Wednesday, September 10, 2008

These Are The People In My Neighborhood

So I have a dilemma I'm hoping you can help me with.

We have a neighbor (our front door looks down onto their condo) with QUITE a history.

First a woman lived there with her teenage son who smoked pot out front with all of his buddies almost every single day. They had crazy weekend parties where tons of family and friends would descend on their tiny two bedroom condo and spill out, drunk as skunks, onto the lawn, swearing up a storm and being really really loud. We were lucky if these weekly parties died down by 2 a.m.

There were also a lot of fights between the teenage son and his uncle, who often crashed with them. The uncle called the police on the teenage son at least three times while they were there, and one time the police knocked on our door for verification of something that had happened.

Oh, and did I mention I live in a fairly nice neighborhood? We're not used to this kind of stuff.

They moved out, to a house just around the corner (so that more family could live with them) and the woman's grown daughter moved in, with HER 4 year old daughter, who I'll call Amanda. Now the parties are only about once a month or so.

At least there has been progress.

Amanda used to visit and stay with her Grandma all of the time, so we knew her before she and her mother moved in. But despite Gabi and Amanda trying to play with each other when they both found themselves out front, all of their efforts were thwarted by Amanda's family, who would whisk her away into the house. Each and every time.

It was so strange. But based on some of the things the teenage son would say under his breath if we happened to walk by him on our way to get the mail, I knew that they didn't like us very much. I would just smile and go on my way, trying for as little contact as possible.

Well, lately there seems to have been a change of heart on their part. Which was fine at first. Gabi and Amanda became fast friends. But now I'm not so sure I WANT them to be friends.

The mother lets Amanda come over and play INSIDE our house, never having met me or my husband. That's right, NEVER met us, NEVER spoken to us, and NEVER responded back to any of my smiles or waves. Call me crazy, but there's no way in hell I would let Gabi play inside someone's house who I hadn't met before or acts like that. It makes me really uneasy to have Amanda over because of this.

They also let Amanda stand outside our house and scream for Gabi. Even late at night while I'm trying to put her to bed. Once Gabi hears Amanda calling for her, it's all over. If I don't let her out, I have to deal with my four year old body slamming the front door trying to get outside, and massive tears when we finally drag her away.

When Amanda comes over to play, she ends up ignoring Gabi and doing her own thing. I think it's because she's so distracted by toys that are different from hers. Poor Gabi tries to play with her friend, then sadly comes to tell me that her friend wants some private time, and can we do something together instead? Despite this treatment, Gabi still desperately wants to play with Amanda and have her over whenever she can.

Amanda is also always asking for food, and tries to take Gabi's things home with her.

I just... I don't know. I just am not keen on being associated with this family. I know the mother's new live-in boyfriend drinks and swears a lot, and I saw into their house one time and it was trashed. I feel like I should be a haven for this little girl, but I'm not comfortable with the way she acts (she's only five years old, but already a reflection of her environment?).

At what point do you not let kids associate with each other? Should I suck it up and let them still be friends? Or are there too many red flags?


  1. I would keep having her over despite the fact she comes from a shady family. From your story, it looks like you and Gabi may be the only stability she has.

    If things don't improve I would call child services. I don't think it is ever OK to risk a child's safely. You mentioned the boyfriend was a drinker. That would be a HUGE sign for me.

    better safe than sorry.

  2. If you really feel like you SHOULD help this little girl...I think you have a few options. You could talk to her Mom, and voice some of your concerns (doesn't play well with others, gets my daughter out of bed at night...those are a good place to start.)

    If her Mom can't straighten her out on some of the rules BEFORE she comes into your home, then I think you have every right to enforce your own rules. Worst case? She gets mad, tells her Mom...and doesn't come over anymore and her Mom doesn't like you. that so different from before? It sounds like you're being used as free childcare.

    That sounds harsh to me...and I'm not in your shoes right now, the very least, you can enforce rules with a 5 year old guest.

  3. That's such a tough place to be in. I know that you want to help her, and you want to be able to be there for her. It's just hard to deal with that kind of situation. I feel like as long as Gabi is happy and obeying the rules that you have for her, it's not really hurting her.
    And I'm sure you're watching them extra closely when they play...
    I'll be praying that you have wisdom in this awful situation.

  4. Ugh..tough one... I doubt talking to the mother would help at all... But I would also be very careful about having this little girl in your house... I think it is great to be kind,... but I would avoid getting too close...

