Friday, April 1, 2011

Caring Within Boundaries

We have some neighbor kids who, to play? Except the problem is, no one watches them outside when they play. And they are both the age and the type of kids who need watching. So when Ender wants to play with them, I end up watching all of them. Solution: Ender doesn't play with them. And no, I don't feel mean about that-- there is no reason I should be watching someone else's kids like that.
Yesterday while chatting with Michael's grandma (who is just as much MY grandma, I'm just being clear is all), the dad was calling for one of the boys to come inside. After much calling, the boy finally turned to run home--BUT RIGHT INTO THE ROAD WITH AN ONCOMING CAR! The car was so close, and he ran right towards it so that he could run down the middle of the road. Really, he ran away from the sidewalk he'd been on so that he could run down the road. That car slammed its brakes and waited until he had completely passed before it went on. Grandma and I were frozen to the steps, holding our breath. As I watched the boy run up the steps to his home, I realized my stomach hurt a lot. I'd had a kind of miniature contraction in that tense moment where I feared for his life. And it was a really yucky feeling. My stomach took its time unclenching. Grandma and I breathed sighs of frustration; that was our reaction, being frustrated because it had been "unnecessary" fear.
The dad didn't really seem to have any reaction at all as his son went into their house (I would like to hope I judged that incorrectly).
Today the neighbor kids were calling through my open windows to get Ender to play. I felt pretty annoyed, honestly. First, you ask me. Second, you don't yell through my windows. Third, Ender and I were having a nice little moment talking on the couch about a Hawai'ian CD my sister Maddie had sent. I wanted to yank the blinds down in their faces, but as I walked to the window, I just couldn't. They're kids. I feel bad for them. So I smiled and told them Ender cannot play, goodbye. And I waited until they walked away before pulling down the blinds.
Oh, these kids. Oh, their parents. Their parents are divorced, and it's quite a sad case. I really don't think it's appropriate to go into details on a blog (it hardly is in private, either). And I do not gossip. When I talk about anything that's not technically my business, it is done very carefully.
But I do want to talk a little about how I feel in this situation. Where it concerns a single dad, I do NOT feel comfortable (or obliged) to get very involved in helping their family. Michael is gone often, but even with him here, there's nothing I want to do to foster even a friendship with the dad. It would simply be wrong. That leaves the kids. And I am not their babysitter, but that's what I'd be if I tried to help them. I do not let them in my home (stories...but it would be gossip here), and a huge reason for that is no one would be aware of them coming in. That would leave me accountable for anything that would happen to them, and they are not my responsibility.
Understandably, it's hard to find a balance here. I really ache for those kids. I want to be kind and Christ-like. I want them to know I care. But I have got to keep a distance. I feel really awful when I can see in their eyes and their body language that they think I'm just the neighbor mom who never lets her son play, the neighbor mom who smiles but isn't interested, the neighbor mom who is always going to say no even if she seems polite and kind. It hurts, because that's not me. And they may always remember me that way.
It's definitely one of those times that I have to remind myself what the boundaries are, and I have to remind myself that Heavenly Father understands perfectly.
It can still be kind of emotionally exhausting.

Have any of you been in situations like this? Where you want to care in a more obvious way, but it just wouldn't be right?


  1. Q, I think that what you're missing here is something that may or may not make a big difference in this situation: communication. Whatever your feelings are for these children (loving feelings, it sounds like) or for their father (cautious, sounds like), it is beneficial for you to let him know how you feel. I suggest walking over to his house, and, just on his doorstep, explaining that you don't allow children to play in your house when you don't know (for a fact) that they have their parents' permission. Or you can tell the children, "I like to know that you have your dad's permission before you play at my house." I don't think it is risky to establish simple communication with him. You don't have to be his friend. But it might put your mind at ease to know that you have expressed your expectations to both/either him and his children.

    One last thing, something to be aware of: He may not care. He may think, "Why is she bothering to tell me this?" He might say something like, "Oh, it's always fine with me if it's fine with you" or "Just send them away" which case, Q, I would just tell you to love those children however you can. Whether that means allowing them to play in your house or not. And if they know you have soft feelings towards them, it might be easier for them to understand where you're coming from.

    I hope that helps! Love you!

  2. I think you are right in sticking with your instincts even if it makes you "unpopular" or whatever. You have to do what is right for your family FIRST, regardless of what that makes others assume about you. I don't know the specifics of this family's situation, but I do know that your children are your first priority. Courageous Parenting! You are wonderful!

  3. Thanks, both of you!
    Rae, I have thought about talking to him, and it doesn't feel right for some reason. I might just be nervous, but I think I'd be brave enough to do that if I felt I should.
    Also, as much as it is hard to keep this kind of distance, I am glad to because the kids don't play nicely. Especially for my 3-year-old Ender. They are contentious and not a safe influence.
    But thank you, really! I do consider talking to him, now and then. It hasn't felt like the right solution somehow.
    Megan, thank you! Thank you!

  4. “I wanted my family to run like a democracy. Pretty soon I realized that the children were running the show.”Too many single parents make this mistake either to allay some amount of guilt associated with depriving the children of a second parent or because they want to dump some responsibility.

    help for single Dads


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