Thursday, October 21, 2010

Oh, How Nice for Him

My neighbor Conspiracy Guy's daughters come to my house every day.  They are 6 and 4 and I call them the Foster Children.  They usually show up in the afternoon and stay until I'm ready to feed my children supper.  I am of two minds about this.  On one hand, I like having them around, because Hank loves to play with them and it means less of me sitting on the floor playing Legos.  On the other hand, they do require looking after, and they are not the most charming, lovable children.  I'm sorry but it's the truth, bless their hearts.

Now that their dad is home schooling them, they do not miss a day coming over.  The other afternoon they came in and I said, "Hey girls, what have y'all been up to today?"  The older one said, "Doing school, and waiting for it to be 4 o'clock."

I said, "Why, what happens at 4 o'clock?"

She said, "It's when Daddy says we can come over here. Or sometimes it's 3."

So we're on the official schedule.

Just now, the girls and Hank were playing a loud game in the living room and I said, "Hey, if you want to be that noisy you need to play outside, or, hey, I know!  At the girls' house!"  The older girl said, "We can't because Daddy's on the phone and then he's going to sleep."

How awesome for him. 

Actually, there have been many, many times where they have mentioned their dad being asleep during the day.  Sometimes it's that they need to stay out of the house, but sometimes they're trying to get Hank to go play with them over there while Daddy naps. Uh, no.

So I sort of just want some reciprocity.  In my uncharitable moments (which are many), I think, "Wow, it must be great to have me living so close by."  It must be lovely for him to have a couple of child-free hours every day.  But I wouldn't feel at ease with Hank being in his care for an equivalent amount of time.  Also, it's like these girls are on little rubber bands.  If I send them home and it's not actually dark, they are back in about fifteen minutes.  Or I'll see them just wandering around outside.

It's not that I think anything bad is going on over there, I just don't think there's much of anything at all going on over there.  Conspiracy Guy seems like a sadsack who has never been that into the stay-at-home dad thing.  And why is he so tired during the day?

Odd.  I mean, we are way past the normal limit-setting negotiations that you undertake in normal social life with non-odd people.  It's all complicated by the fact that in other ways, like helping us with our trees, he's a good neighbor.

That is all. I just needed to work through a snitty moment.  Thank you for your attention.


Michele said...

I know just how you feel. I was the only stay-at-home mom on our block (it felt like the whole school) which meant that I was everyone's medical contact. I doubt if a week went by that I didn't have a sick kid at home, usually, not my own. I felt pretty put upon at times but how do you tell a neighbor; "Hey, could ya take care of your own kid once in awhile". Of course, they may decided they are old enough to stay home on their own. That just meant the kids would come over looking all woebegone because they were bored.

Megan said...

Jaw. On. Floor.

The {G} Family said...

I, too, am the only stay at home mom on the street. I get the lost kids, lost dogs and even get calls to check on peoples houses. You know...because I have nothing else to do.

By the way...I have always wanted to write a blog like this. I just don't have the balls. ha! How did you get started? And do these people know you are writing about them?

Elizabeth said...


Oh, my. At least I'm not "that mom" (my kids simply have no neighbor friends, so it's not an issue), but I just had a horrible moment of realization, albeit 30 years after the fact, that I'm pretty sure I was "that kid". My mom was always quite the napper. And while I don't recall that my little neighborhood friends and I NEVER played over at my house, neither do I have any specific memories of times that we did. And I do remember playing at their houses. I'm sure that my friends' parents weren't real comfortable about the supervision level at my house. I personally don't let my kids go to my parent's house for a combination of reasons involving that same lack of supervision and her having decided to let my druggie little brother babysit my then-babies the one time I let them stay with her a couple of hours unattended for a brief "date night" attempt. Never again.

Elizabeth-Flourish in Progress said...

I always wonder-Do these parents rationalize this behavior or do they just not care?

I'm always a little ticked off by the parents but then I feel very mixed because the kids are (usually) good kids and offer my daughter a playmate.

I'm never brave enough to confront the parents about using my home as a daycare of sorts, but I know that if I did, they would immediately think that I was selfish and insular and then be mad at ME!

No win situation. At least my kid is having some fun.

Anonymous said...

I'm a little behind on this story. Is there a Conspiracy Wife? And if so, does she know that CG is basically getting free childcare everyday?

I don't know, that just makes me mad. Did he at least send a cake or something when you were in treatment?

