little neighborood heathens running out the door with a necklace my grandfather purchased in 1968.

    You are not alone. I finally came to terms with all the neighborhood drama by having a firm talking to with myself. I can only control MY children and MY children’s behavior. I feel your pain Mir.

  43. Leandra

    I don’t have any experience with neighborhood kids, but I’ve been taking my kids to a local park with a swimming area recently and it amazes me how many children will just walk up and start playing with the sand toys that we brought without even asking permission! One kid even walked off with my son’s Super Squirter. His mom was sitting right there and didn’t even say anything!!

  44. Daisy

    We had a family like that down the road from us in our last home — way up north!! In fact, the mom would actually send them to my house if she knew I was home! The 3-year old would pick tomatoes from my garden while I was gone to work. Yikes. Yes, they moved before we did.

  45. YetAnotherKaren

    Luckily, I give out such “GO AWAY! I MEAN IT!” energy that it’s never been a problem. But I’ve been there and I reacted the same way you did. Which is why, now, I’m more or less invisible in a community with lots of kids. (At least it’s quiet) Balance, that would be nice, but establishing boundaries with people who have none is tough.

  46. Wendy

    Surprisely had this problem with my husband. He has a workshop full of remote control cars, which draws kids from miles around. He never minded it, but I, being paranoid, did. Now, the kids dont come around because of the crazy woman that lives at THAT house. Yeah, I am the woman that looks crazed running from her house, because she was looking for her husband for the last hour. They never see the patient, pleasant me and the aggravated, hellwoman.

    My daughter does have 2 little friends that come over from time to time. They are so sweet that sometimes I think I should send my daughter to their house and keep them.

    My biggest problem is what are these little kids saying about me to their parents. “Mom, that woman never leaves her computer and her son is always in the fireplace.”

  47. AGeekyMom

    I grew up in a neighborhood of nine houses and 35 kids, the age range was 6 years apart. A divorced man and his 3 teenaged sons moved in when I was 12. The father died a few months after moving in and the 3 boys lived alone in the house for the summer. Every other kid was forbidden to set foot in that house. Their uncle (don’t know how old he was) rang our doorbell at 2am one morning after he wiped out on a mini-bike on our front lawn and broke his thumb.. my dad was a doctor. Needless to say, there was collective sigh of relief among the parents when the house sold and the “wild boys” left.

  48. Amy-Go

    Yankee. ;)

  49. becky

    wow. just, wow. i would have no problem sending the children home if i didn’t feel like company. i still do that to our 19 year old. my excuse is i’m pregnant, tired, and don’t feel like company. however, we only have a one-bedroom right now, so it’s a little crowded. hence, the reason i don’t want people over. we’re rearranging things to get ready for the baby and the place is in shambles until we get rid of some stuff and get everything else in order.

    i hope the boundaries work for you, mir. set them now while you can.

  50. Lynne

    Think of this as a marathon…ya gotta pace yourself! When we used to live in the Santa Cruz mountains we would have roving clumps of boys that went grazing from house to house. I am sorry to say that my youngest was one of them! These boys would start at one house…usually the house whose folks just went to the grocery store…eat snacks there and then move to the next house.

    At the beginning, I thought this was sort of fun. I would make snacks for all 10 of em’! After a short time of this (a week), I started putting bowls of popcorn out on the deck and locking the doors!

    Now that my boys have recently left home, I remember these times with a soft heart. I even miss those times.
    Go figure!

  51. The Other Leanne

    Good fences make good neighbors. Locks make ’em even better.
    And even though I’m a non-parent, I find I’m the same way–“why aren’t you raising your kids the way I was raised?!” I live in a neighborhood with many children (a block from the elementary school) and I see all kinds and it just astounds me what people will allow their children to do. Why was the 5y.o. across the street playing with a bow and arrow (plastic)set? And why was he shooting the arrow at my cat?
    On the other hand, one mom made her daughter write a note of apology for picking my flowers.
    It really does take a village, Mir, so set those boundaries not only for your sake, but for the sake of those unruly children.

  52. Jessica

    Since my husband became a Personal Injury lawyer a few years ago I’ve started seeing everything through his scary lens. unaccompanied children who come play in your yard when you aren’t there definitely falls into that category. So do kids who swim in your pool without their own parents around.
    That said, I’m also a little weird about personal space and I feel queasy just thinking about how your space is being violated. I know. I’m weird.

