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.