I love my neighborhood. I have awesome neighbors. I’m not bragging, I’m extremely grateful because I’ve never had neighbors like this before. Neighbors who text me when my garage door is open, who tell me when my kid goes knocking on their door asking for junk food, neighbors who bring my flag back to my porch after it blew off in a windstorm, neighbors who bring me cupcakes and treats for no reason, neighbors who buy too much of something and ask if I want any, neighbors I can text and ask if they’ll pick me up cat food at the store because I feel like crap and we’re out, neighbors who contact me because another neighbor is having surgery and she’s organizing dinners for that neighbor for a few weeks and wants to know if I want to participate. A real neighborhood, the real meaning of neighbors, that’s where I live. Not everyone is like that, but it’s more than one, more than two, more than three, and I’ve never witnessed anything like this in my life in a town/city where people come and go. It’s more like the old farming communities way back when where people watched out for each other, even if they had to hitch up the horse and ride 10 miles to check on their neighbors.
Every day out my front window is a gallum of kids playing. (How much is a gallum, you ask? A lot.) And there is always, ALWAYS, at least 2 moms, if not more, supervising the kiddos playing in the culdesac. Moms and Dads here “co-parent” whoever’s kids are outside. They are involved. The kids respect that and know that not only will they be reprimanded at that moment for bad behavior, mom and dad are currently being texted with the details so by the time the kid gets home the parents are well-informed. There’s no “don’t tell MY kid what to do!” crap around here. My one neighbor says, if my kid needs a spanking just go ahead and give him one. Not that I ever would, but she completely trusts me to act appropriately and deal out appropriate punishment for her kid. Other kids from down the street flock to our end… but if they don’t follow “the rules” (safety, respect) they will be sent back home or to their end of the street. Usually the kids learn that it’s a lot more fun to play on this end where kids play nicer and don’t beat up the little kids and say “I’m sorry” when they accidentally knock another kid down” and end up staying. (That’s not to say we don’t have some knock down drag out football and basketball games with the bigger kids – it’s just done in fair play!)
Why is my neighborhood different than anywhere else I’ve lived? Almost all of the new people that have moved in – and there’s been a lot – have fit right in. It’s not a rich neighborhood. We don’t drive fancy beemers and SUVs. There’s us with “problem” (aka trauma and special needs) kids, and a foster home, but the rest are just your average regular families, yet our “problem kids” also have limited problems, if any, with the other parents. Maybe it’s because anyone who plays with my kids gets a little education on some things so they know what to expect and knows they can contact me about anything my kid does, and then when the foster home came into being, they were pretty well-informed, or maybe this set of people is just that open and willing and giving and caring than most of anywhere else. I just don’t know.
What I do know is that we are involved as a little community here, we spend time together, we watch out for each other, and whatever you put into it, you’ll get out tenfold. Some neighbors don’t want to be involved and don’t want to know anybody, and that’s their right and choice of course, but it’s amazing what a little friendliness does. We “belong”. And in this belonging, my entire family “belongs”. My kids who don’t belong in a family of different race parents, belong in this neighborhood of families who are mixed race and have parents of different races. My kids of different races don’t stand out in a group of diverse ethnicities. My adopted kids don’t stand out when there are step-parents and other adoptive parents, or foster parents.
I don’t live in Utopia. It’s not perfect. But it’s profound to realize that 8 out of 16 houses choose to be part of this community, to make it community, and what a huge difference it makes for my kids. And what a huge difference it makes for me as a parent. I don’t always have to be the one outside watching my kids play, because there’s always someone outside watching the kids play. Sometimes it’s me, too, but for once it doesn’t always have to be me eagle eyeing my kids to make sure they do the right thing. I don’t have to worry about my kid getting into a car with a stranger because everyone is watching and if it’s a car that doesn’t belong, it’s being watched too. We watch out for each other.
And all it took was a 4th of July BBQ to get to know each other a bit. A potluck dinner on the front lawn. Cookies or cupcakes for the new neighbors moving in, along with your phone number so they can contact you if they need something. Jump-starting your neighbor’s son’s girlfriend’s car for the 45th time because she doesn’t have jumper cables. A teenager shoveling the snow out of the walkway for the older couple so they can get to their mailbox – for free, and without being asked. Mowing the neighbor’s lawn while they’re on vacation. Little things. Neighborly things. I hope that if nothing else we try to teach our attachment challenged kids hits home, that what they see with our neighbors shows them how things should be, a goal to reach for.
So thank you neighbors, because you’re helping in ways you don’t even realize: by example, showing my kids how people are supposed to treat people, giving, and wanting nothing in return, caring and expecting no payback.