  53. ZooMom

    I’m with you all on the ‘no chaperone, no swimming in pool’ rule. Very important. Regarding the no-boundry children, we had wild creatures next door in our previous apartment. Your best bet is to set limits and really enforce them. I find squatting down and maintaining eye contact while having a brief, pointed heart-to-heart conversation really does establish who is boss. In addition, I limited the amount of time that my children could play with them, period. Also, disrespectful children NEVER call me anything other than Mrs. Lastname! (FYI, I was also the fearless babysitter of three very wild boys back in my teen years.)

  54. Holly

    I grew up in a neighborhood like this, and we were always at each other’s houses. It’s just the type of neighborhood. However, we never thought to go play somewhere if the family wasn’t home! If you look at the bright side, you obviously have a neighborhood that is safe enough for the kids to wander freely, it’s a wonderful way to grow up!

  55. sinda

    Wow, you’ve stirred up lots of comments with this one. First off – welcome to the South!

    We moved into our neighborhood two and a half years ago, and were lucky that we already knew one of the families, and she (the mom) could give me all the scoop. We have 5 households with children that play together in our little street, and the kids are aged 4-9. 2 per house, 10 kids.

    Three of our families get along the best – we socialize a lot, and have developed common rules and boundaries. Sometimes we have to work to adjust them as the kids get older, but for the most part we have a good system. That being said – they’re all feral kids. They roam the ‘hood, and while they have to tell their parents before they leave one house and go to another, they’re otherwise free to do so. Sometimes we have to break them up – there’s only one boy, and he’s four, so there are a lot of twosemes, threesomes, etc with the girls that we may have to break up. Within these three families, there’s no concern about inviting yourself over – you just go to someone’s house, ask if they can play, and go back and forth. We do usually tell them to stay outside, unless it’s too hot or we’re willing to do the work of nagging them to clean up after themselves.

    Two other girls who love around the corner are not as welcome by our kids, and have completely different rules than ours do, and are very much into tattling and causing strife. We tend to discourage them from coming over too often – the dynamics change for the worse, usually.

    For my part, I love it when I cans end them outside to play with the neighbors and not have to worry about them and/or entertain them. We know they get fed wherever they are – we have a strict “eat every two hours” policy! – and that they’re safe, and we enjoy it when they’re at our house and enjoy the peace when they’re at someone else’s house. I’m glad we don’t have to mess with formalities, and the kids live a joyous life.

    Am I the only one?

  56. ScottsdaleGirl

    GIT OFFA MAH LAWN!!!! heh heh heh

    Wait till they are in your kitchen eating up all the food when the kids are in their teens. What? Not helping?

  57. susan

    Wow – I couldn’t even read all the comments but feel like I want to comment since I am a New Englander living in the South so I understand your culture shock. When we moved in, my neighbor greeted our children warmly and with immediately stated boundaries. She told them they were welcome in her yard anytime her own child was outside and as long as they asked their own mom first. I seconded that but added that they have to be invited first. So the exptecations were set from day one even though I know my kids go over alot with out asking and being invited. My nieghbor knows me well enough that she just sends them right back or has them call me on the phone to tell me where they are if its an OK time for a visit. However, neither house has the added draw of the pool. The folks down the street have one and they solve this problem by having a very private fence (perhaps one that locks from the inside). State your rules sooner than later though because once they start getting too comfortable, you will never be able to break those habits. The comments that recommended that the neighbors can only use the pool when invited and if their own parent supervises makes sense and will cut down on unwanted visitors. Also, the more they have to ask their own parents to supervise them, the sooner their parents will get the hint that their kids are being pests. Good luck!

  58. Cele

    You could get one of those radio active material signs for your property. Well at least for use at dinner time and when you’re not home. They can read? Right?

  59. Mary

    We have a pair of feral sisters (ages 11 and 7) in the neighborhood. My list of complaints is long (calling/ringing our doorbell repeatedly at 8am on Sundays, getting my kids to fix them food and then not eating it, wandering through my house unattended) but last summer they really got me good. The girls stopped by while my kids were eating dinner and watching a movie (yes, I sometimes let my kids eat in the family room) so I told them my kids could not play and shooed them away. The girls then pulled my patio chairs up to the sliding glass door, sat on my deck and watched the movie through the door!