Becky said...

Elizabeth the first, it must be hard to not be able to rely on your parents for kid help. Kudos to you, though, for using your judgment even though it's probably an uncomfortable thing.

G Family, as you might have guessed, Conspiracy Guy does not know about this blog. Though it would be a moment of learning and discovery for him if he found it!

I don't know what Mrs. CG thinks. She is the one who works, and I barely ever see her. Like, it's been months and months and months. And no, no cake was forthcoming, but he did do some tree work for us, which was great.

Michele R said...

THERE'S A MRS. CG?? For some reason I thought he was "raising" those girls alone.

Becky said...

Oh yes! There's a lid for every pot and there is a Mrs. CG!

Elle said...

I keep typing and deleting.

I guess what I am trying to say is that unless you want to be holding these girls' hands while they get their first periods to then be accused of devirginizing them with a tampon ... you should prob take steps.

Maybe you could sharpen up yr Tracy-Flick knife & go on over there & minnesota-nice it up with Mrs CG. Just girls. "Hi, honey! This is so embarrassing, but I was just wondering if you have any tips for making my co-parenting relationship with CG a more equitable arrangement. He's kind of lazy, don'tcha know?" You can work on that, but first: you'll need a freshly-baked pie.

Elizabeth said...

Trying to get with Mrs CG does sound like a good plan--if only to satisfy what must be insatiable curiosity (ok, ours, even if not yours!) about what's up with all that. If nothing else, it would be interesting to hear her take on how the homeschooling thing came to be and see whether she's received the promotional flyer yet for your daycare center. Of course, if you were really mean, you could always plant a few little seeds of horror in her garden--maybe go on enthusiastically about how you've been so looking forward to dancing naked under the full moon with your coven on Halloween night and how you just know she and her girls would have an amazing time if they came...

Anonymous said...

i don't think you are being snitty at all!! He is taking advantage of you and you might consider setting some limits on the homeschooling with becky and hank curriculum he has going there.

Beth said...

Goodness, look at me, I go AWOL while planning and executing Planting Day at the elder's school, and I miss FOUR posts! The horror. Not nearly as horrifying as CG, though. What. The. HELL? I just don't get it. Between him and Frenemy, you've got a sitcom on your hands. Or a melodrama. Or, more likely, a tragedy.

It sounds like most of your interactions are with these girls. How often do you ever talk to CG himself? Does he ever thank you for raising his children?

My word verification is "ethic," which I think is the ether trying to give CG a hint. Cause he AIN'T gettin' it.

Elizabeth said...

Just tell yourself that one day you'll want ALL kids over at your house because that means you know where YOUR kids are. There's something really satisfying knowing that YOUR HOUSE is "the place to be."

puncturedbicycle said...

Oh my word, if this is you being snitty, you must be the most gracious person ever.
I'm so snitty that there's a whole different word for it.

Elle said...

You know, Becky, I put this in my deep-o-lator for overnight frying, apparently, because when I woke up this morning, I was still thinking about it.

I just typed and deleted a bunch of stuff because it takes up too much space. It defied my graphic aesthetic. But there are 2 parts to this: 1. CG is inert. Also, a bad word. 2. Those girls don't have anyone taking care of them! I would not want to be friends with the person who would leave them in the lurch! But also, if you take care of them, then CG can not micromanage what happens at yr house, i.e. the video game thing. People who want their children cared for in their magical ideal need to a. do it themselves, or b. direct an employee.

Talk to the girls & Hank about evolution next week and in the fallout, assert yrself & define your boundaries.

Man! CG should have been driving you to radiation, Becky. Why didn't we think of that?

Jennifer said...

I like Megan's comment and I had the same reaction. This whole situation is blowing my mind! Good luck!

annie said...

(just discovered your blog. you owe me 6ish hours of my life back as I "caught up"...)
As a mom about 10yrs down the road from you: Perhaps a quick, cheery phone call to CG (! great names btw) mentioning the increasing homework etc that is occupying your early afternoons with DD and if he could just call and make sure it is a good day for daughters to pop over? Making him own the every day phone call and re-enforcing it when the call doesn't happen may drop the visits?
I am, as the mother of three boys and the site of the neighborhood armoury (bad dad, bad dad), "the house." It really is a good thing in the long run, even on the days when my snack food is devoured in minutes and the oven is on and the cookie sheets are left everywhere and the sink is full......For years I've just sighed, increaded the food and martyred on--and suddenly I have 16 year old boys who are not scared to talk to me, who text me little tidbits I should know (ex: "C. got invited into Ntl Honor Society and didn't want to tell you because of the extra service hours"....)So, the balance between being taken advantage of and the chance to mean something in lives of neighborhood waifs....truly a balance! Good luck.
PS--you are a fabulouse writer/storyteller!

