I remember exactly how old I was when my mother allowed me to leave the house, roam the neighborhood, and not even bother to tell her where I was going, who I was going to be with, or who the parents were. I remember this because IT NEVER HAPPENED.
When I was in elementary school, my parents knew (or had at least met) my friend’s parents. If I were to walk to one of their houses, it was with the understanding that I would go straight there, I wouldn’t leave and go somewhere else without telling my mom, and while I was there, I’d be polite and respectful.
Mostly, I was a good kid, but I didn’t always follow those rules. There were times that I remember leaving one friend’s house to go to another friend’s house, without calling to tell my mom, and feeling both exhilaration and the pit of fear in my stomach for breaking a major rule. I’m sure that there were times I annoyed my friend’s parents by overstaying my welcome, or eating snacks, and drinking their juice boxes, but I can’t remember ever being purposely rude to a friend’s mom or dad.
We’ve become friends with a family in our neighborhood who have kids the same ages as Carson and Ella. Down the street there is a family that also two kids the same ages as ours, but until recently we never saw them outside. A few months ago, the five year old (I’ll call him Jared), whose parent’s we’ve never met, started coming down to knock on my neighbor’s door to play. He would stay for several hours, only to leave when my neighbor would tell him it was time to go home. Jared has also shown up in my neighbor’s fenced backyard, and tried to open their back door when they didn’t answer the front door.
My neighbors have also seen him roaming around the neighborhood alone on numerous occasions.
Jared has come over to my house a few times, usually with my friend’s son, Aiden. Every time he comes over there is some sort of incident. He ran over my son with our Power Wheels monster truck, literally RAN OVER him. I know it was an accident, but I told Jared that he was no longer allowed to drive the truck because he couldn’t drive it safely. When my husband dumped the water out of our baby pool because all of the boys were getting too rough, Jared threw a fit and kicked the pool, then sassed Tate when he told him that he wasn’t allowed to kick our things.
He’s told my neighbor and I to get him something to eat, or something to drink. “…And be sure to put ice in it.”
These are just things that kids do. The interactions between our boys are things that will happen, kids pick on one another, they’ll be too rowdy, accidents will happen. I’d like to think that I’ve taught Carson to be polite to adults, but I can’t guarantee that he’d act like a model child if I weren’t there to watch…which is exactly the crux of this issue.
Where are Jared’s parents?
My friend let her son walk down to the Jared’s backyard today to play with water balloons. From her backyard, she could watch them as they played. About five minutes later, Jared’s dad came outside and told the boys that if they wanted to play, they needed to go back to Aiden’s house.
Apparently my neighbor (and sometimes me) have been designated Jared’s babysitter.
There are so many things wrong here.
1. Jared’s parents do not know us and have never attempted to meet us. I don’t even know what their names are.
2. Jared has spent entire afternoons at our houses, HOURS, and neither of his parents have come outside to check on him.
3. My neighbor and I don’t appreciate the assumption that OH! Sure we’ll babysit your kid, feed your kid, and give your kid drinks for hours on end.
4. My neighbor and I are worried about Jared’s safety since nobody, besides us, seems to be watching him. He regularly crosses the street without looking, because he’s only FIVE-years-old and doesn’t have the best judgment.
5. Jared is FIVE.
I admit that I don’t really like Jared much, but I know that Carson and Aiden enjoy playing with him. My knee-jerk response is to make a rule that Jared’s not welcome at my house simply because he’s kind of a jerk and because he ran over my kid. My softer side, the one that doesn’t want to shame a child who is only five-years-old, is to make sure that Jared understands our rules and to send him home only if he breaks those rules.
My neighbor and I both are unsure how to handle the situation as a whole. We don’t feel comfortable being responsible for Jared, we don’t want to become his default babysitters, but we don’t really know what we should say to his parents. It’s not like we want to say, “Hey, we watch your kid for hours, you should take a turn and watch our kids, too.” Um, no.
But what do we say?