As a young child, I roamed my neighborhood in my small town daily with my best friend. We spent many of the warm days of the year outside for much of the time.
I remember the old woman across the street. She never said anything to us – just shot us dirty looks when we walked by her section of the sidewalk. We thought she was a “witch”, and as the sun would go down each evening, her dark outline was visible through her front window, slowly rocking in her rocking chair.
Knowing she was watching, the temptation to perform for her was too much. I can’t even imagine what she was thinking as two young girls would occasionally go dancing by her window down the sidewalk, doing our best Michigan J. Frog impression and acting as goofy as we could. Who knows, maybe she got a good laugh out of it?
Looking back, I think she was just waiting for one of these energetic seven year olds to step foot off the sidewalk into her yard, putting her flower beds at risk, so she could do more than scowl at us and instead yell at us. She was too old to do her own yard work, but her grown children would come by each weekend to see that her yard looked lovely. Knowing how much pride she had for her yard, I can’t imagine what she would have done if someone hurt a single flower petal.
But I would never find out, because there is no way I would have set foot on her yard. No matter how much we laughed at our nightly performances, I understood my boundaries. Some kids might have ran up to her door and rang the doorbell and then ran away, but I refused to break that invisible line. My mother had drilled the concept of respecting others property into me. I would often run through my next door neighbor’s yard to visit my friend, yet this was only because our neighbor had given her permission to play in her yard.
So of course, now that I’m grown and that old woman has certainly passed on, I wonder if she’s now looking down at me and laughing at the situation I find myself in.
Spring has finally shown itself again here in Ohio, and as usual the kids are out in force. I’ve mentioned before that the next door neighbors have four children under 10, and that these children are often outside playing with no supervision. They have no understanding of boundaries or respecting the property of others. While my child self would dance in front of the house on the sidewalk, the younger two of these kids see nothing wrong with using our yard as their play area. Our driveway is their bike path. This is part of the reason we built a fence in the backyard – I didn’t like our backyard serving as their football and baseball field, as balls bounce off of our siding.
Tonight, as Aaron was mowing the backyard and I was getting Cordy ready for bed, I looked up to see a little face peering through the glass of our storm door, checking out our living room. Our eyes met, and I expected that to be enough to send him running away, but he continued to stand on our porch and take a good look at everything. Then his older brother came running up, also taking a good look into our house, and the two ran around to the front of our garage.
I walked into the kitchen and opened the door to the garage to find two little sets of hands going through the items in our garage (the garage door was up because Aaron had the lawnmower out). “This isn’t your house. Go home.” I told them, and they paused to look at me for a moment before walking back to their own porch.
But by the time I was back to the living room, I saw the youngest peering in our front door again. I pointed to his house and told him to go. He again ran around towards our garage. At this point I heard the oldest shouting at him to come back. I closed the garage door to prevent them from going through our things again, and I closed the front door, even though I was enjoying the sunshine streaming in.
Cordy noticed everything at this point, and said, “No! My friends!” as I shut the door. “No, Cordy, those are not your friends,” I replied. (She’s actually never played with them before – she just calls any other kid her “friend” right now.)
I am the mean mommy. While these kids are playing outside late into the night, my little girl goes to bed by 8pm. While they play out in the street, Cordy is limited to playing in her fenced-in yard under our supervision. But I know I won’t have to worry about the cars that drive too fast around our curve, or worry about where she might have run off to. And you can bet as she grows older, I will continue to teach her about respecting the property of others.