From where I sit, I can hear the chatter of a half a dozen little voices. Our house is the unofficial hangout of the neighborhood kids. A few years ago when I required that the kids play at my house, I didn't know what what I was getting into. At the time I required it because the neighborhood kids were older and had freedoms that bordered on unsafe. When they were younger, I figured that if they played here, I could keep an eye on my kids and temporarily prevent any danger or mischief the other kids could get into in the meantime.
As they have gotten older I have intervened in a number of situations that make my head spin. There have been high-pitched screaming and crying arguments between three or four little girls wanting the same dress-up dress. I have stopped boys from trying to relight fireworks casings they found on the sidewalk after 4th of July. I walked out to the backyard with snacks to see a kid (not my own) standing precariously on a chair, placed on top of a table, placed on top of a box while he tried to pick cherries. I usually end up barely holding onto my cool through tightly gritted teeth while I tell the kids why what they did was unsafe/rude/mean/disgusting/wrong, before swiftly putting an end to playtime.
We then have relative peace around the house for two or three days before a kid rings our doorbell minutes after my husband leaves for work in the morning. No one will be dressed yet. One or two kids might still be in bed. I know I usually am. I will answer the door trying to suppress irritation because all I want is to stay in bed and drink my coffee and watch Matt Lauer interview Lindsay Lohan and why don't they know this?
Last summer in exasperation I asked my daughter why they never play at the neighbors house (the only house they are allowed to play at), and she matter-of-factly said, "They won't let any of the kids come play, there are too many kinds and we are too messy so they say to come here."
Of course they did.
But that is what I wanted, right? I wanted to know what my kids were doing and as a bonus I now get to know what all the neighborhood kids are doing. It's annoying at times, but it is what I wanted. Want. It is what I want. I want to be the house everyone feels comfortable in and wants to hang out at. I want to be the mom bringing out snacks and juice and sidewalk chalk and is genuinely happy to have them all here.
I just wasn't prepared for the everydayness of it. I wasn't prepared for kids who don't have boundaries bursting into my house all day long, leaving doors open and tracking in mud. I wasn't prepared for little girls to argue with me when I set boundaries and push my limits and challenge me to find a way to love them through it. I wasn't prepared for hungry kids who didn't eat breakfast needing lunch or kids whose parents don't speak English well enough to understand what I am explaining how their son fell off a bike and got banged up. I wasn't prepared for the mom who comes over every time she gets important mail or paperwork so I can read it to her and fill it out for her.
As a mom you are prepared (or at least come to expect) those things from your own family, but when it comes from others it feels exponentially more difficult. God and I are having a little argument about this right now. He placed a desire in me to be available to my neighbors and I want to be. On my terms. After Kelly, Live! is over and I have had two three cups of coffee. After I have showered and chosen a cute outfit. After I have done a couple chores (my husband is thinking "What? She does chores?").
But God is showing me that being a good neighbor and a good friend is never, ever going to be on my terms. I need to be ready and willing when the opportunity to be a friend presents itself. It might even occur right at the juicy part of the interview on TV, but that's ok.
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