A year or two ago (have I been dealing with this for so long?), I did something that has essentially turned my neighbors against me. Or at least, it feels that way.
Something happened, and I didn't handle it well. I frequently don't handle social things well. Its paradoxical, considering that if people - specifically, my neighbors - took the time to really get to know me (and vice-versa), they might understand why I don't handle these things well.
Not that the circumstances matter, but it had been a trying month. I don't want to get into specifics, but suffice to say, it was an unusual evening in that my entire family had sat down together for some family time, and we were enjoying each others' company. It was a rare occasion after such a trying month, and something I longed desperately to accomplish.
Our evening was interrupted by a doorbell. When I answered the door, nobody was there.
I should say at this point that we had been victims of a frequent "ding-dong-ditch". I don't know exactly why, but I think it was due to some animosity built up between our kids and the neighbor kids.
Our kids had spent their summers playing in the trees beside the house. Under the cover of the huge evergreens, they invented club houses and "shops" for pinecones. They played with many of the neighbors, but a handful of them didn't want to play the same way our kids did.
I don't know how to describe how our kids are different from the other kids on the street. I'd start by saying that our kids are not "sporty", but they do play sports, so that's not the entire picture. Our kids aren't "joiners". Our kids are creative and empathic, sensitive perhaps beyond what tough skins kids need to have. As a result, they don't understand kids being "mean" even when they don't mean to. And they don't really have a tolerance for it, extricating themselves from their own play just to avoid those scenarios.
Also, I hate to call this out, but I think it colors the situation too strongly. Riley has a tic. It's reasonably mild, but it is noticeable. I don't really know how other kids react to it, because he doesn't really allow himself to be close to other kids. He doesn't like his photo taken. He's stubborn. He's strong-willed. He's actively smart. He's disturbingly like me when I was his age, and I think that's the only reason I've been able to cope with a lot of his foibles -- because I'm so like him.
The bottom line is that our kids essentially sent the other kids away from the clubhouse in the trees. They didn't like how the other kids played. And the other kids, being excluded, did even more things that our kids construed as "mean". As an adult outsider, it seems like somewhat normal play. Had our kids embraced it instead of decrying it, it might have all worked out for the good. Instead, our kids don't really have friendship with the neighbor kids, which alienates them even more.
But I can only suggest being inclusive to the kids so much when their response is always in the tone of, "Why should I play with kids that are mean to me?" And I don't have a good answer for that. I can tell them that maybe the other kids aren't really mean. Or they don't really mean it. And maybe if they themselves were better friends toward them, they wouldn't be mean to them. Maybe I could have been a better parent, but there's only so much you can do. The kids will make their own choices, ultimately, even if they're hard.
So, the doorbell.
Nobody was there. I had just sat my family down for a night of peace for the first time in a long while, and then this assault. I had my guesses as to who it was that was doing this to us, these impressions provided by the neighbor kids' animosity toward ours.
I was about to close the door, put it out of my mind, and just get on with my evening, when I heard a dog yapping in my driveway. The boy up the street - one with which my kids have always had a particularly hard time relating to - constantly has this little dog in tow. He follows him everywhere. And here was this dog, yapping at something in my driveway. It was now completely obvious that my intuition on the culprit was correct. Or so I thought.
From the dark, a voice. "They're going to know it's you if he's barking like that." An adult.
What? What is this madness? Encouraging your kid to do this? Is this a joke?
It took me a moment to find my shoes and storm across the street to the neighbor's yard, from where I'd heard some noise. Many neighbors were there, enjoying a fire pit, as often happens around here. I'm no longer invited to these, by the way.
The particular neighbor who I am certain I heard in my driveway and his boy were present. And while everyone else was trying to have a good time, I said things that I probably should not have said.
There's no defense, really. I have excuses. I was tired. Tired of the conflict in my own family. Tired of being targeted by this miscreant ringing my doorbell and running off. Tired of my kids being spent emotionally by the neighbor kids' attitude toward them. Tired of feeling ignored as a human by the neighbors in general, for whatever reason, whether because our kids don't play together, or we aren't "sporty" people, or we don't participate in the activities they do, or we aren't in sales, or that we both work, or that I just don't feel like I really belong in this neighborhood after having grown up in lower circumstances than the area in which we now live.
I shouldn't have done that. I shouldn't have said those things. At least, not there.
And now I suffer.
Today at the bus stop, I tried to speak to my neighbors, in spite of knowing that I'm anathema, but they didn't say a word to me. Riley didn't want to be in the 1st day group photo they all took, which I knew. We played frisbee in our driveway instead. I wasn't ignoring you neighbors, or disrespecting you. I was keeping my kid from starting his first day in a new grade by being miserable.
I hope Riley has a good day. This is ruining mine.