Summer is here. And l lest I forget, the constant ring of my doorbell will remind me. For the most part the neighborhood children are part of the reason I gave up any notion of moving to a secluded location, but those same children are also the catalyst for my dreams of said secluded location.
Being the “Kool-Aid mom” has its perks. The most important one to me is that I always know where my kids are and who they are playing with. There are downfalls though. When kids misbehave the responsibility falls on my shoulders. In theory I follow the old-fashioned saying, “My house, my rules,” but this can be very difficult to carry out. The following tips are my plan of action for this summer. I’ve been practicing throughout this long unseasonably nice spring so I think I am ready. Bring it, summer!
Make your presence known
I work from home and I like “hiding” in my office to do so. The large open window lets me see and hear what is going on, but if I want to maintain order in my yard, I need to make my presence known to the neighborhood kids. Simply being within earshot is not enough; they need to see the whites of my eyes.
Own your authority
As an adult, I can set rules, enforce rules, send them home and speak to their parents. Owning my authority works in most cases, but there are exceptions. Several of the kids that frequent my yard are completely unsupervised at home. One eight year old neighbor boy brings his sisters ages 4 and 2 over every day. They walk across the street to my house and that is where they stay all day until I send them home. Supposedly their non-English speaking grandma is caring for them, but in reality they spend their time here. Even if I do not want the responsibility, it is mine. One afternoon the 2 year old darted into the street. I screamed her name and ran to grab her. Tragedy was averted, but no one from her home even peaked out the window. If she is going to learn, it is up to me.
Maintain order, from day one
During the school year, I teach art classes. The kids in my classroom have a lot of fun, but not at the expense of equipment or other children’s feelings. Laying the rules down at the very first class and then repeating the rules ad nauseam throughout the year lets the kids know I mean what I say. Using the same strategy the summer I have a very specific set of rules for my home. Thankfully my kids know them well and are not afraid to remind their friends. There are also set days that are family only. I overheard this rule repeated to a new set of children that recently moved in, and it wasn’t my children repeating it. A little neighbor boy stopped the new kids from ringing my doorbell saying, “They can’t play today, it is family day.”
Remember the big picture
The kids who are spending long hours playing in my yard have little other options. They are dying for the attention and I can provide them with a safe place. While giving free babysitting is really not my goal in life, I have been privileged to see some of these kids grow up. Over the years several kids have moved unexpectedly. Things are constantly changing and you only have one shot to influence your own kids. I want them to remember fun times, and a peaceful home.
More by Sylvie Branch:
Play with Ice: Free, Fun Summer Activities
Sneaky Sources of Food Poisoning
Picnics are the perfect mini adventure