Getty ImagesKlaus Vedfelt
I live in an amazing neighborhood. It’s much like the one I had growing up as a kid. Lots of families, lots of kids, and it’s the kind of neighborhood where you can borrow an egg when you’re out, or drop your kids off at someone’s house at the last second when you have an emergency.
I hit the lottery when it comes to great neighborhoods.
And, now that the weather is warming up, and kids are playing outside again, I feel like the whole neighborhood is waking up, too. And, I’m reminded of my love/hate relationship with the small kid gang that lives in my hood. Suburbia complaining at its finest, right?
I’ve always wanted my house to be the type of house where the all the kids want to hang out. And, it is. And, I DO love it. But, having kids that aren’t yours run in and out of your house all afternoon long after school, and every weekend can come with its perks and its challenges.
On the one hand, it’s awesome that my kids always have a playmate. What’s not awesome is when that playmate is hanging out in your pantry most of the time.
It’s great when there is always someone nearby to ride your bike with, but what’s not great is when they all come inside and want to play video games and leave their dirty socks in your basement.
It’s fun to run lemonade stands with friends, until you find that they dipped their fingers in the lemonade powder and left wadded up napkins in your bushes.
You buy extra popsicles at the store anticipating lots of the gang raiding your fridge during the warm summer months, only to find popsicle sticks stuck to your deck and festering in the afternoon sun.
I love that the neighborhood gang plays games on the trampoline for hours. But, taking care of bloody noses and busted foreheads of kids that don’t belong to you can be exhausting.
The door is always open. And, I don’t mean that figuratively. I mean, my door is always open. As if it isn’t hard enough yelling, “Shut the door!” to my own three, I have given up reminding the entire neighborhood, too.
When we first moved in, the neighborhood gang tried to put my middle child in the trashcan. They thought it would be funny. My kid didn’t think so. So, having the neighborhood gang at your house has to keep you on your toes, because you never know what kind of shenanigans they’re up to.
Having the neighborhood crew back means eavesdropping on conversations, and being the mean mom on the block that keeps everyone in line.
It means you always know what they’re doing, watching, or saying, but it also means that you always know what they’re doing, watching and saying. Policing bad words, video games, and fisticuffs isn’t always my favorite past time. In fact, it sometimes feels like a full-time job.
The kids always have someone to play in the street with, but I’m also now the crazy lady yelling at cars to slow down, and shaking my fists at teenagers driving by. I never knew it would come to this.
When we first moved in, I quickly became known as the strict mom in the hood. I had rules, and didn’t allow anyone to pick on anyone else, and I always had one ear listening to what was going on. But, they seem to like it. They seem to gravitate to my front yard, and are always knocking on our front door.
I often find bikes, balls, and jackets littering my yard that don’t belong to us at the end of a long day of play.
The truth is, I mostly love it. I like that kids feel like my home is a fun one. That parents trust their kids in my care. I like how the neighborhood kids are learning things from me like how to be respectful, and that it’s not OK to put someone else in a trashcan. I love that they feel comfortable here, and that my kids learn lessons about sharing, and when it’s OK to send someone home that isn’t being nice.
But, the truth is, I love that they’re slightly scared of me too, and hope to keep it that way. Because, frankly, having 10 kids in and out of your house all day long is not for the faint of heart. Now that the weather is warming up, I’m reminded of my love/hate relationship with this cute little gang of kids. And I’ve learned that the only way to survive is to make sure they still know who’s boss.