A Real Mom's Neighborhood Manifesto

by Christine Burke
Originally Published: 
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When my husband and I were first dating, we lived in a city apartment building and we didn’t know a soul. Sure, we knew the asshat who always stole our parking spot and the douchenozzle who would come home drunk and buzz our apartment at 2 a.m., but on the whole, we pretty much kept to ourselves. We had friends but not “apartment friends.”

Our first house was in a suburban neighborhood near my husband’s new job. We were new to the game of homeownership and spent those years amusing our neighbors with our landscaping and DIY antics. And while our neighbors would come out to admire our latest plantings (read: laugh at our shitty mulching job), we still didn’t have set of friends to join us for Margarita Fridays or Saturday Game Night.

That all changed when we had kids though. When our kids came, suddenly, people came out of the woodwork. It was like we were finally admitted into a secret club filled with jewelry parties, book clubs, and cornhole tournaments. Our kids had ready-made playdates in the next yard over, and we’d toast our new friends with margaritas every Friday night.

And though on the surface, it looked like everyone was getting along Leave It To Beaver-style, if you looked closely, you could see the cracks marring the perfect neighborhood image. Miffs over not being included at a social gathering, whispers about a neighbor’s new ridonkulous garage addition, and lengthy discussions about neighbors who sold their houses for less than asking price made me wonder if neighborhoods needed rules beyond the stuffy bylaws favored by homeowner associations. Real rules for real neighborhoods. A set of binding rules that everyone followed in favor of neighborhood community and shared pool time.

A manifesto, if you will.

Lucky for you, I have a few ideas about what I’d put in my neighborhood manifesto:

1. I hereby promise to always maintain a freezer full of popsicles and won’t be offended when your kid asks for one in the summer. And I won’t one-up you and buy the expensive ones either. We keep it cheap in this ‘hood.

2. I solemnly swear that if your kid rides by without his helmet on, I will yell, “Get back here and put your damned helmet on before you break your head.”

3. I won’t be offended when you don’t want to come to my jewelry party, or my kitchen utensil party, or my essential oils party. Better yet, stupid parties where neighbors have to pay money for stuff they don’t want to buy are strictly prohibited.

4. If there is a natural disaster, I will help your family in any way I can. This means I will send my husband to help your hubby shovel snow, and I will show up with booze to drink as we watch.

5. I will always get your mail and newspaper while you are on vacation. And I won’t judge if I see “past due” on all of your bills.

6. I promise that if I bring food to a party, it will be store-bought with the price tag still on it. Chips will remain in the bag, dips shall have removable lids, and all desserts shall bear the name of the grocery store bakery. All beverages will be consumed in red Solo cups.

7. I hereby swear to have coffee and wine always at the ready. If you are having a bad day, I will offer you a coffee mug or a wine glass, and I won’t judge you when you say “wine glass” at 9 a.m.

8. When “Thriller” comes on at any gathering, I swear to get up and dance—and do the evil laugh at the end. I will quickly and swiftly turn off any music from 2000 to the present in favor of ’80s tunes.

9. Bus stop duties are to be handled by the parents who are running the least late. All children will be collected and held until the parents running very late get there.

10. If your dog poops in someone’s yard, pick it up. Failure to do so will result in being assigned the annual block party planning.

11. If there’s a death or family emergency, food of the non-Italian variety is appreciated. Neighbors are urged to not show up with lasagnas or any variation therein. Best to show up with booze.

12. If a neighbor puts their house on the market, all other neighbors are allowed to look the listing up on Zillow and critique the house décor.

13. Neighborhood party games shall include Cards Against Humanity, beer pong, and strip poker. Scrabble is strictly prohibited from all Saturday evening gatherings.

14. If you don’t receive an invite to a neighborhood gathering, assume that the hostess either forgot, was embarrassed that she didn’t have enough hot dog buns, or she assumed you’d just show the hell up. Don’t sulk—just come over.

15. Do unto others as you’d have done to you when it comes to your pool. Pools are to be shared with those unfortunate non-pool souls.

Being a part of a neighborhood doesn’t have to be straight out of Stepford Wives or Wisteria Lane. These rules are definitely ones that I could adhere to with little complaint. Throw in a monthly “Beer Money” collection and a block party with Jon Bon Jovi as the musical entertainment, and I’d never leave this magical neighborhood.

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