Welcome to the Neighborhood

A few years ago, I was home alone when someone knocked on the front door. I didn’t answer because I didn’t want to. Time by myself was so very limited then and I was basking in the serenity and silence of my aloneness. A few minutes later, I was standing in my living room when I heard the back door open and someone walk in. I spun around, my mind racing about what might be about to happen…

It was the five-year-old neighbor.

Me: (heart pounding, trying not to cuss) What are you doing? You can’t just walk into my house.
Break-in Girl: I tried to open the front door, but it was locked.

Another day, I was in the bedroom talking with my husband when we heard somebody, not of our household, yelling loudly. I ran to the living room to find out what was happening. One of the neighborhood boys, about eight years old at the time, was standing at our front window screaming into our house. He was yelling at my daughters who were sitting on the couch watching TV. He kept yelling even as I approached the window.

Me: Stop yelling at my kids and get away from the window.
Boy: They’re staring at me.
Me: You are standing at my front window shouting into my house. Where should they look?
Boy: I have an anger management problem.
Me: Content edited.

Have I ever mentioned that I am no longer allowed to drink? It’s a medical issue or I would be there in a heartbeat.

Lots of kids play on our street, so there are bountiful stories to relate on their, um, interestingness. Like Robot Boy. Robot Boy once gave me a long tutorial on something about Transformers and some auto- or meta- alien/robot something or other. I was trying to pay attention. Really I was. But I knew I had blanked on him when he gave me a pop quiz after the lecture, complete with a disappointed shake of his head when I answered incorrectly. This same boy would scour our house and yard looking for parts he might take to make a robot with.

Robot Boy: Can I have that silver trash can?
Me: You mean the one we put our trash in?
Robot Boy: Yes, I’m making a robot. Can I have it?
Me: Mmm, no. We use it for our trash.
Robot Boy: Oh.
Can I have the tires on the stroller? that plate? this plastic storage thing? your hose? the little shovel? your change jar? the chair? this lid?
Me: sigh

In hindsight, it’s all quite priceless — well, except for the time when Robot Boy threw a rock that shattered one of our car windows. That definitely was not priceless (thankfully, his parents did promptly pay us back). But I’ve learned to appreciate these kids even if one or two tend to be on the challenging side now and again … and again and again—Break-In Girl has yet to meet a “no” that she doesn’t automatically rebuff.

I wonder if maybe God put me on this street at this time with a few of these kids to teach me it’s not mean and horrible to say no and mean it. While I have always agreed with the necessity, going about setting and keeping healthy boundaries has never been one of my strengths. I really hate upsetting other people, even if they’re upsetting me—in this way, I am truly a middle child in my need for peace with and between others. So, I think God started schooling me using all these kids. And, oh man, have I gotten some good practice.

As time has passed and I’ve gotten to see these kids grow and mature a little more, I sometimes smile when I remember some of the more interesting tests along the way. Break-In Girl, in particular, has been and remains a challenge, but she is also the one kid on the street who almost always approaches me with a great big smile and hug. Robot Boy is suddenly as tall as me, which is not difficult mind you, and always waves, says hi to me and asks how I’m doing. And after we gave him a few ground rules, Angry Window Boy has turned into a rather pleasant kid to have around.

I grumble and grouse, but I am acquiring skills from the lessons they have allowed me to practice way more than I ever wanted. My people-pleasing ways have not disappeared, but headway is being made.

Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14

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