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…
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….”