  5. As Aunt LoLo said, it is TOTALLY OKAY if not EXPECTED for you to have house rules that even the guests have to follow. I would let Amanda come play, but sit her down every time for a couple weeks (or as often as you need to until she KNOWS the rules) and explain the rules you expect her to follow. 1. Playing at your house means playing WITH Gabi. 2. No taking Gabi's toys out of the house. 3. No borrowing Gabi's toys unless you say it's okay. etc. Also let her know that if she breaks the rules, then playtime is over for the day and she can try again the next day. IT may seem harsh at first, but eventually Amanda (and Gabi) will appreciate it, and feel safer and more secure for it.

    I feel so bad for that poor girl! I would definitely look for signs of possible neglect and abuse and if found, give CPS an anonymous call...

  6. I agree it is a tough spot to be in, I would be torn between being a safe place for this girl, and allowing myself to be used. From the girls behavior, I don't think that the mother has any parenting skill also , you have to question a mother's judgement who allows her daughter to be raised in a filthy, drug abusing, unstable environment. I'm not sure if it rises to the level of abuse, but I do feel their is a bit of neglect going on in this case. I'm not sure if you try and nurture a relationship with this child, but it might be good to talk to her and get a better idea of the conditions in the home. From what you have seen so far (the filth, drug/alcohol use, and apparent lack of supervision of this five year old) I think you would be well within your right to notify the authorities. You could do it anonymously to avoid any repercussions. I'm not sure how it is done down there, but here when you call DHS, you talk to a child abuse screener who will take your information then evaluate whether it rises to the level of needing to be investigated. This way you can atleast feel like you have done your part in reporting potential abuse or neglect. Because of my job, I am a mandatory reporter and will call DHS with concerns and leave it to the experts to act upon it.
    It's hard because Gabi is so attached to this little girl...studies show that children's fundamental learning and their reactions to their environments are pretty much set by age five. I do believe that this girl will have trouble later in life because of the living environment she has been raised in so far. Who knows what her home life was like before moving into grandma's, but apparently grandma makes bad choices in boyfriends and mom is at fault for allowing her daughter to be raised in this kind of environment.
    Maybe when she comes over, you make them both a sandwich, or give then a snack, then close the kitchen. Also, sit down with this child and tell her that when the sun goes down, or even show her the hands or numbers on a clock, that it is too late to come over. You could tell her that she needs to knock and not yell outside the door, next time she yells, ignore her.
    Probably the easiest way to keep the child from coming around would be to try and bring your concerns to the mother. My guess is that she will get defensive about a perceived attack on her parenting skills and most likely ban her daughter from her house.
    I do feel that five years old is too early to give up on a child and think it would be nice to continue to be a safe place for this child to go, but boundries need to be put in place and enforced. If their is a failure to follow thru on the child's part, then then I would look at denying contact with Gabi and your home.

  7. Laural - wow, tough one.
    You've already gotten a ton of good advice.
    I agree with these points:

    - continue to let her in your home if you feel that burden in your heart to do so. And as long as Gabi still is interested and is safe.

    - the child must follow your rules if at your house or send her home.

    I agree...I would never send my kid to play at someone's house if I've never met them or been in their house. It sucks that we live in the world we live in, but that's how it is.

    I feel for this little girl.

  8. :) Good advice all around! (In response to your comment on my blog, if you send me your address I will send you a bag of Swedish Fish all your own! pam(at)gregariocity(dot)com)

  9. I feel so sorry for the little girl but at the same time, you have to be careful and protect your child. I think that maybe playing in the yard with you supervising is a good middle ground. I was a stickler when my kids were growing up about NOT letting them go to anybody's house that we did not know.

  10. I've had mom's drop their kids off at the curb before and drive away before they even find out if I'm home - let alone MEET me. If I were you I'd lay down the law when Amanda is over. Let her know that she is welcome to come and play WITH Gabi but if she gets bored and doesn't want to play with Gabi then it's time for her to go home. If she's out in your yard yelling for Gabi, I'd go out and tell her it's time for her to go home. Shoo her away if that's what it takes. She obviously doesn't have a lot of parental control at her house. Be that "scary mommy" if that's what it takes. If she loves coming over to play, she'll get it pretty fast that she must follow the rules. If she doesn't follow the rules I'd be Mommy again and tell her that at YOUR house, rules must be followed or she can't come play.

  11. That poor girl!! You know, I agree with everyone else. Let in her after you lay down the law and look out for signs of abuse. I would try and meet the mom just so everyone is on the same page.

