7.14.2007

i join the neighbourhood

It seems our family has been adopted by some neighbourhood kids.

It started when our doorbell rang on Thursday afternoon. Allan told me there were kids at the door with a petition about animal cruelty. The petition was a little vague, but they were going door-to-door for signatures to give to our MPP. I was impressed. Besides signing, I went to the door to tell them what a good thing they were doing, and to chat with them about animals and activism. Any young person with an impulse to activism deserves encouragement.

An hour later, our doorbell rang again. The two girls were back. They said, "You were the only person who told us we were doing a good thing and actually talked to us. You were so nice and your dogs are so great and we were wondering, could we walk your dogs or come over and play with them sometime?"

I was friendly, but skeptical, as they're only 11. They both have dogs of their own, and one of them is very mature for her age. And of course, 11-year-olds are older now than we were kids. We let them do a brief trial walk while we watched, then a walk around the block without us, and it grew from there.

Yesterday Sue and Janie (not their real names) rang the doorbell off and on all day. They played with Cody and Tala in the backyard, and walked them a few times, and also sat around with me, drinking iced tea and talking about life.

They are bored - home all summer with no camp or planned activities - and have some upheaval at home. Janie's parents are already divorced, and she's in a joint custody situation, where she spends every-other week at each parent's home, a common arrangement. She has an older sister who doesn't see their dad, which makes me wonder what's going on with dad. Sue's parents are in the process of splitting up right now, and she's hurting. I'm no stranger to family upheaval. I could see it helped them to talk and get a little support.

They asked me a lot of questions about myself and Allan, and when they were found out we were writers, they almost exploded. Seeing books on our shelves with our names on them was the final kicker. (Looking at our packed floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, they asked, "Did you write all these?") As it happens, the serial fiction I've been writing for Kids On Wheels, which concludes in the next issue, is about a girl who is trying to stop some animal cruelty. I'm going to give them the story to read - a rare opportunity for me to get some feedback from a young reader.

Sue is very smart and mature. She's also an excellent salesperson, trying to convince me that she can be our weekend dogwalker while we're at work. One, I don't think she's old enough to have full responsibility for a job that my own job depends on. I'd have to get Sue's mother involved, and I don't want to bother her. And two, the job is already promised to a young woman who really needs the money, a college student who is a single mother.

I'm working out an arrangement with Sue where she can "help" me with the dogs this summer. Come September, if she's still interested in a job, I'll invent one.

I'll have to manage this, as they'd move in here if they could. Last night the doorbell rang while I was relaxing with the baseball game. When I said that I was done for the day, that I wanted to spend the evening relaxing on my own, Sue quickly said, "You're busy, that's fine, sorry to bother you," and I told them to come back tomorrow. It's my last weekend at home alone for a while, and I do want to enjoy it.

On the other hand, it's been a long time since I had some young people in my life, and this adult-friend role comes naturally to me. In fact, I once earned my living through it, as a nanny. (If "mkk" is reading, she's nodding her head in agreement right now, as her kids were my special friends through their teenage years.) These girls, one of them especially, are clearly in need, and I'm happy to make the connection.

Interestingly, no parents have contacted me. I've asked several times, but the girls insist their parents don't care, as long as they have their cell phones and they haven't wandered too far away. It's much more similar to how I was raised (sans cellphone, of course) - with a large degree of trust and freedom, without a lot of fear, different from the overprotectiveness and paranoia I hear about today. I won't speak to the parents unless they contact me, to further the bond between the girls and me. It will be interesting to see if anyone ever calls.

14 comments:

Jo said...

What a cool story. When I lived with my sister many years ago, our side yard was a city park, and we had TONS of neighbourhood kids coming over all the time. My sister is a musician and particularly loves getting kids excited about music, so she'd crack out the cowbells and the tambourines and hook up the microphones to the amp. It was good fun, and the kids were so appreciative to have fun with some decent adults who cared about their spiritual well-being as well as physical. Those kids were all about 12 or so, too.

BTW, I think I would get all ga-ga if I saw your name on your published books too. I'm funny that way. That's the ULTIMATE in fame and dream-come-true for me!

<-- aspiring writer Jo!

redsock said...

"Did you write all these?"

We haven't even read all of them!

