Thursday, April 09, 2015

Neighbors - you can't live with them and you can't make them move. A three part series in why I wish we could move to the middle of nowhere so I didn't have to nagivate difficult social interactions with other adults. Part 3

You had to know this post was coming right? I mean I can't write about neighbors without including The Other Family (hereafter known as TOF). 

If you haven't figured it out, TOF is the family from last fall. If you don't know what I'm talking about you can go back a few posts to what I wrote in October. There hasn't been much writing in between so it shouldn't be difficult to find.

Kiel asked to play with The Other Boy (TOB) over the weekend. I hadn't really prepared myself for that yet. I should have, because it was obviously going to happen. After ignoring his first request, I finally told Kiel it wasn't a good time right now. 

TOB is going to want to come over, especially with the new basketball hoop set up.  He likes sports and he likes to be involved with other kids. He's a nice kid and if it weren't for my fear of how his parents are going to act, I would have no hesitation about him playing here. 

To update you, there has been no communication with the other family outside of some "good mornings" from The Other Dad (TOD) when he's at the bus stop at least he finally has the balls to be there. I've initiated a couple light conversations with The Other Mom (TOM) the few times I've seen her at the bus stop, usually about their new dog. She responds, possibly because other people are around. The interaction is always short and awkward.

There are still times we pass in our cars and she pointedly looks away from us. 

While I understand in part, it mostly feels very strange to me. And very, very sad.

This is a woman who multiple times told me our friendship was "the no judgement zone." And had a conversation with me about how she doesn't allow grudges in her house. Someone I was very open with about Noah and what we were going through.

I still miss the friendship, although I've moved past missing her in particular. As time passes and I can see things somewhat less emotionally, I can see her and the relationship I had with her, with more honesty. It was never destined to go far. It was, what it was, because of our boys friendship. In many ways a friendship of convenience I suppose.

As far as Kiel and TOB, they have both moved well past The Incident as far as I can see. They want to play with each other. Kiel is no longer having nightmares about TOM, and hasn't spoken of her in a couple months. He actually told me shortly after Christmas that it was ok to see her now, and "she is in a better place." (I had to laugh at that one. I hope he's right though.)

As for Kiel playing with TOB at their house I have very mixed feelings. Obviously, I don't think he would ever be invited by TOM or TOD. I have no concerns about his safety there though. TOM and TOD are good parents. Even though the professionals have "given me permission" to place some responsibility on them for leaving the boys unsupervised for so long, I don't. And I say that in full honesty.

What I am worried about is how they would treat Kiel and how they would react to just about anything he did. It just wouldn't be right to put Kiel in a situation where he would likely be judged for every action. He would know. 

Again, I don't really think that's going to be something I have to worry about.  Although, as I write this, even though I doubt the parents would ever invite him, what if TOB does, in that way that kids do. 

I refuse to have a conversation with Kiel that includes telling him he specifically can't go to their house. We already have the conversation about where the limits are that he can play in the neighborhood, and that he can't go in anyone's house, even his school friends houses, unless he asks my permission first. I hope that will be enough. I fear it won't though, since the boys used to run in and out of each of our houses freely.

I won't lie and say that I don't have the urge to fight "like with like" because of how they have acted, but I won't let myself go there.  I might want to put a bag of flaming dog shit on their front porch, but I would never do that! I might secretly flip them the bird when I drive past their house, but I never do it visibly. I might want to scream to everyone that TOM is a crazy fucking bitch and to be careful, but I won't. If they don't want the boys playing together I guess they will need to figure out how to ensure that happens.

I do think we need to have a conversation about it. And I would like a chance to say a few things to TOM. I would REALLY like a chance to do that. I'd like to tell her how disappointed I am in her. And how childish she has been acting. And make sure she understands that what the boys did wasn't as upsetting as how the adults acted after, and that any damage that may have been done to either Kiel or TOB was done after and because of their reaction.

