Lesley has had a lot of experience with interacting with and hosting neighborhood kids. Her house is the place to be in their neighborhood. So far, I’ve lived vicariously through her experiences, enjoying her stories and laughing at her sometimes distraught texts. This weekend, though, my house was invaded.
Saturday was an unexpectedly beautiful day, and after all of the rain and clouds this past week, we were stir crazy. As soon as we pulled in the garage after our grocery store run, the girls jumped out of the car and directly onto their bikes. One of the neighborhood kids was walking along the sidewalk and came over to say hi. She told us her name and that she was seven. We had seen her walking with her family before and waved hello but had not formally met.
Maddie and Riley were thrilled to have visitors and eagerly introduced her to all of the toys in the garage. She was soon joined by her two brothers, one was her twin (age seven) and the other was five. While they played happily, I got to work on the long-overdue project of cleaning out my garage. Clouds began to roll in, and our new visitors decided to go home to get their coats. They were eager to return. Not having seen a parent of theirs yet, I asked them to be sure to tell their parents where they were. Upon return, they confirmed that they had and quickly resumed play.
The little girl asked to see Riley’s room. A delighted Riley put together a full tour of the house, and before I knew it, the kids were running in and out of the house. It was a bit of mayhem, but the kids were having fun and I was getting chores done. This neighborhood kid thing wasn’t so bad.
After about two hours, one of the boys decided he wanted to go home. He said goodbye to his siblings and let them know they should go home soon too. He was clearly the responsible “Riley type” in his family. About five minutes after he left, there was a knock on my door. It was the kids’ father. I greeted him and invited him in the house. Luckily I had just cleaned it that morning. He looked around and asked for the kids to gather their things. Sensing something was off, I told him the kids had a great time playing and mentioned that they had let me know they had told him where they were. He replied, “I didn’t know where they were.” He was clearly not happy. After an introduction to the girls, he quickly gathered up his kids and said goodbye. It wasn’t a rude interaction, but it certainly wasn’t a happy one.
Guilt set in. Had I misstepped? Did I break a parent code? Should I have kept the kids outside? I hadn’t gotten to speak to their parents but had believed the older two kids when they said that they had let their parents know where they were. We had also been outside for an hour or more with no parent coming to look for them. Parents, a little advice needed here. What would you have done?