Sunday, May 17, 2009

Neighborhood Kids

(note: This is NOT about Chelsea's or Chelle's kids - I love J, D, M, G, and S... You will recognize the kids I'm talking about when you read it, but I wanted to be very clear...)

I've always wanted to be the Kool-Aid Mom. You know the one whose house is always open and where the kids are always running in and out and around. Now that Mary Grace is 3.5, and starting to play with instead of near other kids, this is starting to happen. However, there are a couple of kids in the neighborhood who run around loose all day, from what I can tell, and I need the advice of more experienced moms on how to handle the situation. I feel like, with summer upon us, if I don't lay some ground rules now, it's going to be a very long summer.

"Sally" lives across the street from me, with her Mom and Dad, no siblings. Mom seems young, and a bit on the shy side. Sally is 5 and can often be found wandering the neighborhood in a rather aimless manner. Certainly, she is less supervised than I think a 5 year old should be. She'll come over and I won't even realize that she's here (she's quiet) until her parents come looking for her. It takes her parents a long time to come looking for her, sometimes. I only met her mom this weekend, although I've seen her dad several times.

"Katherine" lives two blocks away and is 8. I met her mother last summer when they had puppies. She was here this weekend, and after she'd been here a while and appeared to be staying indoors with the other kids who were here, I said, "Hey, you need to call your mom and let her know where you are and what my phone number is so she can find you." She called, and no one at home answered. Are 8 year olds left home alone? What am I supposed to do in this situation? Am I babysitting her? I have no idea. Also, she played a lot of "insies and outsies" which annoyed me, she was like a cat on the wrong side of the door all day, and liked to hover around Jen and I rather than playing with the kids. I finally got annoyed (she made me feel a little bit like a bug in a microscope!) and I said, "Honey, you need to either go play with the kids or go back outside," because it was freaking me out!

Bearing in mind that my kids are 2 and 3, and that they play differently than the big kids (but OH do they love to be around the big kids - and it's nice for me when the big kids are here because I don't have to entertain my kids!!) what are your house rules for neighborhood kids? I'm thinking of implementing the following:

1) You will call your parents when you arrive in my yard or house and let them know where you are and what my phone number is.

2) I will have your parents names and numbers (in case you fall off the swingset and are unconscious, I need to know who to call after I call the ambulance!).

3) If I offer a snack, that's one thing, but don't ask for treats. If you're thirsty there's water, or your house is just over there... (I'd be annoyed if I found out that my kids were going door to door eating the neighbors cookies and candies right before dinner! And with allergies being the Very Big Deal they are now, I really don't feel safe feeding kids whose parents I don't know!)

4) All kids will help clean up the mess before returning home. And if I have trouble enforcing this one, it'll be, "We clean up every 45 minutes for 15 minutes, and if you're here you do too," and I'll set the timer.

5) No playing in our yard without one of us present. Mainly so that a) the dog doesn't get let out accidentally and b) no one gets hurt. Our backyard is sort of L shaped, with a high privacy fence around the area where the swingset is. The swingset is completely invisible from the sidewalk. If parents were looking for kids (or if I didn't know they were there!) they could stay there for days without being discovered.

6) No knocking on the door between 12 and 3 pm (lunch and nap).

7) If you can't get along with my kids, you go home. Even if you're right. Their punishment for being a creep to you is that you go home. If you're the creep, your punishment is that you go home. No arguing. I am not going to have WWF wrestling in my house, and this is a firm "no strikes and you're out" kind of policy.

What do you think? Am I overthinking this? Can I just make arbitrary rules for the neighborhood gang at my whim? What sort of rules and regulations do you have for the neighbor kids, and does your relationship with their parents (hi again, Chelle and Chelsea!) influence the way you handle their kids' friendships with your kids?

I don't remember any of the rules for the neighborhood when I was a kid. Mom??


Kathryn said...

When Kelly was younger and we put the swimming pool in we had LOTS of trouble with wandering kids - and not just from our close by neighborhood - they came on bike from a close neighborhood because they knew Kelly and that we had a pool. Here was my one and only rule: If we are outside and swimming in the pool you are more than welcome to come and join us BUT and here's the kicker, one of YOUR PARENTS must be here with you. Solved the problem of the parents knowing they were here, they knew they couldn't just show up and swim, and on the rare occasion they did go get a parent, I had someone to chat with while the kids were swimming. Good luck!

Brandon Stenger said...

So here's my plan for your neighborhood kids:
Step 1: implant all neighborhood kids with RFID tags
Step 2: set up an RFID reader at your house that the kids have to check in on
Step 3:set up Twitter to tweet whenever a kid checks in
Step 4:teach all your neighbors how to follow the tweets
Setup costs may be a little higher than you wanted, but that would totally work.

