The Ideal Neighborhood? Slow the Hell Down and Notice that My Kid is There, Please


March 25, 365 days of writing

Prompt: Idyllic – What does your ideal community look like? How is it organized, and how is community life structured? What values does the community share?

Sometime around three years ago, we began to have company, consisting of neighborhood kids who had come over to play. They would walk to our house to play with our son, or my son would simply pick up passers-by who were on their bikes, or on their way to some other destination. We live in a subdivision, the first house on the right after the first turn after the entrance. When cars approach our intersection, they can go right, straight, or left, but since straight leads to a cul-de-sac, and most of the homes here are to the right, we have a good bit of traffic in front of our house.

In spite of the fact that we have a good many young kids in our neighborhood, and it is no secret that they love to ride their bicycles or scooters, there are plenty of jerks who drive fast and disobey the stop signs. When I am in the front yard because my kid is either playing there, or in the road (which is, of course, perfectly acceptable kid behavior, but only when I’m there), and some person flies around the corner, I throw my arms up to the jerks, WTF-style, and glare as they either slam on their brakes or continue on quickly down the road in total douchebag fashion. One day, an older lady in a Mercedes had the gall to honk her horn at my child while she was talking on her cell phone and speeding in front of my house. On another occasion, a basketball bounced down our driveway and into and across the road.  All the while the ball was bouncing toward the road, a truck was approaching our driveway, and either the guy never saw the ball, which was in very plain sight to approaching cars, or simply didn’t care that he might run over it; he did run over it, just not with his tires, so no harm done. right? This is, very simply, not acceptable.  I’m sure that my incredulous body language will do nothing to curb this slate of speeders who can’t be bothered to slow for a few children, but some people actually do drive cautiously, even stopping (gasp!) if a child should not see them in time to pull over and stop his or her bicycle.

The second, and previously mentioned aspect of neighborhood life which drives me insane are the kids who visit. One child, who was seven at the time my child was six, would ride his bike to our house from a couple of blocks away. He would stay for hours at a time. I did not know his parents, what they looked like, or what their names were.  Hell, this kid may have come from a different neighborhood for all we knew.  What we did know was that he, and sometimes his brother, would come to our house, manipulate the crap out of my kid, and then at some point, we would have to make up a lie to get him to go home. I really didn’t like that child; I felt bad about that, but the simple fact remained that he was really sort of a jerk. Or perhaps I felt so strongly that his parents were jerks that he was guilty by association, although I had never met these people.

So, for my idyllic neighborhood, I have two primary requirements.

One, people drive the speed limit, at a maximum. They should respect the fact that my kid might run out into the road at any moment – even if he isn’t currently in the front yard. Or my dog, or my cat. My dogs are in a fence, and my cats live in the house, but accidents happen, and jerks who can’t be bothered to slow down within 5 blocks of their own homes need to have someone rewrite the book on their irresponsible attitudes. You’re almost there, asshole!  Slow down!

Two, if your kids are outside playing in the road – be there.  Be there to make sure one of the jerks who lives down the road doesn’t mow them down and drive away.  Be there to make sure your kids don’t monopolize three to four hours of some other neighbors’ time who actually is outside with their kids. Also, if you have happened to check with me to see if a visit is okay, please, please Sally, call your kids home before it’s dark so that I can spend some time with my own child, and do something besides watching a group of 12 to make sure they aren’t killing each other.  I love that other kids want to play with my kid, but enough is enough. If you don’t know where your child is, then you are a jerk, and probably need some sort of intervention.

My third option in having an idyllic neighborhood would be for there to be no neighborhood at all.  Is that an option? i know that I specified two rules for the hood, but if you really want the truth, there would be no neighborhood. I would love to have a large plot of land that has no covenants, no rules, and would be so far from the main road that speeders went unnoticed. Pop-ins would be unheard-of, except perhaps for those kids who are completely unsupervised, but there would definitely be no association dues to scrape together every December.  We wouldn’t have a community pool to visit, but neither would we have five unnamed kids in our backyard, while we put the dogs in the laundry room just in case anyone is afraid of them.  We wouldn’t have to scuttle kids away from our pigeon coop, so that later we wouldn’t have to throw out the eggs or babies that were abandoned after being handled by human hands. Yeah, that sounds pretty good.

I guess that, in this third option, we would miss out on the fun stuff, like trick-or-treating in a group, or having an impromptu beer-fest in the driveway with our adult neighbors. There are some things that I would never miss, however, like the speeders and uninvited. They can go ahead and take a note to themselves. Will they read it?  Probably not.  So, this means that I will always be on the driveway when my kid is riding his bike (with helmet), and that I will tend to the scrapes and boo-boos of neighborhood kids who got a little too careless.  I actually like it a little; I just wish that the other parents liked it too.