Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Neighbor Kids

I'll be the first to admit that, when it comes to who plays with my kids, I'm a snob. I want my girls playing with kids that come from decent families with strong moral values and a certain amount of discipline. So yeah, I'm picky about who gets to hang out at our house.

Enter: The Neighbor Children.

As I was setting up the girls' teepee out front and bringing them out a basket of snacks, there were two young kids on bikes riding back and forth on the sidewalk in front of our house, gazing longingly at us as we munched raisins and apples and read stories amid blankets and pillows in our little tent. I smiled politely and continued reading. Finally the boy came up the fence and timidly asked if they could be friends. These are the kids that are out at all hours of the day and night, riding their bikes unsupervised through the streets. I'm pretty sure their mom doesn't set up tents and make snack baskets and read to them.

I couldn't say no. I invited them into the yard, and I went inside for another basket of snacks.

They were polite kids, and friendly. They're nine year old boy/girl twins. They were respectful to me and were gentle and kind with my toddler. They drew with sidewalk chalk, read our books with us, and asked a lot of questions about what it's like to home school.

Then they explained that their mom was sick and had a headache, and that she told them to go find somewhere to play. They weren't allowed back at home until 9:00 at night, unless it was to use the bathroom or to find something to eat, and she didn't want to be able to hear them. Their father is in prison, as is their grandpa, who owns the house. I'm pretty sure by the time they explained all of this that my mouth was gaping open and I had tears in my eyes.

As I was demonstrating how to use a Skip-It, Ethan asked me, "Are you a nice mom?" Gosh, how do I answer that? And good heavens, what kind of question is that, anyway! I have a feeling his mom might not be a nice one.

After some time, I told them it was time for us to go in for our lessons, but that after lessons, lunch, chore time, and nap time, when we were back out front, they could come back and play again, and I'd bring out some toys. They sat outside the fence, in front of my house, for two hours, waiting for us to come back out.


We finally went back out, with a tub full of baby doll toys and a quilt to play on... and more snacks. There was a tea party, and then they took all the babies to the doctor (which was a good role for the only boy in the group) and then there was more sidewalk chalk drawing and some good old fashioned racing across the yard. Ethan left us at some point when one of his friends got home - he was ready for some 'guy time' he said. Caitlyn stayed and oohed and ahhed over all of the neat baby doll stuff the girls had, telling us she wished she had so many nice things for her doll. We invited her to pick peas with us. She'd never had peas out of a pod before and thought it was pretty special. When it was time for us to start fixing our supper, she helped clean up all the toys without question, then rode off on her bike after asking if she could come back tomorrow.

Oh, what to do? On the one hand, they seemed like pretty nice kids. The girls had a fantastic time playing with them. They were respectful of our things, they said please and thank you. They could probably benefit from a few hours spent in our front yard.

On the other hand, they obviously don't meet my standards of "decent family" and "strong moral values".

I have half a mind to go to their home with a basket of cookies and ask to meet their mother, introduce myself and let her know that her kids have been hanging out at my house. Maybe offer to bring them a meal since she's apparently under the weather? Maybe if I wear a skirt and apron I can really freak her out....

I suppose I'll keep letting the kids play, as long as I have the time to sit out there and keep an eye on them. My gut instinct is that they need it. But oooh, other people's kids make me so nervous! I love my little girls being just who they are, without too many outside, worldly influences. Heh. That just made me sound practically Amish.


Just Me said...

That breaks my heart. I admittedly don't get to hang out with my kids as much as you do with yours. But I feel the same about who my kids hang out with for the most part. I prefer my kids' friends to be well mannered and well behaved.

It sounds like those kids could really use a positive influence and they aren't getting it at home.

Sebastian's best friend's dad is in prison as well, and his mom, while a really nice lady, I don't think has a lot of time for him and his brother. It breaks my heart a bit.

Hopefully, the neighbor kids will continue to be well behaved when they play with your kids. Sounds like they had an experience hanging out with you that they won't forget.

Crazy Homeschool Mama said...

this is a tough one. I totally feel the same way about friends...BUT it really sounds like these kids need to be loved on...

Anonymous said...

LOL! I figure if their folks aren't around, they get to learn the same values I teach mine-- bwahahahaha!

Anonymous said...

Your girls learned a couple of lessons today. One is that not everyone lives like they do. Not everyone has a mom who makes snacks and plays with them. The other is that kindness doesn't cost anything and sometimes when we are kind to others it benefits us all.
Unless the kids become a nuisance, like showing up first thing in the morning and hanging out all day, I wouldn't discourage their visits. Chloe will learn much from this experience.
And I would absolutely ask to meet their mom. Just don't expect too much.
Hugs, Jan

Wendy said...

Jan's comments seem right on.

I must admit that as a couple, I feel like people have some prejudices when we show up as a biracial (shock!) couple, and my husband with his long hair and big old chops on his face. But yeah, all in all, we seem practically Amish as well. We're constantly stunned to find kids just running around, playing in the street, etc. My husband saw my 12 year old's friend hanging out at 7-11 at about 11pm at night by herslef, on her cell, getting some food. We constantly ask each other - is it just us? Are we overprotective? No, I think a lot of people are just crazy (in my opinion anyway!)! It's a constant battle trying to figure out how to balance tolerance for others and their situations and good judgment. For example, a neighborhood "fun" house belongs to a crazy kid and her bipolar mom and bipolar and alcoholic dad (literally). It's important to be tolerant of other people's situations, so when my daughter was young, she played with her. However, one night when I stopped by to see what my daughter needed for a sleepover at her house, both parents were drunk, candles were lit all over the house, and their big crazy dog was bumping into everyhting. Accident waiting to happen. Anyway, there will be no sleepovers at that house!

So now that my daughter is older, she's really getting a sense as to other family situaitons. For a while, she was a little sucked into other families - probably just b/c developmentally, you start being aware of this stuff. At a sleepover party last week, she said that they all sat in a circle and starte telling their deep dark family secrest and each person started crying. My daughter learned about divorce, child abuse, and other things. She of course provided comedic relief as she didn't have anything horrible to share (to MY relief!!). My point is, as your children get older, I think that whether you really allow them to play with unsavory families or not, they really figure out for themselves what kind of people make them feel good, and what kind of people don't. And that's all from your awesome mothering, tubs of toys, picnics, and so forth. :)