When my husband and I were searching for our next home to buy, we knew we wanted a more permanent location that would be family friendly so our children could ride bikes and we could take walks with the dog without busy traffic like our former home. When we finally found the perfect house, we were thrilled when we found out there were kids next door our son’s age. What luck! Built in playmates right next door! However, I soon realized neighborhood kids are kind of a blessing and a curse. What seems like a convenient permanent playdate can be more draining than I imagined! Maybe you can relate to a few of these issues….
The Standing Invitation—Most playdates require a phone call from parents and a drive to a park or museum or friends house to meet up. With neighbors, the invitation is always open. You’ve got built in friends next door! If the kids see us on the front porch or in the backyard they assume they are welcome to join. Yes, this can be nice. My son has often played for hours with them when we were doing yard work and was entertained and having fun. But then there are times we have company over or I just have a headache and don’t want to supervise more children. I have tried telling them “now isn’t a good time to play” but then they just talk through the fence. Or stand in their yard and yell over to my son. Or forget and just roam over. If their parents aren’t out with them, then it’s almost more of a hassle to keep telling them to go home than to just give in and let them join.
Different Strokes for Different Folks—Until we had neighborhood kids, most of our sons friends were the children of our friends. That usually means similar values. I do think it’s very important for my child to see other cultures and learn to respect other people’s beliefs and values, but sometimes those children don’t always seem as respectful and tolerant of ours. Hearing a 7 year old preach about the evils of Halloween to my son or being very judgmental about our religious views or how we spend our weekend time has been a challenge. Like I said, I think it’s a good conversation starter to talk about with MY son, but I don’t always know how to address it in front of other people’s children when the parents aren’t around.
Rules and Regulations—While the parents next door are friendly with my husband and me, we are not best friends. We chat when we see each other, we text and Facebook, we’ve even shared meals together, but we don’t spend NEAR the amount of time together that our children do. We have different rules and these are sometimes hard for the kids to understand. I don’t tolerate certain language at my house, I have specific rules about some of our outside toys, I have different views about playing in the street unaccompanied, and no matter how often I tell them these rules, they don’t seem to respect them or me very much. And my son seems to try to bend these rules more when he is playing with the neighbor kids than when he is with our family friends. I have brought a few things to the neighbor mom’s attention, but after a few too many eye rolls and bad language from the kids, I usually just find an excuse to tell my son it’s time to come inside.
I really am grateful to have the kids next door that we do. For the most part they are sweet and my son absolutely adores them and is constantly wanting to play with them. It might just sound like I’m complaining about them, but I think it just surprised me how many issues came with it that I wasn’t expecting!
Do you have neighborhood kid issues? How do you deal with them?