    Their parents are nice (I don’t see them often) but we definately have different parenting styles.

  60. jenn

    Oh lord, this makes me remember when I was a kid and we had a pool. At first it was a lot of fun, but then the distant cousins started showing up. (My grandma was one of 14 kids, and all of their redneck kids and those kids’ kids were the ones who were constantly there.) I thought it was great, but it drove my mom and grandma insane. Especially when they didn’t show up with their own towels or snacks and drinks, and tromped with their big wet feet all through the house to get to the bathroom. I hate to say it, but I had a feeling when you started talking about buying a house with a pool, that you were going to end up hating some neighbors’ or distant relatives’ kids. Especially in the hot Georgia summertime.

  61. Christina

    Our problem neighborhood children are a 5 and 7 brother/sister duo who roam the whole neighborhood and play with anyone they can snatch. The frequently ask to come in my house (absolutely not!) they don’t even know me nor do I have any idea who their family is… very scary for them. We stick to our backyard most of the time to avoid having our toys broken by parent-less kids. Our street does have a lot of kids on it, but they are seriously scheduled all of the time, always off to this camp or that camp or school and then after school activities right off of the bus, etc. We seem to believe in more “free time” for our kids(plus who can afford all of that??) and our oldest commented last week that all of the kids seem to have disappeared from our street. We also must keep our doors locked during the day to keep the stray children out of our house, especially in this heat. I do not have the time or energy to raise other people’s children.

  62. Kelly

    I have been reading for a few weeks and loved this. I have had friends like this growing up! My two year old is not there yet but I know one day she will have annoying kids here all the time.

  63. amy

    Very interesting post and discussion. First of all, please do exactly what was recommended re: the pool – liability papers signed and fence of 5 feet or 6 feet locked (whatever is required or recommended by insurance etc..). As was pointed out, regardless of any of these things you can be sued, but you will have a better situation if you have followed those suggestions. We had a pool in our previous house for 17 years so I know(just putting out the bonafides).Also regardless of the kids and whether you like them or not, you need very specific rules for the pool regarding the time, your sanity and the safety. Even when they get older, especially with a diving board (we had one too), you need to be super vigilant as the kids will try all sorts of nutty things often and it actually gets worse as far as danger goes with the diving board as they get into their teens. I loved having a pool, so don’t get me wrong, but absolute boundaries and rules are critical for safety and sanity.
    As far as the kids and friendships go — here I would be more flexible IF you like the children and your children like them BUT I would keep the boundaries that work for your family which if you are consistent everyone will get even if their own parents have no rules at all. I would NEVER let my child sleep over anywhere no matter how old (ask our teenagers) if I do not know the parents well and/or approve of them. So I am with you on this 100%. I also hate sleepovers anyway as my sister calls them “Awakeovers”. I also prefer the work and cost of having the kids at our house vs.theirs ESPECIALLY when they are teens ’cause I know what they are doing and as in the matches situation, trust me, there are all sorts of crazy things that kids will do and try when there are not adults really “present” if you know what I mean. Absent parenting (as in lights on nobody home) sometimes appears to be the mode. Good luck and we are all looking forward to hearing about it all!

  64. Tracy

    I had a neighbor(before I had kids) who used to raise her garage door as a signal that her kids could play and then when it was left down -do not ask!

  65. carolyn

    What a sticky situation. When I was growing up, our neighbors had a pool, and a flag, like someone else mentioned. When the flag was flying, we were welcome to come over and swim. No flag? No swimming. Also, they had a nice sign that stated the rules: bring your own towels, snacks, etc. It worked well and we all had a good time.

  66. Barb Cooper

    I kind of like having the house that all the kids come to play at. But I treat them all like my own and if someone is smacking while eating or whatever, I correct her manners just as I would my own kids. The kids don’t seem to take this amiss. And I also send kids home if they are cranky or MY kids are cranky or I’M cranky (most likely.) I find that because I’m the youngest of four and never thought I could have children, I don’t actually know that much about them. Having lots of different kids around is sort of reassuring to me –both because I see that my kids are pretty normal and also that I see that most kids are really sweet.

    Having said all that, it’s unacceptable for kids to come over and play in my garage when we’re not home. (I don’t even like other kids up in my kids’ rooms when my kids aren’t upstairs.) Although, I will say that my husband has given the garage code to all of his biking friends so I frequently come home to find some cyclist fixing his bike in the garage.

