Monday, October 20, 2008

Good Neighbors

We've lived in our current home for 15 years. We've been fortunate with our immediate neighbors on the left. For many years a mom, dad and son lived there. The son was my oldest boy's best friend and also a good friend of my second daughter. The parents eventually broke up and moved away. The house was purchased by the person on the left. The new owner put $50,000 in renovations. He planned to sell the house for a profit. The housing market died and he is now renting the home to a divorced dad with 1 son, who comes for weekends. I'll refer to him as "weekend child."

The neighbors on our right have not been a success. A single mom with three boys (all have different dads) rents the home from her step-father. The older boys broke one of our bedroom windows, dug out my bedding plants and spoke like sailors on leave. The youngest son is worse. He has thrown glasses of urine (which he accumulates in the backyard throughout the day) at my children when he wants attention, stolen tools from our garage, and hit my toddler girls with baseball bats. His mother never believes that her son does anything wrong. Her response is always, "He wouldn't do that. He's such a good boy." I'm going to call him the "problem child." Last summer, out of desperation, we installed a privacy fence around our back yard.

A few weeks ago, the problem child next door was hitting the fence with a baseball bat and I asked him to stop. He said that his mom doesn't care if he breaks the fence. Thursday, the problem child was playing at the weekend child 's home. The boys were kicking a soccer ball at the privacy fence. I asked the boys to not hit the fence because they would break the boards. When I returned home from running an errand, one fence board was broken. Both neighbor boys said, "Some other kids must have broken the board."

On Saturday, the two boys were again kicking soccer balls at the fence. I asked them to please stop. Five minutes later, two more boards were broken on our fence. With all broken pieces in hand, I walked next door to speak with weekend child's dad. I really hate to complain to people about their children. I know that accidents happen when children are playing, but I also can't afford to replace the fence. The dad looked at the boards in my hand and said that he had told the boys not to kick balls at the fence earlier in the week. He apologized and said that he would fix the fence. During our conversation, problem child is standing on the sidewalk smirking because weekend child is in trouble. Weekend child's dad saw him and told him to go and get his mother.

I told my neighbor that the fence wasn't a big deal and that I know things happen when children play. The dad responded, "It IS a big deal. The boys were told not to do that and your property was damaged." Pleasantly surprised, I returned home. A short time later, weekend child came to apologize. He also said that he and problem child would be helping his dad to repair the fence next weekend.

Weekend child's dad and I still greet each other and there does not seem to be any strain between us. It is so nice to have a parent who acknowledges when there is a problem and solves the problem in an appropriate manner! Not only did this parent deal with his child, he also dealt with the problem child's mom.

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