Deep in unincorporated St. Charles county, there was trouble in the Nevil household; trouble with neighbors. Momma Nevil and Papa Nevil tried and tried to deal with the munchkins across the street. But alas, it was time for something else to be done…

there was trouble, trouble with neighbor kids…

Sigh. We have neighbor kid trouble. As you read my tale of woe (or whoa), please think of the advice you might give me and post a comment!

When we moved in one year ago, a boy and his Grandma (we’ll call the boy “Stuey”) came to our door to see if he could befriend my son Cooper (7) and thus, Chase (3). Stuey lived right across the street from our house with his Grandma and his Dad. At first, all was well. They did all the normal things little boys do; rode bikes, tried to do sweet tricks, crash, bleed, sword fight, play basketball, swing on the swingsets, etc.

But then as the summer progressed, Stuey began to be destructive every time he was at our house (which was pretty much daily). He intentionally threw my kids toys onto our roof, he intentionally broke our kids toys, he threw the toys up into the trees, he began pulling the branches on our trees, peeing behind our shed, hitting my eldest, using bad language and the list goes on. Each time I corrected Stuey kindly and told him “we don’t act that way at our house” or “that is not kind Stuey, please stop”. I didn’t speak to his Dad about these issues because, at first, I felt that perhaps this was a “boy” thing (um, I NEVER acted like this as a little girl or even thought to act like this and I am still floored by the way boys act when around each other) and I should just be the adult and correct gently.

After a while I told my husband, “Stuey is the boy who will show/tell/teach our sons all the things we DON’T want them to see, know or do”. My Mom-Dar was WAAAAY up. Winter came and we saw Stuey much less. Then this spring, Stuey came back around again and the shenanigans, although slow to start up, certainly started up again. I reminded Stuey of our rules and tried to nicely correct him.

Then, one day this summer when my husband and I had truly had enough and were ready to talk to Stuey’s Dad about things, we witnessed something. Stuey was out front with his Dad and his brother (who was only visiting for the weekend and does not live with them) and the two brothers had a knock-down, drag-out punching, kicking, fight. Stuey’s Dad watched the whole thing and ignored it for a bit, then broke it up. Stuey was so angry that he yelled at his Dad, flipped him off, and stomped away. Stuey’s Dad did NOTHING.

We pretty much knew at that point that there was no point in speaking to his Dad. (Side Note: We had also learned based off of Stuey’s reports, that he is allowed to watch Rated R movies, plays extremely violent video games way past the rating any kid should even look at and stay up all hours of the night, etc.)

I was increasingly less interested in my kids spending any amount of time with Stuey. But I had a conflict within me: Aren’t we supposed to love our neighbors as we love ourselves? It was getting increasingly difficult. (Not that it should be easy though.) How do we love these people who live such an opposite set of life values from our family while protecting our family? We can’t exactly hide from them!

We have been wrestling with this all summer long.

This weekend was the straw that broke the camels back. Stuey peed on my son. He peed ON HIM. He also began speaking about girls to my son, telling him that he “just can’t control himself when he sees a hot blonde”. He’s 8 people. 8.

I had a chat with my hubby last night and told him that I am ready to withdraw our children from spending ANY time with Stuey. To be honest, I’m ready for Stuey to no longer be welcome at my home. But how do we navigate this without appearing like jerks or “goody-two-shoes” to the parents in our ‘hood? I know it’s more important for me to protect my impressionable sons than have my neighbors “like” me. However, I also have gleaned through observation that the parents in my neighborhood don’t see anything wrong with the way that Stuey (or the other children on our street who do these things also) behaves. I don’t want to crush Stuey either. He is a child and he is a victim of his environment. It’s very sad to see him not being parented and to know the track this child is on in life. It will not “go well’ with him and has already been an issue at school, so my son tells me.