  67. Justin

    I grew up in the house where all the kids hung out. The rule was that the rules were exactly the same for the visiting kids. This meant that if they were there we didn’t play inside, summer was essentially “you need to be outside it’s good for you” (hehe), and if the rules weren’t followed they went home. I didn’t realize it at the time but I think our parents were pretty strict. I always envied the kids who got to go home instead of cleaning up, or doing whatever we were supposed to when we got caught missbehaving. Mom later said she prefered knowing where we were and what we were up to.
    Don’t believe everything the neighborhood hellions tell you. I think in the south it’s assumed you can send them packing anytime you want. Well, if you haven’t agreed to babysit or whatever, then you’d be sort of scary. :)
    I do remember that when we got caught doing something untoward my Mom would yell at everybody and tell us to go outside, clean something up, put something back, whatever and that for the most part the other kids would buck up and pitch in to rectify things. I’m sure that a lot them thrived having clear rules of behavior, and if they didn’t they just stopped visiting.

  68. Dana

    Seriously. This is like the neighborhood I grew up in. The neighbor kids (who were the ages of my younger siblings) would always invite themselves over to our house and my mother was okay with it for awhile. That is until one of the snotty kids called her a bitch to her face. That put an end to that. And their parents were always in their own yards, telling the kids to go somewhere else to play. I never could quite understand that. I think I was too old for my age at 13.

  69. Heidi Malott

    THIS MAY HELP…..I feel your pain. I have 3 children, 13, 11 and 9 and I have been dealing with this for all of those years. I finally got “firm” I make all the neighbor kids call me “Mrs. Malott” I figure if they think of me like one of their teacher like figures (because I dont think Mr. or Mrs. is used any other time in todays society) it will help, and it has tremendously because it (sets a built in authority which means more power for you) I have learned that I have to just say NO non-chalantly on many occasions and they always ask rudely “why….” and I shortly say because I said so and that is final. Set boundaries (sad to say we have to do this with kids that aren’t ours but true) Stay firm with these rules and they will EVENTUALLY (sometimes feels like forever) get it, that they wont get around your rules. They are testing you and your bounderies. We have a pool and oh God we’ve dealt with all of that and thankfully dont anymore. The kids (ours and the neighbor kids) are older now and pretty well trained. They dont just walk in the house or invite themselves to swim. I used to be afraid of how to handle it thinking they might go back and tell their parents that Mrs. Malott said…blah..blah, but I figure, what have I got to lose, if they do then the parents might actually see how rude they are. Hope this helps, I have many more ideas if you want:) Good Luck, Heidi Malott

  70. Heidi Malott

    Oh, I forgot, I have actually seen some of the neighbor kids change for the better. Just goes to show you kids need structure and bounderies even if they get it from “the neighborhood mom” ~Heidi

  71. donna a.k.a. crazy mom

    Boy did this hit a nerve! Let me say as the owner of the house with the pool, the playset and more toys and craft materials than Toys ‘R Us, I totally feel your pain. Let me also ask you this — have you talked to your neighbor about any of these incidents? I say this because I have been driven nearly insane by the feral children that continually swarm around my house — especially in the summer months. My husband (the ever-practical one) told me one day to talk to the other parent about an incident that particularly got under my skin (it was a negative comment that the child said that her parent uttered about my child’s behavior. Since this particular child often required a lot of flexing of my self control muscle I was really hurt and offended to think that the dad didn’t like the way my kid behaved (I’m totally anal about manners and not imposing — I’ve pointed knives and forks at many a dinner table discussion. Loaded sub-calibar machine guns aren’t overdoing it in my opinion!) I also worried that my child was acting in an inappropriate manner. Since I was ready to call the mommy lynch mob on my own kid, I figured that my practical husband was right and since we do live in a democracy after all, I owe her the beneift of the doubt and I should try to delve deeper into the mysterious misbehavior (my daughter is highly emotional and very high energy, so while I didn’t expect disrespectful behavior, I did envision a tiny female tasmanian devil tearing up their house). Being the nonconfrontational coward that I am however, I never mustered the courage to talk to the other parent, but my busybody good friend who I unloaded on did. It turns out that the dad was mortified. He told me that he never made such a comment, didn’t know where the comment came from, and has no problem at all with my child’s behavior. She’s always been fine when she plays at their house. Over the years we went on to discover that our households have very similar discipline and parenting ideas. Kids being kids however, will continually stretch any boundary they are given. Go outside and ask your friend if they can play in the park (community play set in our cul-de-sack) is often translated by the kids as go across the street and ask the kid to play, wait 5 minutes then ask if we can go in your pool — oh and by the way — ask if I can have a snack and I didn’t bring a bathing suit so let me wear one of yours.
    So long story short (ok — probably too late for that) you may not actually have an absentee mom on your hands. If you tell her about the matches incident she may well shriek — “SHE DID WHAT??????!!!! Don’t worry – it won’t happen again”! The world being what it is (some of those comments are unbelievable! My heart’s out to all of you!)that may not be the case — but there are a whole lot of parents out there who will stop that behavior when they become aware of it. When I talk to my kids playmates parents, I present myself as an over-protective, anal mom who has no problem being what I am. They can agree with me or not (it amazes me how often the parents do agree with me), but at least they know my views and expectations of the type of behavior I consider acceptable at my house. They can either tell their kids to adjust their behavior when visiting me or keep their kids away from the crazy lady across the street — either way is fine with me! Good luck!

