Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Interview with the Neighbor who doesn't like Noisy Kids

The other day my kids were playing in the backyard on the playset, having a ball when I hear the neighbor behind us (there is a thick hedge that divides our houses so this neighbor has never seen nor met my kids) making some snide remark about the 'noisy kids next door'.

Now just to be clear, my kids were laughing, squealing "weeeeeeeeee" as they were trying to swing higher and higher and yelling "you can't catch me" in a game of tag.

My first instinct was to tell my kids to keep it down but then I thought WHAT?????? No way. My kids are having fun, why tell them to keep it down because someone decides that this is noise? It got me really upset so I posted this event on Facebook and got a mob of support and responses from all my friends. Including one of my very close friends who has no kids and wrote "I'm just like that neighbor!!!!!"

Hmmmmmm. Really? Her name is Laura and she is one of the coolest people I know. How could she be one of 'those' neighbors?

So I decided to ask her if she would agree to be interviewed as the token neighbor who does not appreciate the sounds of children. She lives 40 minutes away from me so I think we will always remain friends, but she graciously accepted the challenge and here is what she had to say:

An Inteview with Laura

1. You are a happily married 40 something woman who is the proud mama of 2 cats. In a few words, tell us a little more about yourself so we have an idea of who we are talking to.

I am a 48 yr old married woman who consciously chose to not have children.  I like children, but only from afar.  There are some kids that I am closely connected to, but I was not their primary caretaker and so I never really had to hang around past the time my attention had expired.  In the last few years I adopted two cats and I love my cats.  Cats can do no wrong in my eyes.  My husband loves kids and is very good with them, he has much more patience than I do.  I work hard, travel a lot and generally spend a lot of time at home with my cats.  I can always find similarities between children and my cats.

2. Do a lot of children live in your neighborhood and describe the ambiance of the neighborhood you live in.

Luckily, not a lot of kids live in my neighborhood.  There have been long intervals of time that children lived directly next door, but never more than a year.  I do not like to live in places with a lot of children.  My neighborhood tends to be very quiet with million dollar views.  It is very tranquil.

3. In general, do you enjoy the company of children?

Absolutely.  When the children belong to the people who are dear to me.  I do not go out of my way to hang out with kids, feel the need to work in preschools, attend children's parties or do anything remotely related to children unless I know the parents.  If I know the parents, I am more than happy to hang out, play, babysit for short amounts of time, whatever it takes to connect with those kids because I love the parents and it's the right thing to do.

4. When you get annoyed by the sounds coming from your neighbors children, is it because they are whining and crying or playing loudly (yelling, squealing, laughing)?

There were some children that lived next door that came from a dysfunctional single parent home.  They were not supervised.  The one child had autism.  They were the loudest, screamiest little monster kids ever.  I hated the noise that they created and tried to just focus on the fact that they had a hard life and it wasn't their fault.  But boy were they noisy, I hated it.  Now, in the house behind me there are kids who are well adjusted, the sounds of them simply playing during the day is loud, but it kind of registers differently in my brain.  I'm slightly annoyed, but it passes.  You would never find me living next to an elementary school.  I'd rather live next to a prison.

5. How does it make you feel when you are disturbed by these sounds? Do you judge the parenting skills of your neighbor or is it simply the children that are bothering you?

As an astute observer, which I am, you can tell what the parenting skills are of the parents by the way the children behave.  If they are screaming and cursing and throwing fits each time they want to communicate, than we got a problem.  If children are simply screaming in delight, yes it's disturbing to me, but the kids are just playing.  You can't get all bent out of shape for normal daily activity. 

6. Would you like your neighbors to change their children's behavior to make you happier and improve the quality of your life?

Absolutely not.  My emotions are my problem.  If I witnessed child abuse, I would certainly report it, but other than that it is none of my business. I would simply choose to live somewhere else if possible.  If I felt that the parents were out of line, I would address the parents directly, but never the children.

7. If you could give a message to moms out there (the few thousand reading this post) on how to handle neighbors like you, who are annoyed by the sounds of their children, what would it be?

That not everyone is a mother.  Not everyone can handle raising children.  Though the chaos of your family is your everyday normal, it is not normal for a single adult or a quiet person with no kids.  Just as you would want people to have compassion for you when out in public dealing with a tantrum, the cranky neighbor should be shown compassion for their disposition too.  Try to communicate with them.  They may just be in judgement of you because they don't know who you are or why you have so many kids.  Try to interact with them and engage them with your children.  Communication goes a long way.  Maybe your neighbor is suffering in some way and your children can actually help them.  One never knows.

In the end, I am very happy I had no children.  It is not in my dispostion to be selfless.  Because I have no kids, I have lots of free time for self discovery and psychology to make myself a better person, which means although I sit in my house and write diatribes on Facebook about the noisy brats next door, I would never ever say anything to a child or a beleaguered parent that would harm them.  In the end, we are all God's children.

Thank you Laura. What I took to heart from this interview is Laura's advice on communication. It just dawned on me that none of my next door neighbors or neighbors across the street from us ever complained about the noise coming from my house (at least not to me). And that's because they all know my kids. We take walks in the evenings in our PJ's and the neighbors all wave and my kids wave back. They let my kids come pet their dogs, they have a relationship with me and my husband. They see the kids playing, riding their bikes. They see me holding them when they cry if they fall and get a boo boo.  The 'complaining' neighbors live behind us in another neighborhood, so to them, its the 'noisy kids next door' not the adorable little munchkins that everyone else sees. 

My compassion goes only so far, and while I am not planning on inviting these neighbors over to meet my kids, I may print out this blog post and stick it in their mailbox to assure them that I understand that they may not enjoy the noise, but I refuse to keep my kids inside watching TV, playing video games or any other sort of indoor entertainment to keep them quiet so the neighbors will be happy. Kids will be kids, and as long as they are safe and healthy and happy, chances are they will be noisy. And if someone does not enjoy the sounds of kids, there are many neighborhoods and retirement homes that cater to that group.

Wishing you all a wonderful week!

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