Sunday, September 6, 2009

Neighbor Boy

Earlier today, I was judged by our 5 year old neighbor boy. He lives next door and comes by 2 or 3 times a week to see if "the girl can play". The first few times it happened, Eric and I backed away and whispered to each other. "What do we say? What should we do?"

We had never been in a situation where L was invited to play with kids we didn't really know - kids who have parents we've seen but never really met, kids who sometimes play in the street! There are a lot of kids in the neighborhood who play together regularly, and it is nice that they invite L to play even though she is the youngest. The neighborhood seems to be like a throwback to when Eric and I were kids - these boys ride bikes together all over the neighborhood, run through each others houses and do similarly fun things that my 2009 mind thinks are probably too dangerous for my baby girl.

A few weeks ago, we allowed L to go next door and play in the backyard with her friend (after I insisted on meeting his parents -- you'd think they were getting married!). Occasionally I'll sit out on the porch so that L can ride bikes or scooters with him.

Neighbor Boy seems to be a really good kid. He is as polite as can be expected of a 5 year old boy, and has a lot of patience for L's 3 year old reasoning and physical abilities. He "rides slow" on his scooter so she can follow him, doesn't tease her for not being allowed to go in the street, etc.

L, riding a friend's scooter at a 4th of July BBQ
Today when we got home from church, Neighbor Boy rang the bell and asked if "the girl" could go to his house to play. I sent her over, only to have them return a few minutes later (with an adult from his house checking that it's ok) to play here. They played upstairs in the playroom while I did the dishes. This was my first experience of "I'm really glad the playroom is upstairs"! When they came back down, Neighbor Boy told me he loves to play games, and do we have any? I told him that L's games are up in her room and rattled off the handful of games that she has. He looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language. "No, VIDEO games!" When I told him we didn't have any video games, he asked me why we have a PlayStation3 if we don't have any games. (Yikes!) I learned my lesson from my friend Shelly (who recently told me that she is learning to set boundaries with other kids who are in her home), and just said, "The video games we have are for L's daddy. They aren't kids games." Neighbor Boy tried to convince me to let him play the "daddy games", but I just said, "Sorry, but no."
Can you guess what happened next???

Off they went, back to Neighbor Boy's house. Before she left, I reminded L that it was close to lunch time and I'd be over to get her soon. When I went to pick her up 15 minutes later, they were in the family room, playing video games! L tells me it was "the baseball game and Neighbor Boy let me push the buttons". I can only imagine what he thinks of L now. I've seen the looks on bigger kids faces when L approaches the computer in the kids section of the library and asks kids playing computer games if she can "check her email" (i.e. mess around on the keyboard of the computer). Perhaps her lack of experience with things technological will discourage him from playing with her again, but, seriously, is playing video games the same thing as "playing together"?

It is an interesting new world for us though, things we hadn't thought much about before we moved here (and we lived in a world where our kids pretty much only interacted with other kids from families we had known for years).  At 3.5 years old, is L old enough to play outside with other neighbors? Go to their houses? How much interaction should we be having with their parents? Should we talk to her about TV and video games and our expectations around those things when she is at someone else's house (and, if so, what are those expectations???)?

It's not a serious problem, just something that comes up every now and then that Eric and I haven't found an answer for yet.


  1. I'm so glad you're blogging, girl- I completely feel you on this one. My baby is not exposed to half the stuff most kids are. Am I raising a freak? Or just a geek? I don't think I'll regret our decision on this one...

  2. I love your blog! And how you write! :) So many good questions!