Ask Scary Mommy is Scary Mommy’s new advice column, where our team of “experts” answers all the questions you have about life, love, body image, friends, parenting, and anything else that’s confusing you.
This week… What do you do when your neighbors are letting their kids play with other kids in the neighborhood, but you’re not comfortable with it. Do you stand your ground and have your kids resent you for it? Have your own questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Scary Mommy,
I live in one of those cookie-cutter housing plans where each house is basically right on top of the next one. Great for my kids, pure hell for my introverted nature and anxiety — especially now. Throughout this pandemic, many of my neighbors weren’t taking it very seriously and were totally not practicing proper social distancing. They figure we’re all staying home so the risk of spread is small, and that our kids being around each other is perfectly fine because of that. I’ve been pretty strict about not letting my kids do any of the shit these kids are doing, and staying home and only playing with one another. They get frustrated and angry, and I get it, but the way I see it they’re alive and healthy because of it. Now that our area is slowly re-opening, my neighbors are up my ass about playdates and telling me I need to “relax” because we can’t all “hide away forever.” I’m still not ok with this. How do I make myself clear without starting a fight?
Whew. Yeah, so your neighbors are demonstrating exactly how pandemics spread. By not taking proper measures and assuming everyone around you is doing what they’re “supposed” to be doing and allowing a multi-family free-for-all to occur with regularity.
Personally, I think trusting other people requires a deep faith in humanity and trust that I simply do not have. Even if your neighbors are only going to the grocery store (and judging by your post, I’m totally comfortable in being presumptive that they’re not limiting their activities to just that), they’re still going out and risking exposure. Even if it’s extremely limited exposure, by socializing, it’s still added exposure that you and your family are not otherwise getting.
A friend of mine recently pointed out that if someone is irresponsible enough to think that hanging out, touching, having your kids wrestle each other in the backyard, etc. is perfectly fine — well, I’d hate to see what else they think has been totally fine throughout the past two months. But this is all stuff you probably already know, otherwise you wouldn’t be hesitant and worried about playdates.
Here’s what you can do. The next time Angela from down the street guilt trips you, you can say this: “Thank you for the playdate offer. I think I have very different ideas about the severity of this pandemic than you do, and others around here. I know things are opening up slowly, but I’m still not comfortable to ease up on social distancing right now when it comes to my family.”
You can tell her that she’s entitled to her beliefs, and you’re entitled to yours (hers endanger public health, but I’ll let you add that tidbit only if you want to) and all you ask is that she respect the precautions you’re taking to keep your family and others safe.
She’ll lightly be miffed and put off, but she’ll get over it.
Your kids, depending on their age, may not be able to. Especially when they look out the window and see their neighborhood pals playing without them. That sucks. For you and them. Validate their frustration and sadness by acknowledging it, and always have a backup activity to distract them from the fact that their friends’ parents are being reckless.
Hang in there, Mama. You’re doing great.