Thursday, June 10, 2010

good fences make good neighbors

I have a serious neighbor dilemma. We live in a row of four houses which are home to a total of 10 children ages 3-13. There are no fences between our front yards, although ours does have boundary demarcations and gardens that are not supposed to be walked through. There is also no sidewalk on our side of the street.

The kids all like each other, and they play together in the front yards a lot. Because there is no sidewalk, I've been allowing them to walk through my yard to get to each others' houses.

But there are some serious problems with having this mass of kids running free out front. It has been very hard to keep them from walking through our gardens, especially the native plant garden, which I guess doesn't look like a garden to them. They also like to pick things, and they will just pick the gardens bare - and I especially get heartbroken when they pick my favorite flowers off so all I have are stems in my flower bed.

Then there is the fact that our neighbors on both sides have overflowing trash cans, and their trash blows into our front yard.

And the fact that the other children are constantly coming over here and ringing the doorbell, to ask if my kids can play, or to ask for other things. I am giving out bandaids, eggs, sugar, markers so they can get their homework done, and soap. You name it, it feels like they have come over here and asked for it. I don't mind helping a neighbor out, but at some point I wonder why their parents don't stock things like band aids or markers or help the kids get their homework done themselves. And then I'll have to let the kids use my phone when they come home from school and find themselves locked out of the house, too.

There is a class difference - we are the only family that owns the house and there is an obvious socio-economic difference. So I try to ignore things like the broken down minivan parked in my neighbors driveway that she lets the kids use as a playhouse. But at the same time, I don't really want my kids playing in that van - it doesn't feel right to me. And it bothers me that the kids are out past what I consider a normal bedtime, come over here bothering us during the dinner hour, and that the neighbors don't mow or weed or police their own trash.

I can't help it, these things bother me.

I am seriously considering putting up fences on both sides, so they can't walk through. Does that make me a mean person? How much am I supposed to put up with for the sake of a friendly neighborhood? When does "being friendly" and "being a good neighbor" turn into being taken advantage of?

This rant is mostly motivated by the fact that when I came home today, there were two girls pulling down the fragile branches of the cherry tree we planted out front, and picking all the green cherries off it. When they saw me pulling into the driveway, they ran away and wouldn't come back to talk to me when I called them. I went over to their houses, but - of course - their parents weren't home. It just made me so mad.

It's hard to fence a front yard with a driveway in it, but I could fence the sides. But should I?


  1. That sounds incredibly frustrating. We have children in our neighborhood that come over and pick our grapes without asking, and it really irritates me...partially because their noise kept waking my baby up from her naps last summer, but mostly because their parent isn't setting appropriate boundaries: ask before you take things, and be respectful of other people's property. It sounds like you're the most together household in the neighborhood. Not fun.

  2. I'd be afraid to lay out dough for a fence when, since they've spent months already going in and out of your yard, they'll probably feel free to go in and out of the gate whenever they wish.