Summer is almost here in my neck of the woods. School is almost out.
Maybe it’s because we have a lot of kids (compared to the “average” family), but our house tends to be that house—the one all the kids gather at. Kids I’ve never even seen in the neighborhood before tend to end up in our yard.
Honestly, I don’t mind having a yard full of kids. But, it would absolutely help if there were a few ground rules that everyone could agree on. Here is what I would like to kindly share with the parents of these kids:
1. I have a small house, folks. I don’t mind the yard teeming with kids shrieking and running around and the general chaos and mayhem, but I do insist it stays outside. Sure, come in to use the bathroom (please don’t pee in the yard), but other than that, it’s outside while your kid is here playing. With five kids of our own living here, two of them young enough to be potty training and napping regularly, I don’t need the chaos in the house. So, if it’s raining, please don’t send your child over to play inside, OK?
2. I don’t serve meals. Snacks upon occasion, depending on what I’ve found on sale, but that’s it. Please don’t send your kid with a list of dietary restrictions or an expectation of them being fed.
3. Water is always available to drink. Yes, tap water, from the fridge. If Junior won’t drink plain water, then he’ll be sent home for a drink. Or, send a water bottle with whatever in it.
4. Yes, we’re up early, but please don’t send your kid over to bang on our door at the break of dawn. After 10 a.m. is good.
5. Speaking of sending kids over, little kids on their own isn’t a good idea. I have two young minions of my own to wrangle, and I’m not outside all day. I can’t watch your toddlers for you. Sending them over with an older sibling is also a no-go, because your older child wants to play and can’t be counted on to take care of the little person and not to get distracted.
6. I’m not a daycare. Please don’t assume that I’ll keep your kid until you’re done running errands.
7. Water fights are a normal thing here. If Junior isn’t allowed to get wet or dirty, please keep him home.
8. Kids don’t always get along. It happens. So, sometimes, I have to send a kid home and tell them, “We’ll try this again tomorrow.” Popping up at my door to yell at me about your child not being allowed to play in my yard is just going to guarantee that he or she isn’t welcome back. Ever. Kids are enough to deal with without having raging parents on my doorstep.
9. If we’re not home, your child isn’t welcome to play. Sounds like a ridiculous thing to have to say, but having come home to be greeted by kids in my yard, it needs to be said.
10. We may be that house, but we don’t do field trips. So, no, your kid can’t come with us to the lake, beach, store or wherever else we’re going.
11. We’re a family. Sometimes, we just don’t want extra kids around, and want time with only our own. Alone. It’s not an insult to your child. We just need some time as a family.
12. If your child is old enough to show up in my yard unattended, I assume they’re also old enough to see themselves home. Please don’t yell at me for your child being home late. Either come and get them, or buy them a watch and teach them how to use it.
13. I can’t be everywhere at once. The backyard is more on the free-range side of life than the helicopter side. If you’re uncomfortable with that and prefer your child be under the watchful eye of an adult at all times, please don’t send them over.
14. Not everything is free to use. The kids’ bikes, for example. No, we don’t have a shed to put them in, and I’m not having them dragged into the house. So yes, they’re visible. But they’re too expensive to replace, so they’re not for anyone but my kids to use.
15. Please don’t send your kids over with electronics or other expensive stuff. I can’t afford to replace anything that might get broken or damaged, and as I mentioned in No. 7, water fights happen.
See? Not an unreasonable list. Just some basic things so that I can keep my sanity (mostly) intact.
And, if you want to host a dozen or so kids in your yard, I promise my kids will follow your rules, too.