Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Neighbor Etiquette

When we first moved into this house, our girls were the only children on the block. All the same neighbors I grew up with still lived here except now they were retired or widowed. The man across the street from my parents remarked how nice it was to have some little kids running around again.

Then, one lady's grown daughter moved back home with her three children. Then the folks next door had their children and grandchildren move in as well. You would think with all these adults living in the same house with all these children, that everyone would have plenty of supervision, right?


These children slay me. They used to just open our backyard gate and ask if they could play. I mean they would just walk right in our backyard! I had to tell them they could not do that. Then, little boy from next door would open our gate and just stand there watching us swim. Um. Wow. He didn't speak English then, but he understood to scoot when I came crawling out of the pool and marching straight for him! It really worried me because I could just see him coming in when we weren't home and drowning. Needless to say, we lock the gate now.

Across the street girl and our girls play a lot together. But she'll come over to our house and ring the doorbell 5 or 7 times a day! Actually, that's not quite true. Each time she comes over she rings the doorbell multiple times until we answer. So what's that....60 times a day? ARGH. I had to tell her not to do that.

I have to go outside with my daughters if they are going to play in the front yard. I have 6 really good reasons why. First of all, we live on a main thouroughfare through our neighborhood and cars go really fast. The friends across the street dart back and forth without so much as a sideways glance and I do not trust my daughters to not be influenced by that bad behavior.

The other 5 reasons live in a large circle around our house (probably less than a mile square) and can be found on the sex offenders list. I've looked at the map.

Anyway, I end up being the neighborhood babysitter when we play in the front yard. I've hesitated to let friends play in our backyard because playing in the backyard invariably leads to coming right on in the house and I don't feel comfortable having children whose parents I barely know playing in our house. Especially when no one knows where they are.

I share all this to ask you a question. We have a pool. It's just an above-ground pool from Target. But it's the only pool on our block that I'm aware of. The kids next door jump on the trampoline and watch us swim and ask every day if they can come swim. The kids across the street have asked if they can come swim. They've only played with that one little girl 3 or 4 times but she asked if she could come over! I am appalled at children asking if they can come swim. I've talked to my girls about how we do NOT invite ourselves places.

Can you imagine walking into a friend's house (as an adult) and seeing a beautifully decorated cake sitting on the cabinet and saying, "Ooooh! Can I have a piece of cake??" Can you imagine doing that? I do not want to teach my girls to behave that way. You don't see your neighbor having a party and yell over the fence, "Hey! Can I come??"

I do not want these kiddos coming over to swim. I'm sorry, but I don't. I do not want to play lifegaurd and spend an hour saying, "don't hang on the side of the pool like that. Stop that--it's not safe. Quit getting in and out, you're getting grass all in the pool......" etc. etc. etc. Well behaved children who have actually been taught some manners might be a different story. And inviting one means an instant invitation to three at once with brothers and sisters. And I have no doubt they would call a friend to come over too!

Plus, once they've been over to swim once, how will I EVER get rid of them?? They'll be bugging us all day. I'm already glad we are still doing school so when these kids are out and come knocking (or ringing) we can honestly say, "Sorry. We are doing school right now."

Am I awful? I suppose I should be thinking of ministry opportunities and we do try to give a lot of attention to the little girl who they play with a lot because she seems lonely. She has horrible excema and I gave her some lotion for it. We try to love on them and be nice and friendly. The girls just smile and nicely say, "Not today" when the kids ask if they can swim. Back in the old days I suppose I could have invited them in for milk and cookies and really invested in these kids' lives. Today--I have concerns about that.

OK. So how do you handle neighbor kids?


  1. I could have written this post! I can't wait to hear if you get any ideas I could use. We don't have a pool but we do have kids climbing over our fence to get in our yard to play. Forget homeschooling with the windows open. They just come right up to the window and holler in! As for the offender list, we actually have 18 within a 1 mile radius! AND, one of them is right next door!!! 12 years ago, we moved into a great neighbor hood and it has just gone downhill fast. I hear what you are saying about using it as a ministry opportunity but we also have to look out for the spiritual well-being of our own children. Finding the balance between ministering and protecting our children from negative influences is a hard juggling act! You have my sympathy!

  2. I feel the same way. What's with parents not teaching children manners, or even caring where they are during the day? We had a beautiful house when we lived in GA with a wrap around porch that I just LOVED, but couldn't enjoy at all because I'd end up babysitting the neighborhood kids. Very frustrating ... and I sure don't have any advice. But, you are not "awful" for feeling this way. It's a good indication of today's society ... and it's quite frightening!

  3. This is a difficult road to navigate. Growing up, I never thought my mom was very inviting, and I never wanted to have my friends over. I always wanted to go somewhere else. So now, I want to make our house the hub where everyone congregates. I feed whoever comes through (we go through a LOT of snacks and frozen pizzas!), and the neighborhood kids are (almost) always welcome. However, I don't always like it. And sometimes I do say no for the sake of my sanity. There are influences on our street that I would prefer not to encourage by allowing them in my house (nothing horrible, just more worldly and in tune to pop culture than what my kids are used to), but on the other hand, I would much rather have them play here in my house than out front or at other people's houses. And, we don't have pool, or a Wii or anything like that, so it's hard to make our house the cool house. Because of that, I am much more willing to have neighborhood kids come over more often.