  72. Kris

    If one is named Malachai, run like hell!

  73. Chris

    Sheesh, is that maybe a Southern thing? I don’t know. My kids were never allowed to do that, they still are not allowed to bang on doors and go on other peoples property, and they are adults. I’m serious, they would never just invite themselves over. Good luck with that, it is very stressful, all the hiding.
    You really are so funny though. You had me laughing through much of the post. I’m sorry, I do know you are serious, but damn, you are funny. ;)

  74. beth

    Wow, our neighborhood is full of feral kids. I think of it as a community :-). You do have to set the boundaries, and I have no problem saying No. WIth a pool, I bet you have to set the boundaries pretty firmly.

    Did the previous owners have kids? If not, then kids with pool (in JULY) is the “new” thing on the block, so I’d expect to be the “in” place. Our neighbors just got a trampoline, and the whole neighborhood has been there for a week. Before that it was our backyard with the playset and water toys. Our family rules are that you let me know before you go inside anywhere (and for a select few houses it’s OK to call from inside that house) and you stay within the block boundaries we’ve set. But I would expect any kid in a bunch to suggest going to our playset, or getting out our croquet mallets, or whatever; I wouldn’t read it as them inviting themselves over. And I’d feel comfortable saying, no, X is having a nap, or this combination of kids can’t have mallets without a responsible person.

    But even if I’m one of those awful people you’d hate to have on your block, I’d still back up any boundaries you set. No, we can’t suggest moving the party to Monkey and Chickadee’s house (POOL) until her mom calls to suggest it (an excellent rule to establish!). No, you can’t bake cookies unless I’m there to watch; Chickadee’s mom doesn’t like her using the kitchen on her own (my 8 year old is allowed to solo everything until the stove opens) (well, I wouldn’t say why they couldn’t because I wouldn’t single out Chickadee, but I wouldn’t allow it when she was there). YES, PLEASE GOD LET ME KNOW THAT THEY WERE PLAYING WITH MATCHES.

  75. Lillian

    I’m totally with you on these feral kids. They scare me. This whole thing also goes a long way in explaining why one of our neighbors – the folks with a pool – don’t have a doorbell. Good luck!

  76. Sheryl

    Okay, I didn’t read the 85 million comments ahead of mine, but here’s my $.02.

    I live in a neighborhood with MANY children. Some of the people have pools. The rule of these neighbors, which I think is excellent, is that a parent must be present if the kids swim. That way if something happens, you’re not responsible.

    The rule in our house is no one is allowed to play in our yard or come in our house (!!!) if we’re not home. You wouldn’t think we’d need such a rule, but we do.

    Also if the neighbor kids are old enough to read, I strongly suggest that you put a BIG sign on the door saying you’re having dinner, come back tomorrow, because take it from me, you’ll be answering the door 3 or 4 times while your spaghetti gets cold.

  77. Nancy Fulda

    This was an interesting post for me to read, because I feel SO on the other side of the fence. I’m the Mom who lets her kids climb all over the furniture and dump sand in the wading pool and play with candles (under supervision). This works fine for us at our house. We’re happy there.

