Friday, May 2, 2008

Getting To Know Our Neighbors

It's never good when the boys swoop into the house and go directly to time-out. It's worse when they twist chairs from the dining room into the front hall, where a parent has more freedom to move than in the tiny space in the back hall by the stairs where they usually sit. Half my mind on making dinner, I tuned in to the lecture in the next room.

" don't throw a rock at someone! Even if she's annoying!"

Wait. Threw a rock? What? I skidded out of the kitchen with a thundering, "WHAT DID YOU DO?" The perpetrator looked up as best he could with his chin superglued to his chest. His brother sat looking equally miserable. Chris walked aimless circles in the living room, hands on his head as if watching a train wreck.

With a burst of self-righteousness, Ross cried out, "She (the girl nextdoor) was annoying me! She was STARING AT US!"

"Maybe she wanted to play ball with you guys. Did you think of that? It might have been nice to ask her to join you."
I tried for calm and reasonable but might have sounded more incredulous.

Head still hanging, Lars put in, "She's not allowed to play in our yard anymore. And we can't go into hers. Because of the stick." My brow furrowed in confusion. The stick? I thought it was a rock. Before I could say anything, Lars continued, "The stick I hit her with last week when it was an accident and I said I was sorry."

Heart in my shoes, I recapped for clarity. "So let me get this straight. Lars, you hit her with a stick last week so she's not allowed to play here anymore. Today, she was looking into our yard wishing she could come over and, Ross, you threw a rock at her?" Chins come up off chests just enough to nod. I let this sink in, unsure what to do next. I fight an urge to join Chris and circle the living room with my head in my hands. Whose kids are these?

Ok, grip. Must find a grip. I take a deep breath, "Ross, you will write a letter of apology and bring it over after dinner, so you can also apologize in person."

His head snaps up, "What? I can't... I mean, you can't... I DON'T WANT TO GO OVER THERE!" I try not to smirk. I might have found a grip! Contrite or not, the rock thrower had the upper hand for a bit there when I didn't know what to do with him, but cornering him between a writing assignment and an embarrassing social call has clearly reasserted my authority.

It took two drafts but a lot less whining than I anticipated for Ross to write his apology. He finished just after dinner and we went over to deliver it. The closer we got, the slower Ross moved, so
I manually propelled him the last few yards to the neighbors' door. I also had to knock, as aliens seemed to have replaced Ross with a lifelike replica rendered in Jell-o. Terrified Tangerine knees or not, Ross managed to hand his envelope to the girl's father, who answered the door, and croaked out a request for the girl to come to the door. While we waited, her little sister filled the time with oblivious conversation as only a five year old in a princess gown can. At last, the girl appeared, also wearing an elaborate ball gown. "I'm sorry," Ross blurted out.

The girl smiled and immediately said, "It's ok, I forgive you," at the same time as her little sister inquired loudly, "For what?" I thought their father was going to burst a lung, he was working so hard not to laugh. Ross took the rising color in his cheeks as a sign of anger though and shrank back into me, unable to say any more.

I nudged him gently and quietly said, "Ross, you need to say what you're sorry for. It's not a secret - just get it out. You'll feel better; everyone will feel better." The girls' father tried to look kindly and used one hand to urge his younger daughter back, away from the door. I could feel Ross' heart beating through his back. We stood there a bit and I whispered, "If you don't do it now, we'll have to come back and try again tomorrow."

"I can't," he whispered and buried his face in my stomach.

I looked up apologetically. "I guess we'll be back tomorrow," I said out loud.

"Bye, Ross," said the girl with a tiny wave at the back of Ross.

"We'll be here," smiled her father. I think he knows how difficult this is, even though I get the feeling his son (now a high school senior) never pitched a rock at another kid.

By the time this is over, Ross and the little girl nextdoor may be old enough to date if a restraining order doesn't get in the way...


Sister K said...

you have to write about part II! oh dear....what did the stick poker have to do?

Rob said...

restraining orders can't stop true love.

at least I keep telling myself that...

The Plaid Sheep said...

Have I mentioned that I love you?
And it's all preserved on the internet to be trotted out on their wedding day.

LMP said...

I used to ride my bike near an old basketball court where some boys about my age liked to play. When I would ride past them, they regularly lobbed sticks and yes, stones, at me. Perhaps it's that boys realize, from an early age, that us chicks have the upper hand. Powerless to do anything about it, they are left with no other recourse but rock throwing (when there's distance) and hair pulling (when the enemy gets close enough for them to notice her hair smells terrific).