Boundaries

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.

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Comments

  1. It’s a hard one… We used to have 2 little girls that felt our house was their stomping grounds. While my boys liked these girls a lot (they were nice enough) it was hard to know where their boundaries should be. ESPECIALLY since I’d only met their mom a few times. They’d spend HOURS every day in my backyard (cuz my boys weren’t allowed to play at other kids houses without me there. Ironic?) My main issue is a few kids who will WALK INTO my house. Um, hello? I never would have done that!!

  2. wow, I remember playing for hours outside unsupervised as well, but I knew enough to stay in mine or my neighbors yard- and just in mine, if said friend was gone. Theywere going through your stuff? weird. I’d ask their parents if they know their kids are looking through windows and going through garages.Just let them know that you like the kids, but it seems a little out of bounds. It may ruffle feathers, but they honestly may not know what the kids are doing!

  3. mrsfortune says:

    Karma is strange, huh… Well, I think you definitely have to lay down some of those “boundaries” with that kids parents, seriously, the situation is verging on creepy already!

  4. Omigosh, they were going through your stuff? This sounds totally outrageous to me. I would march right over there and tell their parents what they were doing and that their kids were not welcome to peer in windows or doors, or go into the garage! There would be a whole different feeling about it if my kid were older than Cordy and they were actually playmates – but that just sounds nuts to me, that their parents let them just run amok and haven’t taught them any boudaries.

  5. That’s so hard. Maybe you can turn a fan on in her room so she can’t hear them playing outside her window at night. It’s awesome that you do have this opportunity to teach Cordy about respect.

  6. Christina, I can imagine how frustrating that is. We have neighbors a few houses down from ours who have three kids ages 10 and under. Maria (the mom) lets them play in the street and all over and she’s never outside with them.

    We’re constantly driving around the corner at a snail’s pace, worried that one of the kids will fly into the road.

    And their dog is always on the loose.

    I’ve tried talking to Maria and she’s a nut case.

    I hope those kids stay away from your house!

  7. Looking up and finding someone (no matter what age) peering into my house would startle me big time. Not a great habit for them to start. I guess that’s where that saying “good fences make good neighbors” comes from!

  8. 3carnations says:

    Good for you, teaching your daughter respect of property. We are the same exact way, and that’s how I was raised, too. You don’t play in other people’s yards (without permission) and for crying out loud, don’t throw your ball over their fence (sorry, do I sound frustrated there? :) ).

    We are teaching our son those same things.

  9. Oh man, I would have dragged them back to their house and explained to their non existent parents what they were up to. But by the sounds of it they probably wouldn’t have cared. The other thing I can’t stand is when parents yell for their children to come to them if they are somewhere they aren’t supposed to be – Walk up to them, grab their hand and take them out! UGH!

  10. T with Honey says:

    Shortly after moving into our house we discovered that some neighborhood teenagers didn’t understand the concept of boundaries. They would sit in our wooded backyard smoking cigarettes. I would have loved to turn them in but I couldn’t figure out where they lived. Luckily that didn’t last long because as the dry summer went on I began to worry about the potential for a forest fire. A few months later we got our dog. The boys didn’t want to sit out there with our dog barking at them the whole time. It took a 70 pound Irish Setter to teach them to ‘respect’ the boundaries of our yard.

  11. aimee / greeblemonkey says:

    This is a HUGE, HUGE, GIGANTIC, HUGE pet peeve of mine!!!!!!! I cannot STAND IT when kids run wild on other people’s lawns! I was taught to be on the sidewalk, or maybe the lawn patch that touched the street – but NEVER NEVER NEVER into anyone else’s yards, unless invited. We taught our dog to walk the neighborhood that way, and you bet your bippy that Declan knows those rules too.

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