Raising 'Em Right

Pre-kids, I was the type of person who wouldn’t do anything if somebody cut in front of me in line. It would certainly irk me, but I’d tell myself that person must have somewhere really important to be and wasn’t just a big jerk. What good could come from confrontation, anyway?

But now it’s not so simple. That’s because I often have 2 little sponges with me who are observing and learning from every moment. (And also, commenting. “That lady has a mean face, Mommy.” *Blush!*)

It feels wrong to work so hard at teaching my kids to share and take turns and say please and thank you and then do nothing when someone flagrantly ignores the basic rules of human decency. Like, who spits out GUM on a SIDEWALK? Were you raised in a circus?! (Speaking of which, go see “Water for Elephants.” It’s good. And Reese Witherspoon looks so glamorous.)

Of course, most times these badly behaved people are adults, not kids. And I’m not THEIR mom. But still. It bugs me to see people -- especially fully grown people who should know better -- setting a bad example.

For instance: We share a driveway with 2 of our neighbors, which is common in our area. Over the many years we’ve lived here, one neighbor has claimed the driveway as her own, parking at the end so no one else could get in or out. For the most part, we don’t care. We park in front of our house, and it simply wasn’t something that affected us much. Until...

We were having some work done on our roof, and the contractor needed access to the driveway. A non-issue, right? We’d simply ask our neighbor nicely to park elsewhere for a few days, right? Any normal person would be happy to comply, right? Especially one we’ve been cordial with for years and allowed to use our shared driveway as she pleases.

Instead, we found our requests ignored. First, she “forgot.” Then she left town for 2 days, leaving her car blocking the driveway. Phone calls, knocks on the door, notes on the car – ignored. One morning I was so irate I called the police. They got her to move her car, but the next day it was back. Because the driveway is private property, the police said, there was nothing we could do. It wasn’t nice, but it wasn’t illegal.

It’s hard to overstate how much this incident has upset me. I prepared long speeches in my head, ranging from friendly concern to vicious threats. It’s not fair. It’s not right. Who DOES that?! Wasn’t this woman raised to be considerate of others? To know right from wrong? Were we supposed to ignore her from now on? Tell the kids not to talk to her?

Somehow, this relatively minor issue became for me a metaphor for the monumental importance of parenting. What I teach my boys, through words, actions -- and inaction -- will shape who they become as adults. And God forbid they grow up to be the kind of people who would block a neighbor’s driveway! (On the scale of parenting failures, that’s below serial killer and puppy-kicking but above spitting and not recycling.)

I don’t know, fellow parents. Am I overreacting? Should I go back to worrying about grass stains and who’s eating their vegetables and other things I can control? What would you do?

PIC O' THE WEEK: He finally learned to put the bubble wand in FRONT of his mouth instead of IN his mouth.


Angie Mizzell said...

As the police said, it's not illegal, but it's definitely not nice. You can count to ten (I would definitely have to count to ten) and then talk to your kids about what it means to be a good neighbor. If you need help calming down, read your post again. It's funny.

Shannon @ AnchorMommy said...

Aw, look at that picture! So cute.

Okay, I am TOTALLY with you on this one. I could feel my blood pressure rising as I read it! I am BIG on manners and kindness, and you just don't DO that! If it were me, I would march right over and have a talk with her. I think that you don't want to let yourself be a doormat in these situations. But that's just me. (Please note: I also tend to chicken out when these things happen to me, and end up not speaking up. I often regret it later.)

Ali said...

Sorry, I would be pissed! You have every right. I'm not saying you should blow up at her. She's your neighbour, after all, and you'll have to see her again and again. But maybe use this as an opportunity to teach your kids how to stand up for yourself in a diplomatic way.

I think confrontation, the right way, the civilized way, is always a good thing to practice.

Mom2Miles said...

Thank you guys for weighing in. That helps. I actually did march up & bang on her door only to find she wasn't home, or didn't answer. She's a difficult personality. And there have been signs she may not be "all there," so to speak, so it's extra tough.

Adrienne Gomer said...

Lol, I love this "On the scale of parenting failures, that’s below serial killer and puppy-kicking but above spitting and not recycling." I think that pretty much hits the nail on the head.

Jeni Fairman said...

I am BIG on teaching "common sense" and "common sense" - Many adults lack this and it boggles my mind.

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