OK, I'm still mad. I admit it. Perhaps I'm not quite as mature as I would like to be. Working through this in writing as I do is making it pretty clear its all still quite raw for me. It's good to know that though isn't it? I'm clearly a work in progress.

My other concern with this mess, and that is neighbor related, is that I have no idea what TOF has said to anyone in the neighborhood. I know they lied to me about telling the school, since they told me two days after they were in meeting with the principal that they hadn't said anything. I have no reason to believe that they wouldn't tell others, or that they wouldn't twist it for their benefit. Not knowing if or what they may have said to others hangs over me. I wonder how long it will cloud every interaction I have with people I know TOM has had contact with, which is a hell of a lot, since she knows freaking everyone.

I also wonder how long it is going to take before I trust letting another family into our lives like that.

Update to part 1: the conversation with the driveway sharing neighbor did not go well. I was calm and kind and conciliatory, and she was judgy and bitchy. She did everything but come out and say that Noah is only like he is because of us. Apparently we aren't strict enough and her boys see that and don't think it is fair. At least she stopped herself from telling me I should beat him, as she has done before. It's such a warm fuzzy feeling to know that someone thinks they can parent your child better than you can. 

When I tried to explain what he is dealing with brain wise she said then he shouldn't be allowed outside. I guess he shouldn't be allowed in his bedroom either because they hear him there when he is upset. Apprently it's okay for her boys to verbally threaten him, and call him faggot, but any response from him is never acceptable. Oh yes, I know I'm bitter right now.

You can be proud of me though. I didn't bring up the drums, or her multiple daily screaming/screeching fits at her kids and husband, even once.

I sure wish it was possible to actually grow thicker skin, because I clearly need it.


Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Neighbors - you can't live with them and you can't make them move. A three part series in why I wish we could move to the middle of nowhere so I didn't have to nagivate difficult social interactions with other adults. Part 2.

I love the neighbors on one side of us. They are a very nice family. Their kids are adorable. They are kind. And tolerant. And quite honestly, since I don't think living next to us is the easiest thing to do, they get extra props in my book just for putting up with us as long as they have!

Unfortunately, they are in the process of selling their townhouse and will move away in the next month or so. (Hmmm....maybe you can make them move. Does this require a title change above?)

I'm super nervous about another family moving in. Not so much nervous about who they are and what they are like. I mean really, when you have a teenager that plays the drums on the other side of you just how much worse can it get?

No, I'm nervous about what they will think of us. 

It's another family, or maybe just person, that will be involved in our life, even if only on the periphery.

Living as close to us as they will, and knowing that despite our efforts, they will hear screaming and raging from our house, I think that it is important that I fill them in at least a little bit. They haven't had the benefit of watching my boys grow up and seeing the progression. 

To be forewarned is to be forearmed, right? Or perhaps more accurately to forewarn them results in us being forearmed? Do I even know what that means?

The likelihood is that they won't really get it. They will hear the screaming, or see Noah's behaviors, (or even Kiel who has been quite the little monster lately) and be horrified. Or even worse I suppose, witness Rich or myself momentarily lose our minds because OMG if we find one more broken item, or hear the word NO screamed at us one more time, or witness Noah do something to Kiel again, our heads just might explode.

The good piece is that because of the elevation between their house and ours not as much noise is transferred as is between our house and our neighbor on the other side. Noah's room is also not on their side, which I'm sure makes a big difference as well.

Still, I'm always nervous when new people move into the neighborhood in case they see or hear something and misinterpret it. I'd really prefer not to have another experience with CPS.

What would you tell a new neighbor in our situation? Just how much detail would you give? I have a tendency to share too much I think.


Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Neighbors - you can't live with them and you can't make them move. A three part series in why I wish we could move to the middle of nowhere so I didn't have to nagivate difficult social interactions with other adults. Part 1.

I hesitate to say this out loud, but I think it may finally be spring. The windows are open, the birds are singing, the cats are happy alternating between sleeping in front of the open windows and chattering at the birds.

The basketball hoop is set up in the driveway and the boys just want to play outside! When the kids (mine and the rest of the neighborhoods) aren't in school I hear them whooping and laughing all around us. It's a happy sound. A normal sound.