  4. There used to be a kid in our neighborhood when my kids were young and we'd end up babysitting him. Plus, my kids didn't like him. We wouldn't answer the door, but then he'd go from window to window trying to look in and trampling my flowers in the process. If I'd tell him he couldn't come in right now, he say, "But I have a bad home life!" It was awful. Yes, I feel guilty. He moved, and now we have nad another for quite a few years, not quite as obnoxious, but just as pesky, and he'll call from different phones so we won't know who it is. We have taken both to VBS in the past. At least it was only 1 kid at a time. Brenda, I don't blame you for not wanting to babysit the neighborhood, or be responsible for their safety in a pool. But, yes, as Christians I think we feel guilty. But, you can't sink your boat (getting in trouble because the neighbor kids get hurt in the pool, or have your school interrupted) to float theirs. Read "What Is a Family," by Edith Schaeffer -- about ministry as a family. She avers that there are times when a normally open door must be shut and have hinges and a lock. A time for everything.

  5. I had to come back and clarify. While I would rather all the kids be here than elsewhere, I don't always enjoy it. And I do say no. And I feel no shame letting other kids know our house rules. Brenda, I don't blame you at all about not wanting to watch other people's children in the pool, or babysit them out front. Mary's comment rings true: there is a time for everything, and sometimes, it is just not time to watch everyone else's kids. :)

  6. In perfect world, I see us having the kids over....feeding them....letting them watch movies over here....showing them what a real family life is like. I would love to. But reality tells me to be careful. Part of the problem is the lack of limits these kids have. (or rather don't have!) The other part is I don't know the families well and I don't want to be accused of anything. I hate to think that way. Mary, I haven't heard of the book you are talking about but yes...I think ministry should be done as a family and for now, that will take place in our front yard...together.

  7. I would most definitely not let them in the pool. That's a lawsuit waiting to happen.
    The neighborhood kids all play in our yard, BUT they follow MY rules, no questions asked. If they don't like it, they go home and don't come back until the next day.
    Showing love and friendliness is a ministry to these kids, but so is showing them that there are limits, boundaries and consequences to our behavior.

  8. Jody. Please tell me you are kidding! Climbing over your fence??? I think I would come unglued!!!
    Say What?--I know. And even when my girls aren't available to come out and play, one kid has just come on in our garage and talked my husband's ear off while he was working! You hate to say, "Hey...go home!" I would so not let my kids bug others like that!
    Karly--I completely agree. I want to know where my kids are. Towards that end, i don't mind having people over BUT...I would 1. rather have families over than just kids and 2. I want to invite THEM. Not the other way around! :)

  9. Glad (and sorry) to know that I am not the only one with neighbor kids like this too! I have had mixed feelings about it too. The girls by my house are looking for attention really badly, and I feel sorry for them, but I have gotten tired of babysitting too! On the few occassions I have let my kids play in their yard (right behind ours) I will be outside. And I HAVE to be outside when they come over because I have tried just sticking close to the door and monitoring, and something happens EVERY TIME. The 6yo girl has had a problem with wanting my (then) 4yo to pull down his pants! My boys like to play with them, but I do sometimes just say no because they cannot play together unsupervised, and I don't always have time to drop what I'm doing to watch their every move. When they first moved in, the youngest of the 3 was two years old and mom would just let them come over and she was nowhere to be seen! It has been a bit better for a while, but I am betting it will get cranked up since summer is here. Sometimes I feel as though people take advantage of the homeschool mom because they think she's got nothing else to do anyway. :-/

  10. Yikes. I also am glad (sorry) that I am not alone!

  11. Thankfully I don't have to worry about this just yet, but I certainly wouldn't let random neighborhood kids into the pool either, it's a lawsuit waiting to happen.

  12. I really wanted a pool this year but decided against it because of this very reason. My neighbor has 3 girls and I have found out that they play in our backyard and even our bikes while we are not home. Now the Mother and I are friends to an extent but NEVER would I do such a thing. She had playdates over her house one day while we were out of town and "borrowed" my sons bike without me knowing and then they just had a good ol' time in our backyard. I was ticked, my husband didn't think it was a big deal.
    Brooke White

  13. So I have been whining about our neighborhood, and how everyone except us is a two income family with the kids in daycare. No one is around all day. I remember playing all day with neighborhood kids when I was younger. But maybe it isn't such a bad thing that we are short on neighborhood playmates.

  14. I have a question for you all if anyone is still following this particular article since it has been since 2011. I have a 6 year old daughter as an only child. As she doesn't have anyone to play with, I always wished that I had a neighborhood with kids she could play with specifically girls, we only have boys. I always keep her inside, and she would ask if she could go over to our neighbors house with 2 boys to play. I always tell her no. I never really got to know the neighbors, so I found it awkward to ring their doorbell and ask for her to play. Recently, we had to have our mutual fence replaced, and hence came a day where she finally was free to play with them as there was no barrier, and both sets of parents were around. Since then, she is asking more feverishly to go over, she says one of the boys will ask, her, I won't see the parent outside, so I still feel awkward to ask. It breaks my heart to see what heppens next, she has a twisty slide on her playground, and she climbs it from the outside it has a lip on it she can stand on, and she only does it when the boys are outside so she can watch them play together in their backyard. She doesn't know I am watching, she just stands there and stares at them. Since I have read the posts, I am even more reluctant now to help her in this regard. Any advice?

  15. Sorry. Reading these posts and feeling devastated for the sad state of affairs in so many of our communities. Looking for a positive ministry? Please read your bibles. Start with doing unto others as you would have them do unto you, and teaching your children the same. Reach out to those near you. Live your faith, not your impatience and greed. Yes, dealing with other kids can be a chore, but the benefit to your own kids from learning such kindness is invaluable.


I don't get to talk to a lot of actual grown-ups during the day, so your comments make me really happy! :)