Anonymous said...

You are over-thinking this. Not too much, just a little. As your kids grow and meet all kinds of friends, you will find that rules can be different according to each kid. Some neighborhood kids are not allowed in my yard at all...the obnoxious ones, the too-old ones, or the ones who seem to never have a parent check on them. If they become a regular at your house, and m/d never check or care about your rules, you're screwed. Other kids are welcome anytime b/c I know their parents, know they will check on them, etc. Sadly, it's not going to be the 'neighborhood gang' you grew up with. People are different now, but with a few close playmates and rules for the ones welcome at your house, it will be a fun summer.

leigh said...

Hi! I'm new to your blog, but I feel your pain on the whole neighborhood kids situation. We have 17 kids in a cul-de-sac! 3 of them are mine. Here's my advice....1. it's your house, you make the rules. If they don't like it, they won't come back. 2. If you REALLY want them to clean up, go with bribery. It's amazing what kids will do for an m & m. 3. Unless you've had contact with the parent, you're not babysitting, you're just a stop on the rounds. 4. Your children, when unsupervised by you, will ask for food like they have never been fed's the kiddy equivelent of 'the grass is always greener'...just substitute the words 'food' and 'better'.

ML said...

I always wanted to be the Kool Aid Mom, too. But now that my kids are 4 & 7, we live in a small subdivision with no kids in it...I would agree with your rules, though I might soften them up a bit for neighborhood (parent) distribution. I would also post them as you have here on your porch & have the kids sign it. If the parents are aware that you'll kick spoilers out, you've alleviated yourself of the free babysitter question. P.S. - I offer Saltines as a snack when unsavories come over; fruit & cheese trays for friends. Cuts down on the riffraff!

Sarah Victor said...

Try to simplify so the kids can know the rules. We live on a cul-de-sac and the kids play from yard to yard. When you are at my house you play by my rules. I never feel bad telling a kid to go home. The kids have friends over to play so I don't have to entertain them. If the other kids become more work than help it is time for them to go home.

If my kids get invited into someones backyard or house they must tell me first so I don't allow other children into my home without their parents knowing. So if they call home and no one answers (maybe mom just isn't picking up the call waiting because she is on another important call?) then the child must go home and tell mom before they can come in. I don't want any mad/panicked moms who don't know why I have there child.

I don't have children in my house until I have met there parents.

If I child asks to come in when you are playing outside, say we are playing outside and don't let them run through your house.

If they keep going in and out just tell them you don't do that and if they go back out they will have to stay out.

If they ask for food or drink send them home. I bought the $20 Rival snocone maker at Walmart that use to make snowcones for all the kids on summer evenings (cheap treat if there are 20+ kids around) but the preschooled always have to ask there parents before I share any treat. Older kids I figure should know what they can eat, but I always worry about food allergies if I feed a young one without mom around. Plus, I don't want to be the neighborhood snack shop.

Anyway- don't give them a list of rules just tell them what you expect when they are there and send them home if they don't listen. You will be able to house train most neighbor kids this ways. Any who don't fall in line will realize that you will just send them home and soon they will find a new neighbor to pester.

Marleah said...

I think your guidelines are appropriate given that you have younger kids. They may lessen a little as your kids get older. I agree with someone else that said you should know the parents of the kids that are coming over. My son is an only child and is 7. Most of the neighborhood kids hang out here but they do move around. DS is not allowed to go inside someone's house without asking. I'm just starting to set some guidelines (outside or basement) because the neighborhood is growing. Sometimes there are seven or eight kids which is too much for my sanity. Toys with small pieces (legos) and the hamster are off limits for neighborhood play. Scheduled playdate with a classmate or friend is different. Some of the kids are older (12, 13) so they eat a lot. I also have unlimited popsicles in the freezer. Other snacks are only when I offer them (don't ask). I think your smart to start with limits from the get-go. You can always loosen them up later.

Ma said...

I hope all is going well since you wrote this. I'm kind of worried about this summer myself. We have one "regular" and I was fine with that, but then other kids from surrounding neighborhoods (friends of regular kid)-we homeschool, started showing up...uninvited from across a busy street no less. We don't live in a subdivision but are surrounded by them.

I was just trying to find similar stories on the web so I can find some backbone:)

Ma said...

I hope all is going well since you wrote this. I'm kind of worried about this summer myself. We have one "regular" and I was fine with that, but then other kids from surrounding neighborhoods (friends of regular kid)-we homeschool, started showing up...uninvited from across a busy street no less. We don't live in a subdivision but are surrounded by them.

I was just trying to find similar stories on the web so I can find some backbone:)