Now that Story is five, she is expanding her social circles. On the day I stood in mute horror as a horde of children ransacked my house, I realized she had created a neighborhood circle and my house had become their hub.
I don’t know how many there were. I couldn’t have kept count if I’d tried. At least one door to the house was open at all times, and children came and went as they pleased. They played a running game (tag? race?) with Remy, our dog, in the house—it was a rare sunny day outside, mind you. My immediate job became keeping the younger kids from being trampled as they inevitably fell. The hallways are only so wide.
They raided the kitchen shelves and ate like teenagers. I found an empty bag of precious potato chips on my living room floor. Granola bar wrappers and banana peels were wedged in less conspicuous places. Who got in the bathroom trash? Never mind, for the sake of my sanity, I’m going to assume that was the dog. One kid got locked in Remy’s crate.
Just as quickly as they made their attack, they retreated, and Story sat calmly on the couch watching an episode of The Magic School Bus, talking to me about lizards as if nothing had happened. I didn’t imagine this, I swear.
The neighborhood kids still come over but keep mostly to the backyard. Except for two, that is. These two are at my door as soon as I get home from work—I’m talking in the garage before I can even open the car door. On weekends, they try to come right into the house without ringing the bell. If one door is locked, they’ll walk around to the other. Only if the other is also locked will they knock. Even when Story is gone, they still want to come in.
They accosted Ali when she came over for our monthly dinner. Ali stepped out of the car, and there they were. “Whatcha doin’?” They followed her inside. I tried to explain that Story had company and couldn’t play today, but that was met with “But Mom said we could come over.” I let them stay for twenty minutes, and they made themselves at home, as usual.
In the midst of the chaos, Ali advised me to set some boundaries. That’s a good idea, but how? I grew up in the woods, not in a neighborhood, so I’m not well versed in cul-de-sac protocol. What am I supposed to do? Do I lecture the kids on their lack of manners or tell the mom that she needs to watch her children better? Should I purchase a cane and yell at them from the front window, “Get off my lawn!”? Am I just being prudish and not respectful of the free-range style of the other mother? Should I just let it be? After all, I would much rather Story be here with her friends than at someone else’s house.
I don’t know the answers, and if you have some, please share. I do know one thing though: I’m hiding the potato chips from now on.