Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Old-Fashioned Neighborhood Fun

We live in a fairly diverse American suburb in the SF Bay Area: track homes of varying beige and gray hues, professionally landscaped front yards (thank you builders!), a mix of some families, some foreigners that don't speak English, some empty nesters, some singles. What is conspicuously absent (typically) are kids out front playing. It seems this generation of youngsters in our area get shuttled from day-camp to Karate/Ballet/Baseball/Soccer practice and then back home. Up goes the garage door, in go the people, and down goes the garage door. People are exhausted. Families are tired. Parents are stretched. I get it.

I think people entertain and spend time in their back yards, not the front. We don't really know our neighbors aside from the occasional wave when taking out the garbage or getting the newspaper. But, we're slowly breaking down those walls.

There are two families with kids three houses down (in two separate houses -- we must make that distinction here in California). A family with 3 Elem girls and another family with 2 Elem boys and 1 MS girl. We broke out the Slip 'n Slide last week -- out front, as it's the only grass with a slope -- and amazingly enough, the neighborhood kids all came out of the woodwork and low and behold, our kids made new friends.

I am one of those Moms that doesn't really let her kids out front to play unsupervised (granted, the kids are almost 6 and 4...so you can't really blame me). But, we're entering into the time when they CAN and SHOULD play out front with other kids and be ok. I advise them of the requisite rules: Be polite to strangers, but NEVER walk anywhere with them, NEVER get into a car with them, NEVER touch their cute little puppy, NEVER take candy or toys, etc and if they feel something isn't right run (not walk) home. Today, I reiterated those rules, kept the garage door open and propped open the kitchen/garage entry door. I heard them playing and laughing, and it was perfect. Just the right amount of boundary-letting and just the right amount of time. Really, I should have been photographed and included in the SF Chronicle: "WAHM Defies Culture by Allowing Her Children to Play Out Front."

Actually, now that I think about it, it was a perfect day -- my kids weren't fighting with each other, they played really well with the other neighbor girls. They rode bikes, painted the driveway with water and a paintbrush, chalked the sidewalk, played with the dogs, played Princess & the Knight dress up, and had PB&J cut-outs & chips. Their mom came over and she and I made a formal introduction, we exchanged phone numbers and husband's names, and we commented how great it was to actually meet another neighbor!

Golly, it felt so refreshing, like an old-fashioned neighborhood feel that is missing in our culture. Perhpas she and I should break out the Shawn Cassidy records and drink Tab while we relish being neighborly.

The last month has really been stressful for me and its taking its toll on my health (story for another day). Today was a much needed break from the daily struggle we've had of late with our kids' behavior. Who knew that a simple, "Go out and play" would yield such positive results?

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