Get Out Of My Pantry And Other Rules For The Neighborhood Kids

by Karen Johnson
Originally Published: 
Boys from the neighborhood playing with a ball on a grass field
Education Images / Getty Images

Growing up, my house was a popular hang out spot. It was en route to many of my friend’s houses from school. My parents were very social people and had frequently hosted their own friends throughout my childhood, so it was a natural progression for them to let our friends come over a lot as my sister and I got older. Plus, I think they liked knowing our social circles—who we spent time with, what types of kids we were choosing to befriend, etc. So on any given afternoon or Saturday night, there were a few extra kids milling about in our living room, kitchen, backyard, and pool, and everyone usually got along just fine.

My parents didn’t have a ton of rules, but the one thing they demanded was respect.

It covered most of the bases with having kids over—respect our home, our property, yourselves, and each other. And now that my kids are inviting their friends over, I find myself operating under that same philosophy. I like having my kids at home, knowing where they are, and who they hang out with. I don’t mind noise, or a little dirt. If you dump out a bucket of Legos, eh, I’m not worried. Drag every single item of dress-up clothes out of the bin to put on a fashion show? That can be cleaned up. And unless you just went hiking through an animal farm, I probably won’t freak out too much if you forget to take off your shoes.

But disrespect? That’ll get your butt tossed to the curb quicker than you can say Minecraft, little buddy.

Therefore, under the giant umbrella of “Don’t be a little shit when you are in my house or yard,” here’s how that gets broken down.

1. Be kind.

If I hear you bossing other kids around or ripping toys out of their hands or hitting others with baseball bats, it ain’t gonna work out. Now, I know my kids aren’t angels either. And if they exhibit this behavior, you’ll probably have to go home and happy play time will be over. I don’t tolerate unkindness from any kids in my house. Take turns. Share. Don’t poke each other’s eyes out with sticks. You know, the general rules of human decency.

2. Have a little common sense and show some respect that this is our home.

Growing up, I would never have entered my friends’ parents’ bedroom, or a fancy home office with important papers on the desk. It clearly wasn’t a place to play. Kids, stay out of my bedroom. There are no Barbies or video games in here. OUT. If I say “Don’t climb on the patio table,” or “Don’t touch that electric drill that’s on the top shelf in the garage” then don’t climb on the fricking patio table or touch the electric drill on the top shelf in the garage.

Play video games. Or air hockey. Throw a ball around. Take a bike or skateboard out for a spin. Play with anything that’s an actual toy for children. I’m happy to dole out Band-Aids and ice packs, but I don’t need broken bones and excessive bloodshed. My three kids fill that quota already.

3. If I say play outside, get your butt outside.

It might be because I’m working and have a deadline. Or it’s muddy in the yard and I don’t want that shit tracked through my carpet. Or I just want a hot minute with no one climbing up my ass crack asking for fruit snacks. We have a huge yard, swing set, giant bin of water guns, and I’ll even throw some snacks on the patio. Look, my kids were kicked out too—see them over there? Equal love for all!

4. Get out of my pantry.

I am happy to feed you. It’s why we buy our snacks at Costco. But I’ll decide what the choices are. Since the kids in this house are 9, 7, and 5, we are still in the throes of fruit snacks, popsicles, apple slices, and goldfish crackers. I will put out various plates/bowls of snacks for you all whenever you are hungry. And I anticipate as you all get older, I’ll stock a cabinet and fridge in the basement and say, “Help yourself,” but even then, I’ll decide what goes in those cabinets and in that fridge. Momma’s chocolate-covered blueberries ain’t on the list. Don’t be rummaging through my kitchen and helping yourself. If you’re hungry, just ask.

5. Go home when I tell you to go home.

And don’t ring my doorbell 96 times if I tell you it’s not a good day to come over. 75-85% of the time, I’ll open the door and say, Sure! Come on in. Once in a while, however, it’s just not a good day. Maybe my 5-year-old is a hot mess and I cannot handle another small person in my midst right now. Maybe I have a pounding headache and told my kids to go zone out on screens and not say the word “Mommy” for the next hour. Maybe I’m spring cleaning. (HA! I’m not, but you don’t know.)

And if I do say come on in, understand that there’s a shelf life on that invite. When I’m ready for you to hightail your little butt out of here, read my signal. It usually sounds something like this: “Thanks for coming over! It’s time to go home. Bye-bye!” See? I’m not vague. You’re welcome.

6. Don’t steal my kids’ shit.

I get that you kids all love to swap Pokemon cards and Shopkins and Hatchimals. If it’s a fair trade and all parties are on board, cool. But if I see you sneak something in your pocket on your way out, that’s probably the nail in the coffin for future invites unless you fess up and give it back. I get it—other kids have cooler stuff. My kids have tried to stuff things in their pockets themselves a couple times. You can come back over tomorrow and play with that Nerf gun again. But it lives here, with its 982 Nerf brothers and sisters. In our basement. Mkay?

I think that’s pretty much it. You can be loud, you can play with our stuff, and eat our food. Just don’t be an asshat and I think we’ll get along fine.

Oh wait, one more:

7. Mind your bathroom manners.

If you need to pee or poop, feel free. But please aim that little pecker, flush, and wash your hands. My kids are gross enough, so I don’t need to be wiping pee off of the floor from the rest of the neighborhood boys.

See you kids tomorrow! Love, Mrs. J in the brick house at the end of the street.

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