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Parents sued for letting kids play too loudly in the backyard

It’s not such a beautiful day in one Plano, Texas, neighborhood, where the lawsuits are flying over a backyard playhouse, noisy children, explicit song lyrics and a complete and utter breakdown in communication.

Kelly Counts says part of the reason she picked the house she did in a Dallas suburb is that she was able to move an HOA-approved playhouse into the backyard for her four kids, ranging in age from 2 to 10 years.

It’s probably safe to say that she didn’t consider grumpy neighbors to be one of the neighborhood’s amenities, but they came with the package. The couple next door, Irving and Anita Ward, don’t much appreciate what they consider to be nonstop noise coming from next door and are suing the mom for the detriment her kids are causing to their “tranquil quality of life.” The couple also griped at an HOA meeting that the playhouse in question is “creating noise issues as well as visibility issues for them and their pets.”

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You might say the lawsuit is one unorthodox way of dealing with the problem, especially because Counts says her neighbors have never once asked her to tell her kids to tone it down. But it’s something of a next step for the Wards, since their first strategy — blasting music with raunchy, adults-only lyrics when the kids were in earshot, according to Counts — didn’t solve the problem as effectively as they presumably thought it would.

Counts, for her part, is taking the high road and suing the crap out of them right back.

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Frankly, it’s hard to muster up sympathy for either party. There are a few steps you can take before serving someone with a lawsuit, like asking them to please shut up or at least leaving a passive-aggressive note. The nasty lyrics were a nice touch, but it’s unlikely to earn the Wards any favor in court.

As for Counts, who homeschools her kids, a little consideration might have been in order here. After all, the kids are home all day, presumably taking breaks in the backyard, which is why the Wards are miffed. It might be something different if it were for a few hours in the afternoon, but to never have a moment’s quiet will grate on anyone’s nerves. It doesn’t make them child haters; it makes them human.

As for the raunchy music, it seems it might be less about corrupting the innocence of four little cherubs and more an exercise in “how do you like it?” We can’t know for sure, because the Wards aren’t willing to comment on it, but this mom can’t have it both ways. The squeals, bickering and laughter of children in broad daylight isn’t illegal, but neither is playing NWA’s entire uncensored discography. That doesn’t mean either one is easy to listen to for hours at a time.

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It’s hard to not see this as two families antagonizing each other until they’re both bananas enough to actually file lawsuits against one another. When you move into a community, whether that community is an apartment complex or a suburban neighborhood, there’s going to be some maneuvering you have to do around people you don’t like and people who don’t like you either. In fact, you’ll have to do that for your whole life, unless the apocalypse happens and the only one left on the planet is you.

There’s no room for extremes that say, “I am totally right, you are totally wrong, deal with it.” Is it unreasonable to expect kids to play silently when they’re outside? Definitely. Is it inconsiderate to not take your neighbors into consideration when you send four little noisemakers out into the yard for multiple ear-splitting play breaks? You betcha.

That’s why compromise is a thing.

We do it in grocery lines, on public transportation, in the office and at the public park. There are times when you have to accommodate people and times when they’ll have to accommodate you. No one says you can’t do it begrudgingly or that you have to be thrilled about changing your routine around, but it’s how we function without killing one another.

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What we shouldn’t do is file petty lawsuits against one another because we can’t settle mundane, trivial arguments without involving a grown-up to do it for us.

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