    I have a little boy that wanders over here almost everyday. I take him back and ask if he can come over and play. This was tough because we had a strained neighbor relationship but, for the good of the kids...

  12. I don't envy your position at all. I think the girl is a bad influence on your child. You cannot change this child's behavior with a couple of afternoons at your house. You can only show her kindness, but I wouldn't take my eyes off her. I would also tell her that if she comes over to play with Gabi, that is what she should do. If she wants alone time, then she should go home.

    I also agree that if your gut suspects there is something wrong you should listen and call social services. You should always listen to your gut in these situations. Better to be wrong and have the family checked out (considering their history) than have something be wrong and you not do anything about it.

    Good luck. Please let us know what you decide to do.

  13. All good comments from the above, so I'll be short. I'd like you to be able and think that she is herself good for Gabi and you are a good example for this little girl. (Does that even make sense, man it's getting late.)

    Keep us posted.

  14. Well everyone has said it already, continue to be a friend as long as it's not causing actual problems. Set the ground rules and if Amanda doesn't listen the play date is over. Good for you for caring enough!

  15. ya know, I remember when i was just about 4/5 I had a friend like this. And i never could understand why my parents did what they did, but in retrospect, I realize that it was in my best interest. the girl's name was caitlyn and she came from a similar type home. her parents never seemed to know where she was, whether it by my yard or someone else's. i remember watching her walking in the street a good 100 yards or more from her house one day and asking my dad why I wasn't allowed to do that... i mean for crying out loud I was FOUR YEARS OLD JUST LIKE HER!

    anyways, my parents allowed us to be friends, but only under certain rules. caitlyn was never allowed into the house. my personal thoughts on this were that it disconnected us in a way. there was never that opportunity to grow past "backyard friends". i was NEVER allowed to go to her house, her yard, anywhere. and if caitlyn left, i was NOT allowed to go with her. our friendship was bound to the confines of our yard...

    anyways, i don't know if that helps at all, but now looking back, i can see why my parents were hesitant to let me be friends with her at all... there may be some compromise there though, if for nothing else than to let Gabi be a good influence on her

  16. I would let her still come if she isn't a bothe to you and if she isn't a bad influence on your daughter. Sounds like she could use a stable place to play! I might try to talk to the parent/grandparent and just mention that you don't mind having her over, but after ______ your daughter isn't allowed to play. Maybe, just maybe they would help police her late night visits??

  17. Great comments already. Really sound advice - from everyone. I totally and wholeheartedly agree.

    The motto I live by here... My house, My rules.

    Good luck!

  18. I'll throw my agreement in with the thread. Calm, firm rules followed by the end of playdate if not followed. It's good for Gabi to see you being consistent with other children. Parallel play is pretty common for young kids- but if it is bothering your daughter than end the visits. I have had kids over only once because during their visit they followed me around instead of playing with my daughter. Same goes for food. It's perfectly ok to offer a healthy snack if you want to but send her home to eat if it's an inconvience. I'd watch them closely when they play though- if there is abuse- victims sometimes become the aggressor and abuse their peers.

  19. This ia tricky one.

    Looks like you're so good for Amanda as role models but if it is having a negative effect on gabi what can you do?

    Have you considered moving? (I know, I'm useless!)

  20. Man oh man. Pray for wisdom??

    This is hard! We have had issues with a neighbor girl - they sure are sticky situations to be in.

    I say, have clear house rules and stick to them. I generally don't feed the neighbor kids. Once in awhile I give them cookies but usually I say no. (I feel mean but it's one extreme or the other, ya know) I don't allow Eve to ask for snacks at her friends houses. I tell her if she's hungry, come home for a snack.

    If she's not playing with Gabi - send her home. You aren't a free daycare! (that was kind of snotty, wasn't it!)

    As far as the yelling outside for your daughter- that is rude and unacceptable. I would take serious issue with that.
    Personally speaking, I would talk with the little girl first - firmly but with kindness. If that doesn't work try the parent (though it sounds like she's a real loo-loo.).

    It seems that if you lay down some rules, stick to them, and show her kindness she will (hopefully) come to respect you and your daughter. You may just be able to show her what a real home looks like.

    Of course, I am an optimist so this may be just that... optimistic.


  21. I agree with the others. Stick with her--you may be her only source of stability. My husband had a crappy mom--parties, drugs....he always stayed at his friend's house (well to do doctor family) and they took him as one of their own. My husband is forever grateful for this family.
    Don't let Gabi hang out there though :) And if she ever hurts Gabi, try talking with the girl and if it keeps up, let her go.


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