Things I Wish Parents Would Teach Their Children

1. To respect other people’s property.
My backyard is actually shared between three houses, one of which contains another childcare and all of which contain my most ancient nemesis: NEIGHBOR KIDS. The other child care provider and I have toys we leave outside- either they’re too big to move in and out of our apartments, or too dirty, or just not appropriate for inside. We don’t mind if the neighbor kids (and their friends, neighbor kids from down the block) use the toys, but what we DO mind is when they trash them. Not a week goes by that I don’t have to rush out to stop the neighbors kids (all of whom are unsupervised and all of whom are old enough to know better- some are even neighbor TEENS) from breaking, stomping on, throwing over the fence, bashing against a tree or otherwise ruining things which AREN’T THEIRS.

This behavior isn’t limited to daycare toys- toys belonging to the neighbor kids themselves and even pieces of furniture are under attack. Recently I had to intervene when a neighbor kid’s friend from down the block found a remote control car belonging to another neighbor kid, somehow determined it wasn’t working (it was switched off) and was about to “fix” it by hurling it on the flagstone path, and just this week the neighbor kids were playing a game that involved putting resin Adirondack chairs upside-down on their heads and chasing each other around, causing chair collisions with trees and gardens, the fence and other Adirondack-chair-hatted children. Why aren’t the parents telling the children not to break things they know belong to their neighbors?

2. To respect other people’s privacy.
My apartment is a basement apartment and my windows are at ground level. If I have the blinds open and someone happens to walk by, they’ll usually glance in the window, their eyes caught by light or movement. I really don’t like people looking in, so I usually don’t open the blinds on the yard side. I just turn the slats horizontal so that light can get it but you can’t really see into the apartment unless you go right up to the window and peer in. Which is what the neighbor kids do, sometimes even banging on the glass to get my attention. ON WHAT PLANET IS THAT OKAY??? Part of the reason (the other being AWESOMENESS) that I put up the bunting in my library windows was to make it harder to see in here, but it just makes the kids try harder to see in! Why aren’t the parents telling the kids that it’s rude to peer in windows like that?

3. To respect our shared space.
As I mentioned, a lot of people share the yard. It often gets messy (especially with the neighbor kids trashing things) so the other day I decided that I would take a trash bag out and clean up all the broken toys. In addition to trucks with missing wheels, cracked buckets and popped balls, I found garbage. Lots and lots of garbage: empty Slurpee and Frappuccino cups, napkins, ABC gum, used band-aids, candy wrappers, empty sunscreen bottles. None of these things came from me, my family or my daycare kids, so I was cleaning up other people’s trash, or rather, other people’s kid’s trash. I would wonder why the parents haven’t told the kids not to leave garbage in our shared yard, but these are the same people who leave trash bags outside and don’t bother to tidy it up when skunks, squirrels and raccoons rip the bags open and strew smelly yogurt cups and ancient couscous on the lawn. These are the same people responsible for the pantyliner incident.

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