It all started when I saw my youngest son walking back from our neighbors jungle gym with his head hung low. We live in a neighborhood with large open yards, ideal for kids to run around and play outside. This is the type of neighborhood I grew up in. We spent many hours playing with the neighborhood kids, learning how to navigate the give and take of getting along and using our imaginations to have fun.
I wondered what had happened. He told me that his friend's Mom told him he could not play over at his house with his friends. My heart sank, "Jack-Jack" had experienced the neighbor's older daughter on previous occasions telling him to leave, but neighbor Mom had always scolded her daughter to be nice. We had just been over the other evening with all the kid's swimming together and getting along fine. On this day there were a couple other boys over at our neighbor's house. They all attended pre-school together and are entering Kindergarten in the fall. Their jungle gym is in view from my yard, so when the boys called Jack-Jack over I told him he could go. As things go, something happened. I have no idea what, but I suspect a typical 5 year old debate over a rule of some game or who goes first , or one of the many disputes that come up. Usually these are easily resolved by telling the kids they need to work together and get along, but this time neighbor Mom handled it by asking her son and the other 2 boys if they wanted Parker to leave. (That is what I was told by the Mom) They said yes, so she sent him home.
Okay, I told him, I'll play with you in the yard. A short time later, the kids called Jack-Jack to come over again. "Can I Mom?", he asked. "Yes, of course, but I'll go over with you and talk to Mrs. "Next door neighbor".
I went over, walking through in my mind the best way to approach this to not make it confrontational. I do this at work all the time. I can deal with major issues, people's careers, millions of dollars at stake - I should have the skills to talk this through with my neighbor. Up to now we have had a nice relationship. Kids playing together, glasses of wine, parties. At least that's what I thought.....
So I went over, but she was in the house so I knocked on the door to the kitchen from the garage and called her " Hey, do you have a minute?". I told her that the kids had asked Parker over again and knowing that she had sent him home earlier I just wanted to let her know. I can't really precisely say what happened next, but she went outside to the Jungle gym to find out who asked him over. I basically said I really don't think it's a problem, they're getting along fine.
Then she hit me. Not literally, but she might as well have. Apparently, there was a list of annoyances that she had been building up.
- "Jack-Jack" had come over and rang their door bell asking her son to play "10 times over the past year during dinner time!"
- If your son wants to play send me a text message!
- She ranted that what kind of person let's their kid ring the door bell at dinner time!
- Everyone knows that dinner time is between 5:30 and 6:30!
- You eat late and that is just UN-AMERICAN to eat late
- And that day he came over the afternoon of Father's day. How inconsiderate that was! That is a special day to spend with their Father.
- I've talked to other parents about all this and they think it's strange too!
- And your kids go to bed late
- And,,, YOU ARE A BAD MOM!
- I didn't realize your dinner times were so set.. We usually eat later. I don't leave work until 5 and get home at 6. I grew up eating at 8 pm more often than not so that we could all eat as a family (I thought that was America, at least my version of America)
- Tell me what time my kids should not ring your door bell so we can respect your dinner hours - She never did answer that one.
- I wont micromanage my kid's life, I want them to learn how to ring a door bell and ask if their friend may come out to play. ( I am always watching from the end of the sidewalk, but maybe she doesn't know that)
- The benefit of living in a neighborhood like ours is that the kids can run around and play in each other's yards, your kid's are always welcome at our house.
- Sorry about Father's day, but for both Mother's and Father's Day I think a card is nice and that is that. We invest a ton of time and love into our kids and neither my husband or I need a special day. Plus Dad is at home full time so his idea of Father's day may have a different meaning.
- My kids may go to bed late, but they are always at the bus stop and at school on time. (Not the case for someone else's children , but I bit my tongue on that one)
- Really, you are going around criticizing me with other parents? Nice.
- Finally, I told her that if she didn't want any neighbor kids in the yard, then she should consider putting up a fence, but until then I wasn't going to police my kids from playing with friends.