My husband and I decided that we would begin a new set of rules. No neighbor kids in our back yard anymore period. Only our kids can be back there. We will tell our children this is a “safety” issue, which it is. At one point this summer I had kids I’d never even met or seen in my back yard. This rule allows me to be inside with baby Cecelia and know my kids can play in a place I feel is “safe” without my constant supervision. Secondly, our boys may only play out front (thus with the neighbor kids) when Mommy and/or Daddy are present with constant supervision. (Yes, I usually let my kids play outside without my presence.) Hopefully, this will allow me more opportunity to talk with Stuey’s Dad if an issue arises (not that I have much hope there) and/or squish the behaviors I do not want my son to repeat.

Additionally, I’ve called some friends and asked if we could arrange a few play dates after school with our boys. I’m hoping that more interaction with GOOD friends will show my son the difference between how a good friend plays/acts.

This has actually been a tremendous teaching experience for our children and for us as parents. We have encouraged our eldest son to think critically about what a “good friend” acts like.We’ve had lots of opportunities to talk with our son about speaking out against things he KNOWS are wrong, about speaking UP when he sees something that a child is doing to some thing or some one and not just sitting in silence or shame or worse, joining in on the bad behavior. It takes a lot of courage for a 7 year old to tell his friend not to be mean to other kids or do destructive things.

My son has already picked up some bad behavior and language from Stuey in an effort to be “cool”. I’ve noticed that he is struggling with the age-old dilemma: engage in the bad behavior your friends are doing so that you can be cool and accepted, or stand up for what you KNOW is right and risk rejection. Booo. I’m sad for his little heart. I want to shelter his innocence and wrap him in a little bubble of safety and love. But he will wrestle with this issue all his life. I even wrestle with this issue as an adult! (In a more grown up way.)

We won’t be moving any time soon and so this is pretty much going to be a problem that sticks around. What’s your advice peeps? How have you dealt with this in your home and in your neighborhood? Sing it with me, “Oh who are the people in your neighborhood, in your neighborhood, in your neigh-bor-hood….”

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6 thoughts on “Love Thy Neighbor?

  1. Loving your neighbor sometimes means making the hard choice. It’s why we discipline our children – love them enough to curb their poor behavior. When Stuey realizes that he isn’t welcome, a conversation (hopefully) will happen between his dad and him. That’s communication will hopefully indicate to the dad that there is a real problem.

  2. I agree with Paul. We’ve had our share of neighborhood drama, both in STL and down here. We were friends, or acquaintances, with the parents of the boy in STL and had a good enough relationship that we felt we could talk to them some, but I always let the child know under no circumstances was he allowed in my home if he refused to obey my rules.

    Moving down here opened up a new can of worms with a boy who sounds similar to Stuey. In our case, the boy was a little older (11) and, thankfully, is in middle school this year so Sloan’s involvement with him is much less. But it got to the point that the boy was bullying Sloan and was being horrible. Noody in the neighborhood knows this kid’s Mom. She’s never around. But he’s got older siblings who influence him and he’s had run ins with almost everyone on the block. I finally had to chase him down one day and give him the riot act when his bullying reached a point that I felt was harming Sloan. We also told Sloan that some kids are just not meant to be friends. We can be kind and respectful, but we do not have to invite everyone into our homes.

    Loving thy neighbor can still be done in this case and I think the rules you’ve set up are good ones. It means a little more work for you, which I know is a pain, but at the end of the day your number one priority is to protect your kids. Nobody has the right to come into your house and act inappropriately or destructively jsut because they’re your neighbors. This may open up a door to talk more with Stuey’s dad, or it may not. But I think you’re on the right track. Protect your babies first. Maybe Stuey will come around when he realizes he’s missing out on being in your super fun environment!

    Oh and FYI – the boy down the street from our house is not welcome in my house anymore. I’ve told Sloan that. He can play outside if someone is available to watch, but I do not want him around my son anymore. Once he found that out, he stopped coming by and I don’t really feel bad about it at this point. Sloan is too vulnerable for me to be worried about this kid at this point in our lives. 🙂

  3. Hello! we’ve had the same thing here at our house. i keep going back to my growing up years when my parents befriended the neighborhood bully – and i mean BULLY. they constantly had him over to play football, have bonfires, dinner, game nights, basketball . . . not because we (the kids) wanted him around!!!! my parents invested in this kid who was making life miserable for a whole neighborhood.

