This was on my mind today as a neighborhood game of Mary and Laura was raging in my backyard. It's pretty free and easy at the Darwin household, and I'm a lenient mother and neighbor in many ways, but I did have to draw the line at seeing the neighbor girl tramping around dressed up in my boots (which were in my daughter's room because she took them over when I couldn't wear them during pregnancy). Sometimes I wonder if I've set the standards too low and if we'll ever have nice things again, or, more accurately, if nice things will ever be respected. Darwin bought a nice leather chair off of Craigslist, and several times a day I swat a cat or a boy off the back of it. The cat claws, the boy tumbles; a leather hide draped over the back deters the cat, but not much deters the boy in his excess of energy. One of the neighbor girls (we have a lot of girls in the neighborhood) will go into my bedroom and pick up the baby when he starts crying and bring him to me. I appreciate that, actually, and my bedroom is not a sacred parental retreat, but it is the repository of laundry in the house, and I'm aware that my room reflects the fact that I'm about the only person on the street who doesn't have a cleaning lady.
So we're not a showcase house by any means, and the furniture is, by and large, castoffs from the common rooms of the school of hard knocks, but on the other hand, I like having the action at my house because I can keep tabs on friendships and the temperature of neighborhood relations, and the neighbor kids like coming here because we have three times the kids of most families on the street, so even if the particular kid you're looking for isn't home, there's always someone to play with. And I'm glad to be a welcoming house, somewhere kids feel safe coming. A few years ago, the kids on the corner ran over here as the paramedics helped their mom into the ambulance while she was in labor. Recently the ten-year-old with fairly severe autism wandered off from the group walking a neighbor's dog, rang my doorbell, and then headed up to attic to dance a few steps before her sister ran over to fetch her. And that was okay, because it was good to know that she would choose to come to this house.
The various kids are closer to one friend or another, but all friendships are held in common here, as are most possessions and even the beds (though not my bed; I do draw the line there). Will it foster adult sibling relationships? I don't know, but I hope that we're forging bonds now that will hold later in life. Maybe by that time we'll get to have a nice couch.
|The living room all cleaned up -- see the toys put away in our sophisticated storage system on our beautiful window seats. That's the bad couch on the right.|