The neighborhood is one of the more kid-friendly I’ve known but that can always change. There are some new kids in the neighborhood and some of them are rather unprincipled with regards to other people’s property. Example: one or more culprits wrote, in mud, on the next door neighbor’s car, “I like poop and farts.” OK… you know… on one level we have to agree, that’s just funny. I am glad the mud-hazing was done on what the neighbors consider their “lesser” car. They have several shinier/newer/more expensive vehicles and they expressed repeatedly how upset they’d be had any of those received such a hazing.
So now all neighborhood kids are banned from that particular driveway (I’m not sure if they have any kind of enforcement plan). I talked to my kids about it (they weren’t a part of it and only hear rumors who did it). Nels made the tough decision to walk next door and tell the grownups he’d commit to helping keep kids out of the driveway, as a good faith neighborly effort. Ralph and I both talked to the parents there. Better still, Phoenix and I had a long talk about why she felt she couldn’t walk next door and discuss the incident, and my daughter and I had a long talk about this and I gained some wisdom regarding parental mistakes I’ve made (more I will not share, not now).
A few of the kids are just wild in general, and I mean very wild; several are medicated. A few more (most depressing to me) are servile and smiling and butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-their-mouth when they think they’re being watched by a grownup, yet liable to get up to anything when they believe they are not observed (hence the f-bomb incident between two such children yesterday).
My kids cope like you might expect. Nels with righteous anger, Phoenix with more politic and developed stratagems. That said, she is still a human being, and delivered a different kind of f-bomb today when the one child – who sprays other kids with our pool hose, deliberately and without regard to whether the other participant is agreeable, because he loves being the one-up in a bully scenario – kept doing so after my daughter asked him to stop. By the way, the hose-sprayer is also the kid who threw one of our cats in the pool. My mom has described this child as having “no moral compass”. You know personally, I think this is exactly the kind of risk one runs when practicing authoritarian parenting (whether involving hollow threats or ones delivered on). But I suppose parents feel good when they yell real loud at the kid to let us know they’re Taking Care Of It.
I guess writing here the summer kid scene sounds unpleasant to your average tight-ass but to be fair, here we have kids getting some freedom, fresh air, exercise, sunshine, and having a mostly fun time playing together. And in any case, it’s incredible to me how many grownups want kids to be “good” – or completely nonexistent – and how yet few grownups seem to know how to effect “good” kids without yelling, making many rules (involving segregation, lock-down, or punishment, none of which serve well for critical thinking coupled with spiritual wholeness), lecture, boring boring boring.
I enjoy the neighborhood kids but I wish they had more contact with grownups who provided gentle guidance. This isn’t because their “bad” behavior annoys me (although I hate to see our animals treated poorly), but because I think they’d be happier kids in general. They just don’t think they have many rights or that there’s much reason, besides the fear of getting caught, in respecting others’. When my husband told one child that “fatty” wasn’t welcome in our yard or in our home, because it was hate speech built on a principle that being fat was a shameful thing, the child in question just goggled at him. I think of the playground and classroom mentality many kids are regularly exposed to and what they learn as “normal” (i.e., all sorts of bullying and kyriarchal systems), often reinforced in the home, and I wonder how much it means to them to have a different place to be. Neither Ralph or I labor under illusions we can make much a difference, but we’d like the kids in our yard and home free from “faggot”, “retard”, “n**ger”, “fatty”, etc. – and not yelled or sent home with an earful of shame when they make mistakes.
Addendum: I must say that for now I’m totally fine with, in general, the kind of oath-swearing the nine year old, the freckled little beauty in my home, can deliver. She is the toughest little thing with a whip-smart sense of humor. Which reminds me: I gotta get cuddling her starting five minutes ago.
I still say we need that crunchy parenting commune. But, on the other hand, isn’t it wonderful to see your children modeling such respectful and compassionate actions with the other kids?
I grew up with so much intolerance of kids being kids that I find I’m incredibly uncomfortable around our neighborhood kids. My kids are still little and I’m aware of my discomfort, so I can work on this with some mindful practice. But, I’m constantly amazed at these messages I internalized that I don’t notice until they arise in a situation such as the ones you describe.
I actually spent time in a “crunchy” commune that CLAIMED children were welcome but fucked-up eight ways until Sunday. Someday I need to write on this.
I grew up with negative kid attitudes. Big time. (You know, kids are likeable if they are good/well-dressed or clean/”mannered”, not overly rowdy etc). This is actually incredibly common, and it’s also why even in the most passionate social justice spheres people still say, “I don’t like kids” or “I’m not a kid person” without getting a call-out like they would had they said, “I don’t like ____ population”. (I wrote this on it, a bit).
It’s my opinion many adults fear children (for reasons I won’t go into here) and also that many adults are not willing to give up the privilege to dominate and to have someone they are in charge of; they enjoy the benefits of having a population that is “less than”, and often work to segregate themselves from such populations. Harsh assessment, I know.
However, don’t beat yourself up. Weekly I get commended for my compassion and intelligence regarding social justice matters, especially when it comes to kids – and I can tell you flat-out I still have some very negative reactions to children. Just because I recognized an illness within me (that extends of course to lack of tolerance for other people/groups) does not mean I’m instantly a saint!
“My kids are still little and Iâ€™m aware of my discomfort, so I can work on this with some mindful practice.”
You are well-ahead of where I was when my kids were little(r).
I hope you keep reading; I know you’re fairly new to my blog but I do write a lot about kid matters. I’ve been preoccupied with other stuff (hence private entries) but I’m getting back up to speed.
Nice to see you again, Zoie!