Crystal Lynn said...

I am wondering what is going on in that house. I would be very uncomfy if my young children were in someone else house while I took a nap. Just so odd to me. The fact that he actually sends them over while I can only assume you really dont know him well.
I am a single mom, and I tend to have my childrens friends over my house. I like it that way. I love the fact that I am the house that all the kids love coming to BUT every single day at 4pm while dad sleeps is very odd!!

nova said...

Just playing devil's advocate a little bit here, but that dad probably works nights.

Or maybe he's lazy.

But yeah, either way, he should at least check with you to see if you don't mind babysitting!

janimal said...

Those girls are lucky to have a sweet neighbor like you. Because if you weren't there, I bet CG would still be napping and sending them out of the house to wander. I wonder if Mrs CG knows her kids are off at your house while Daddy sleeps? My guess is that she does. I hope they appreciate you.

There is a troubled preteen girl in our neighborhood who comes around a lot. Started with us saying hi while we were outside playing and has grown from there. It's new thing for us as rookie parents, and we didn't know how to react given she is so much older than our toddler daughter. But we thought about it and I realized if I lived at her house, I would want to get away as much as possible too. So we welcome her.

BUT - my husband is a SAHD. And when she shows up to play, we don't think it's a good idea for her to come in the house if I'm not there. If I were home, I think we would have a "foster kid" too.

Keep on being awesome.

Becky said...

Janimal, good call on not having her over when you're not around.

Nova, he doesn't work at night. Unless porn is a job now. Oh I am kidding! I have no idea what he's doing. I get it, though. There are many afternoons when I could use a nap or when I zone out on the couch in between requests for juice or to play Batman.

Annie, glad to have you! I am definitely getting the message that it's good to be the house where all the kids gather. I'm sure it will be more fun as they get older too.

Elle, totally. I can't remember who gave me this line to use (one of you guys) but if it ever comes up, I'm going to tell him, "Well when the girls are at our house, I just treat them like part of the family," meaning they can watch Spongebob and be in the presence of my microwave while it's running, and also my Halloween decorations, which as they've told me, "celebrate dead people."

Also, several weeks ago I overheard Laura telling the girls, "Oh yes, boys CAN marry boys." I figured that this would create pushback but so far, not.

Gen said...

See, I'm going to remember this post when I'm complaining about how done I am living in the city. Because, living in the city, you'd never just send your kids over to someone's house. Unannounced. Every day. You're a good woman to foster them.

Jane said...

Ooh. That is an awkward problem. It sort of reminded me of a Miss Manners question sent in by a couple who lived in a neighborhood that frequently lost power. They had a generator, their neighbors didn't, and whenever the power went out the neighbors were knocking at their door wanting to take hot showers in their bathroom or catch their favorite show on TV. It's not that they minded any particular incident, but over time they had started to feel... taken advantage of.

Miss Manners' solution was to sometimes just be unavailable. Just say, "I'm sorry, this is not a good time," and resist any efforts to draw out a further explanation. Because, really, you don't owe people either the use of your home or an explanation for why you won't give it to them.

Maybe a similar policy would cut down on visits, or at least make CG realize he needs to arrange things with you in advance?

Amy said...

I know where you are: the Valley of Decision. Does the inconvenience of the Foster Children coming over everyday outweigh the fact that Hank likes to play with them *and* that a conversation about it with CG would likely be a surreal, soul-draining experience?

That's a toughie. It would drive me nuts for sure. But what's sad--and I've seen this happen with them--is that if you tell them it's not a good time to come over, then they're just wandering around the cul-de-sac on their own. And I'm sure he has no idea. In this day, I can't imagine not knowing where my very young children were at a given moment!

That's hilarious about the waiting for 4:00 thing. I bet he uses that as an inducement for them to do their school stuff. You're the carrot, Beck!

Becky said...

Yes! Exactly, yea, I walk through the Valley of Decision.

