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.



  1. My philosophical starting point is that one is required to be civil to one's neighbors (as it stops the world from descending into anarchy) -- not to like them or their kids (or vice-versa). So you and the immediate neighbors are fulfilling the bare bones minimum required by the social contract.

    It's possible (and not necessarily unreasonable) that given all the water under the bridge between your and their kids (thrown stones, broken windows, nasty names & threats that go both ways) that Immediate Neighbor Mom prefers to maintain a cordial-and-nothing-more relationship between her kids and yours.... and you do need to talk to her to find out if that's the case. Take a basket of cookies or bottle of wine as a peace offering when you go over to chat with her.

    If Immediate Mom prefers to continue to keep the kids separated, I think you have to abide by her request -- and you'll need to get both your boys to exchange pleasantries & nothing more with Immediate Neighbor Boys. It isn't fair, it just kind of IS *sigh*


    My baby sister was diagnosed with a severe mental illness as a little girl -- severe enough to warrant a psychiatrist, meds and the occasional in-patient stay in grade school. The approach my parents took was to be up front about her illness. To everybody. Pretty much everybody -- adult neighbors, kid neighbors, teachers, my friends -- was kind, helpful and remarkably supportive.

    (Keeping K's illness under wraps wasn't an option -- she was incredibly loud & her attempts at self-harm usually involved the roof. FWIW, stability took over a decade to achieve, but K's college-educated, gainfully employed and happily married at 30. She's awesome & the poster girl for timely appropriate mental health care).

  2. I would definitely talk to the mom. If you have to mention things her boys have done tell her exactly like you say in your post. You don't know if your kids are saying things back or even starting it. Explain the disability so they understand. I dread that it's warmer here as the kids are out and all over town. I cringe when my son calls as I am afraid something has happened. He has been bullied but I know he can run his mouth too. I know other kids don't like him because he is different. He has a couple friends that he is close to that sometimes don't understand and then they need a break and are friends again. I wish I had better advice. I wouldn't be afraid to speak to the parents though. If they don't know what is going on it can't be fixed and the same goes for you. If you don't know you can't fix it. At least a talk is the start to something. Hope you get it figured out.

  3. I'm guessing TOF isn't connected with you on Facebook or via this blog...in which case I think you probably have to initiate a conversation. Sadly, the disconnection fuels the separation and awkwardness...the only way out of it is through it. Hopefully the other mom will see this as an opportunity to teach her kids some tolerance. I take to heart the expression, "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a difficult battle." They may have their guesses at what yours could be, but unless you clarify, she'll likely assume something far from the reality. I'm sorry you're dealing with this but you are an amazing, strong woman and I have no doubt you can find a way to heal the relationship and get the boys on safe drama-free driveway ground together.

  4. Just to clarify TOF is another family, which will be part 3. I'm clearly a rock star at this social-neighborly stuff. Not.

    And no, I'm not FB friends with either family. I don't believe they read my blog either. I doubt they know about it. I wouldn't write about this if they were, or I thought they would read it. I try not to play the passive-aggressive game. I tend more towards avoidance.

    Writing this post really helped me work through this though, and I truly appreciate the supportive comments from everyone. :)