    AND. He gave his life to Christ and became an incredible family friend. My parents saw a kid who had a reputation and knew the adults in his life wouldn’t see past it and INVESTED their life into him – and they already had 8 kids of their own! (side note: i have awesome parents)

    all that to say with our own little neighborhood bully (present day) it takes alot of work, effort, INTENTION on my part. i have to be “free” and available. set the tone for the play – give them creative ideas, get out the craft supplies hang around during the snack time, pull out the shovels and let them dig to china, be part of the conversation, get into the game of kick ball . . . alot of times boredom and lack of parents around brings out only the worst in kids. they are learning to navigate life, how to interact with friends, how to get their way, etc. thru their play and too much unsupervised “play” is a recipe for disaster even with my 2 kids by themselves! pop in and out. make your presence known. pull the trouble maker aside when needed without humiliating them in front of the others.

    Be willing to love them, look past things and see who they can be, coach them to make better choices, catch them being good and praise them up & down, be the parent who plays basketball or flashlight tag with the kids on the block – and WHEN YOU ARE TOO TIRED TO BE THAT PARENT, tell the kids, “Today is NOT a day to play with the neighbors!” 🙂

    Pray for the kid. I did that and a child i literally hated ( and i hate to admit it because i love kids) supernaturally grew on my heart. God did a work on me and i know he can do the same for you! not saying it will be easy and likely it will be messy but God put you next door and he knows all about the neighbors!

  4. Wow! Thanks for your responses people! I appreciate these so much! A lot of the problem is that I am inside nursing the baby and trying to get dinner done when the “play” is going on with the neighbor kids. It makes it hard for me to do that outside (um, my baby would way rather see what’s going on around her and the neighbor kids are up in my grill with “watcha doooooin?” he he he he). So, I appreciate your calls to the high road to love this munchkin. I know Jesus loves this kid. I’ve gone back and forth between wanting to kick him to the curb (figuratively speaking) and wanting to bring him into our home and show him what family CAN be like in this world. Thanks for calling me to the high road and reminding me that this kind of work is good and important.

  5. Oh Tiffany, I am right with you. I could tell you some stories you wouldn\’t believe. We have a surplus of unparented kids around here. Sometimes it seems like my kids are the only ones who have parents. Some of the neglect around here is downright criminal and I\’ve found my self contemplating calling child services several times. The children\’s behavior reflects this treatment of course. I constantly battle with what I want my children exposed to. The language, the choices, even the dancing and songs sung by some of the toddlers around these parts is sickening. So I feel where you are coming from with Stuey. But I too would encourage you to love him. You see I was Stuey.

    When the a new neighbor moved in up the street from us, I was especially interested to her two hot sons. My motive was to seduce them plain and simple. I marched my corrupting influences right up to her door every day. You know what she did? She loved me, she fed me, she told me I was beautiful, she told me I deserved better, and she eventually led me straight into The Kingdom. She was not clueless about my original intent. In fact as I began to follow Christ she spoke often of the \”look of lust\” that was always in my eyes. I will be forever grateful for her work in my life.

    It is that experience that has led me to be \”out there\” in my neighborhood. Bandaging knees, feeding, talking, interceding in the lives of children in the area as needed has become my personal mission. It is tough work, but I feel called to be a mother to these seemingly motherless children. Which is why this boy who lives with his father and grandmother especially pulls at my heart. Where is this kid\’s mother? Who will love him? Who will tell him about Jesus?

    All that being said I think praying for wisdom and discernment concerning this particular kid is warranted. There is one kid in my neighborhood that I do not leave alone with my kids even for a second. If he is here I am outside. God has given me what I feel is a divine warning about him, and I will not ignore it. You\’re right this can be, at times, a HUGE sacrifice, but I believe it is a sacrifice Christ himself asks me to make.

    I will pray tonight that God renews your strength and gives you wisdom concerning this situation.

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