Today they didn't show up until 4:20. The three of them happily took apart the book room for a while, then I told them that if they all went out in the backyard and climbed into the playhouse, I would give them juice boxes.

And the pay-off is clear. Hank is occupied and not staring at a screen and I am not having to fight with light sabers.

Keely said...

Oh my gosh. He is TOTALLY taking advantage. Since you don't feel comfortable with the level of reciprocity, I like the idea of requiring him to phone first.

Although...if you're "unavailable", those kids will likely just be wandering around the street. Yeesh. Dilemma.

Becky said...

Exactly, Keely, that's the thing: I could lean in the direction of limiting their time here and probably do it. I just know that wouldn't lead to anything better for them. And it doesn't cost me anything to have them over here, except it makes me snarky from time to time. It's like I just want those parents to perform better. Which is next to impossible for me, a neighbor, to socially engineer.

Hyphen Mama said...

OK... I'm coming out of the stalking closet to comment. I stumbled upon your blog recently (maybe googling "painted pumpkins"??) and have loved catching up. You are my hero on so many levels.

I'm the only stay-at-home mom on my block and I am the "foster mom" to 4 kids from 3 different homes. Some days we end up with one girl from 9am and send her home at 7pm, having fed her several meals. Her grandma "sleeps" during the day and we know nothing except her parents don't want her and spend a little time in jail every now and again. Another boy, whom we call Tornado, is the only child of 2 medical professionals who send him across to our house unannounced so they don't have to spend that 1 hour a day with him that they're home. The only factor is that both of my kids LOVE having these kids over, or else I'd put a stop to it. Our house rule is known far and wide: We close down all playdates at 5pm sharp. Unfortunately, sometimes the one 8 year-old girl is known to wander the streets (we are in the city) until whoknowswhen.

I love some of your readers' comments and suggestions. What wonderful readers you've got!

Fabulous blog. I love seeing a new post in my reader.

Becky said...

OMG Hyphen Mama! You win the absolute prize for neighborhood parenting. That is just amazing.

And I'm so glad you commented so I can find YOUR blog and scour it for tales of your fellow, um, parents. Though that seems too strong a word!

Also, thanks so much for the kind words. And I do have the most awesome reader buddies. They are sharp as tacks, I swear. Welcome!

Lisa Lilienthal said...

ok, miss becky, dr. lisa here - I think CG is seriously depressed - I'm sure some real doctor in your readership will back me up here - not that that makes it ok for him to use you for free daycare ... but bless those little girls' hearts and thank goodness they have you!

laura said...

I haven't stopped thinking about this post. Mostly because I was guilty of that guy's behavior and Lisa Lillianthal hit the nail on the head. He's depressed and the discription of his behavior flashed me back to my own childhood of my perpetually nappish mom and my own experience with depression when I chronically sent my boys to the neighbors house (one of whom actually still speaks to me after my lesbian exit from Stepford Knolls). I hope he gets some help. It's terrible growing up with a depressed parent.

I'm all better now and am eternally grateful to the mom's on the block who helped me through a hellish time in my life because my husband was useless. Besides that it all evens out in this crazy thing called life and a couple of the kids from that time have spent lotsa time at my house in the past few years.

And I don't blame you for being "snitty" about it because you should be napping each afternoon.

Jenni said...

So, basically, you babysit his kids so he can nap? And don't you feed them sometimes too? Not cool, Conspiracy Guy. Not cool.

Matt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Becky said...

(Heh, that was me commenting from Matt's computer, logged in as him and thus making it look like he was breaking his perfect record of never commenting on this blog. Anyway.)

Laura, I have read your comment several times now to absorb it. Thanks for sharing your experience. I tried to click through to your profile; I am dying to hear more about your lesbian exit from suburbia. And I wish that I'd thought of Stepford Knolls!

I think you and Lisa and others are right, he does seem like a depressed person. This points, for me, toward something that is my ongoing struggle: being more compassionate to people who, for whatever reason, I find difficult.

laura said...

Shoot, I was hoping the deletion was something spicy and provacative! Becky, it's hard to be compassionate when someone is using you and you have your own hurdles to face. And it is so easy for me to be compassionate ten years and thousands of miles from the situation. Most of the time I'm not terribly compassionate and you can see that in some of my blog entries when I'm whining about my ex-husband and his insipid wife who barely tolerates my sons and hates their dear old dog.

For some reason blogger won't let me link to my website via open id. (if this feels like spam to you, please delete my comment)