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.”