    Visiting other houses is extremely stressful because I must hold my children to a different standard than they’re used to. Some places we go, I feel like we’re nothing but a rampant crowd of mess-makers, and I know a lot of parents think I’m overpermissive. My children will learn, eventually, how to behave in other people’s homes. But while they’re small, they have a hard time understanding the double-standard.

    Sometimes I wish we didn’t have friends and never went visiting. I just want to hole up in our friendly, messy house where we feel comfortable and accepted.

  78. Barb

    Mir –

    As a teacher and the mom of 2 kids I find that ALL the neighborhood moms simply assume I am happy to have their children come over (aka be a free babysitter) any time between 8:00 am and…well… I had one ring our doorbell at 9:15 the other night to ask why all of the outside toys were put away. One boy, who is a former student of mine, frequently stays at our house 7+ hours a day and I have to specifically tell him to go home and not come back again until tomorrow or I think he would just move in permanently. Two hints that I’ve found helpful –

    1. I bought a decorative flag to hang from our front porch and then taught all the neighborhood kids to chant “If the flag is UP, we’d love to play. If the flag is DOWN, stay home today!” If the flag is down and someone shows up to play anyway, I nicely but firmly point to the empty post and say “Oh look, no flag, go home”.

    2. I bought a padlock for the shed where we keep the outside toys. This after I came home from grocery shopping one day to discover two of the neighbor boys had gotten into the shed, gotten out my sons’ Power Wheels vehicles, and were riding madly around the neighborhood on them. They AND their parents got a stern lecture about how no one is allowed to come play when I am not home and that our toys absolutely do not leave our yard under any circumstances! I now unlock the shed when MY boys are ready to play outside and lock it back up anytime we leave or when we are done being outside for the day.

    Good luck setting boundaries with the feral kids!

  79. Susan

    My kids are constantly getting lectures from me based on things their peers do. They always say, “Mom, you KNOW I wouldn’t ___________!” (fill in the blank with inappropriate action)

    I just want to make sure it’s perfectly clear that they are not to do most of what their little friends think are perfectly fine things to do!

  80. Laura

    It’s perfectly all right – in fact, if you wish to survive this, it’s required – to set limits on other people’s children. You can do it so much when the parents are around (darn it, anyway), but since these parents are NEVER AROUND, I’d say that gives you pretty much free rein to start drawing some big, fat boundaries.

    I love the flag idea.

    As to the sleepover? In your situation, I’d tell the children that I will be willing to consider sleepovers in a couple of months or so, when I’m all settled in, and have had lots of opportunity to get to know the other parents. Because of course, you can’t go to someone’s house if they’re strangers, now, can you?

  81. Colleen

    Holy cow girl I never thought I’d get to the end of your replies..

    How rude is all I can say..I’m with you inviting yourself over to someone else’s house is just plain rude. Oh how i love the country..having a 600 foot driveway keeps many kids away. :)

    I like the flag and the pad lock idea..


  82. Desi

    it is NOT a southern thing! I would have been killed, and I would kill my kids if they did something like that. Bad manner abound everywhere. Are you sure they aren’t from “somewhere” else?

  83. elizabeth

    You have described my su”bourbon” hell! BUT – the kids mostly stay away now, as I have shown my evil – don’t f*ck with me KIDS – face. They think I’m a b*tch and I am OKAY with it.

  84. Jenifer

    Sounds like the neighborhood I grew up in…. but back then there weren’t all the dangers there are today. It was normal for all the neighborhood kids to “go out and play” and basicallly roam the neighborhood and invade each others houses.

    And I can remember my Mom letting me go to sleep overs at homes where she didn’t know the family well. As a matter of fact I went across the country and stayed with a pen pal whe I was 13 and my Mom only knew the family by talking on the phone…. sometimes now that I have become a mother I wonder what my mother was smoking. I loved the freedom, but I was lucky nothing bad ever happened. Will I be as free with my kids? HELL NO!

    I now respect the Mom who wouldn’t let my best friend sleep over my house when we were in school, even though at the time I thought she was a super BEY-OTCH!

  85. Esme

    I wouldn’t make it in your new neighborhood. Nope, nope, nope. Not even pie would make me fit in.

  86. Tinker

    This is a bit random, but thought you might want to take the kiddos. Once a month GA State has an open house at their observatory, and you get to check out their telescopes. If the open house matches up with a clear night, it is really interesting.


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