It's good seeing neighbors outside again, as if the long winter hibernation is over, and we are all coming out of our caves, stretching our faces up to the sun and sighing in relief.

And yet, because there is always a yet in MNT land, despite the joy of warmer weather and being able to be outside, I stress and worry over how this is all going to play out. Especially after the events of last fall.

During the winter I could protect my boys better. We were more isolated. Not completely, but there weren't as many kids out. They didn't want to stray as far from home. It is so different when the weather is warmer.

The interactions with the neighbors, all of our neighbors, is so much trickier than it should be (at least in my opinion). It just sucks living in a townhouse and having families share a wall the way we do. You hear too much, know too much. Yet you never hear enough or know enough to really understand.

I'm not positive, but I think the neighbors on one side of us aren't talking to us. Two of their boys are between the ages of Noah and Kiel. You would think that would be perfect, wouldn't you. Four boys between 7 and 12 that love to play outside, especially basketball and hockey. We share a driveway and it's hard, if not impossible, for the boys (theirs and ours) to keep to one side of it when playing. Frankly, I think it's ridiculous to even try. I have no problems with their kids playing on our side when the cars aren't there. I don't think they care either, but I'm not positive.

Unfortunately, our boys don't get along. Their boys know too much, but understand too little about my boys. They hear Noah's rages through the wall. In the past they have been the recipient of some of his actions (a broken window, a rock thrown at one of their heads when they threatened him with a baseball bat). Last year both families did our best to keep the boys apart. If they were playing in the front of our houses, my boys played in the back. It mostly worked okay, but this year we have the basketball hoop and that's what my boys want to do all the time. Just like their boys do with their hoop. 

The youngest boy has a mouth and my boys have been the recipient multiple times, especially Kiel on the school bus. Sadly, I haven't been able to get Kiel to keep his own mouth shut. We have spoken to the other boys parents a couple times, but I'm uncomfortable complaining about it when I know Kiel is running his own mouth. Plus, our neighbors have been more than understanding through the years with Noah's behaviors, even if I know they really don't understand. 

One of the problems as you know, and I suppose it is a mixed blessing, is that Noah has a special needs brain in a "normal" kids body. I'm not sure that any of our neighbors truly grasp what is going on with him. He looks just fine, and sometimes he can act just fine. Even when I explain it, most people don't "get it" because to them he looks "normal."

Noah doesn't understand why the neighbor boys don't like him. He's really trying to be friends with them, albeit often awkwardly. He struggles socially and the other boys just don't get it. I've heard them say some very mean things to him. I've also heard him say some pretty stupid things back to them, so again, I find it difficult to complain when he is also part of the problem.

It's tricky. It's also complicated a bit because the mom is partially deaf, so she doesn't always hear what her boys are saying. And like all kids, they are good at knowing just when they can get away with it. I know they have verbally threatened my boys, but I can't guarantee that my boys haven't responded in kind. I know she doesn't think her kids are angels, and I know mine aren't, but I'm not quite sure how to handle this. She's a good mom and she doesn't let them get away with crap when she knows about it. It was actually her idea to keep the boys separated, and at the time I agreed. It was during a very difficult period for Noah and keeping him away from other kids that easily triggered him was just smart.

I like our neighbors. They have helped us out over the years, as we have helped them. They have their own struggles, and I know life isn't any easier for them than it is for us. Different struggles, but still struggles.

Obviously I will need to talk with the other mom. If we've done something to upset them I need to know so we can resolve it. Or maybe I'm just misreading her actions and nothing is wrong. 

Ultimately, I just want to find a way for our boys to get along. They don't have to be best friends, but they should be able to share a driveway and play a game of basketball together, without acting like they are enemies.

How do I declare our shared driveway an enemy free, threat free, space for fun and play, when I only own half of it?

And of course, just to make it all more fun, and by fun I mean ridiculously complicated and ugly, I really have no idea what The Other Family (TOF) has said and to whom.