L-girl said...

Jo, that is very cool. I wish I had something wonderful like cowbells and tambourines to keep these kids entertained! They are SO bored. But apparently hanging out with me is very entertaining for them. Go figure.

BTW, I think I would get all ga-ga if I saw your name on your published books too. I'm funny that way. That's the ULTIMATE in fame and dream-come-true for me!

It was the ultimate wish for me, too - which I failed to reach, as my fiction remains unpublished. (Grrr.)

Being a working writer does feel like a great accomplishment. But famous - no. We're not famous. But I think we'll both settle for respected in our fields, and we are.

L-girl said...

It was the ultimate wish for me, too - which I failed to reach, as my fiction remains unpublished. (Grrr.)

Oh, to clarify, I have published a few books, just not fiction.

Jo said...

ROFL! You know I ran as the Green Party candidate in the last three elections here in Hamilton. On January 24th (the day after the election) I got a Facts & Arguments piece published in the Globe and Mail. My name was on page A16 in a sea of candidates results, and then again, emblazoned in large font, on the back page as the author of the day's OpEd piece. I was gleeful. Not about the election... but about being published. Tee hee!

L-girl said...

Very cool! I had a Facts & Arguments piece published shortly after moving here. It's here on my blog.

Wait a second, you are MontyOllie? Of the ENT post?

Jo said...

Yep that's me! Montyollie aka Jo aka the woman with the ear problems that wound up at your blog. LOL!!

David Cho said...

This is very cool.

When I was growing up in Korea, we always rented a room in a house, and there were other families who did. So the house was the neighborhood.

Enjoyed getting to know them and made some good friends particularly with people who were much older than me. I like Hillary's axiom. It takes a village.

But now, everybody lives in a bubble. And frankly I find kids irritating, but that is beside the point in this environment of mistrust. We only hear about child molestation.

"11 year olds are older now than when we were kids"

True, but also 30 year olds today are much younger than when we were that age. Try to explain that one.

David Cho said...

I wanted to say that having met you in person, I can see why the girls would be gravitated to you. You have a very warm and sweet persona.

L-girl said...

Thank you, David. That's so sweet of you to say.

I agree, modern life - especially in the suburbs - is so isolating and alienating. It's much less so in a city where people know their neighbours and the kids play together on the sidewalks.

Our neighbourhood is much closer to that - kids play ball in the street, ride their bikes around, parents seem to give the kids a good amount of freedom - that's how these girls ended up coming over here. I think it's healthy. I realize there are risks, but life is full of risk. As long as children are taught how to handle themselves, the risks are actually pretty low. That's my take, anyway.

L-girl said...

"11 year olds are older now than when we were kids"

True, but also 30 year olds today are much younger than when we were that age. Try to explain that one.


You're right! I never thought about it that way. The kids are older, but the adults are younger.

Could be trouble. :)

L-girl said...

And frankly I find kids irritating, but that is beside the point in this environment of mistrust.

I meant to respond to this too. In general I don't like to be around kids - but then in general I don't like to be around people. :)

In my own experience, I find that "kids" or "teenagers" or "old people" or any category like that does not translate into interactions with one individual.

I find this hard to explain. While I wouldn't describe myself as someone who "likes kids," I can get along very easily with young people one-on-one.

mkk said...

Mkk is reading! I think that it is essential for young people to have non-parent adults who are important in their lives. You certainly served in that role for all three of our children, Laura, especially in their teen years.

With regard to liking kids, I find that I like most kids whom I encounter -- of course, some more than others. That is why I work with kids! As for dogs and cats, I am much more selective. I can't stand barky dogs, but I love those who enjoy a good hike in the woods (like Duchess) and those who want to be petted while they sit at your feet (like Cody). I have no patience for antisocial cats who hiss at you, but I love those who sit in your lap and purr. As my husband says, "That's why they make chocolate and vanilla."

M@ said...

"11 year olds are older now than when we were kids"

True, but also 30 year olds today are much younger than when we were that age. Try to explain that one.


Hey you kids! Get off my xBox!

Yep. We live in a different age. Though I did once have to yell at kids to get off my fence, so I've certainly arrived in adulthood.

Anyhow, back to xBox. Those high scores aren't going to achieve themselves.