We have some neighbors with kids. These kids - and I don't know for sure how many there are - range in age from toddler to mid-teens. They are very sweet kids except for when they are throwing their trash into our front yard. They are very sweet kids except for when they are screaming at each other. Also, they are very sweet kids when they are helping me shovel the driveway.
Back in February when we had that giant snowstorm with more snow than I'd seen in recent memory, I was out one Saturday afternoon shoveling. Some of these kids were eying me from their front porch. After several minutes, they wandered over, probably out of boredom, with an extra shovel. Without a word, we were all heaving snow together. When it came time to dig my car out (it was completely buried) and move it out of the way, they even helped me do that.
With their assistance it wasn't long before I was salting the last of the driveway, all of the snow pushed aside as much as possible. I suggested we have some fun and build a snowman. That really got them to open up. I think by this point I had 4 of them over in my yard - a 5 year old, a 7 year old, a 9 year old, and a pre-teen. None of them had gloves or mittens, so I dug some out of the chest and passed them around. They were my "thank-yous" for the help with the shoveling.
As they started chatting more and more I learned that they are often left home alone. When their mother IS home, she sleeps all the time. If she isn't sleeping, she is on the computer. They all have different fathers, none of whom is ever around. They refer to each other as "my sister on my dad's side." and so forth.
We had fun working on this snowman. She turned out to be a snow-lady, actually. When we were done they went home and I went in the house.
The point of this post:
For the next several months, and it continues now, these kids are constantly coming over to our house. They see me pull in the driveway and up the driveway they run. If the gate is closed, they will open it and come in the yard. One evening Ryan and I were having dinner on the back deck and the 5 year old came over, up on to the deck, pulled a chair up to the table and proceeded to stick her grubby little hand in Ryan's salad bowl and started pulling out lettuce leaves. She now tries to walk right in the back door, without knocking, if I don't have it locked.
Do you think the mother knows this is going on? I'm sure she doesn't. We feel incredible sorry for this family. It's obvious they are living in poverty and that the kids are emotionally neglected as well. There is a fine line, however, I feel that we're walking. We can't teach these kids that it's OK to come over whenever. There are awful liability issues here, too, but we want to be good influences on them. A couple of my friends suggested calling CPS but I'm on the fence about that.
Anyway, remember those gloves I handed out in February? When I rounded the corner yesterday afternoon on my way home from work, a pair of these gloves - bright pink- was lying in the middle of the road in front of their house.