Wednesday, January 20, 2010

That Neighborhood Boy

Today Sweetness came home from school and she and I were in the kitchen chatting while she ate her after school snack. I heard the front door open and someone making noise by the front hall closet. I assumed it was my husband, since he was out on a hardware store run...but it was not. It was the neighborhood boy. He let HIMSELF in my house and deposited his shoes and backpack by my hall closet. He then came around the corner, prepared to hang out a bit.

Me: "Um...Cole...did you forget to knock before coming into my house?"

Cole: "Huh?"

Me: "You have to knock. You don't live here."

Cole: "But my mom didn't come to the bus stop."

Me: "It's okay. We'll give her a call, but you still have to knock."

This kid...he drives me crazy. Actually, I don't think he drives me crazy. I think his parents drive me crazy. I don't want to be judgemental about their parenting (after all, nobody wants the spotlight on their own parenting, right?) but Cole is NOT getting the life instructions I think he needs.

It isn't that uncommon for me to invite Cole into the house. He shares the same busstop as my girls and sometimes his mom doesn't get to the busstop in time (again, let the parent who has never had that problem throw the first stone). I either walk him home or let him come in and wait for his mom. As long as I don't feel like the mom is taking advantage of this, I'm cool with that. But once he gets into my house, he doesn't have great manners or obedience. He usually wants a snack, but is frustrated when my snacks aren't what he wants. If my big guy is taking his nap, I usually ask that Cole stay away from the upstairs bedrooms...but if I turn my back I know he'll sneak up there. That annoys me.

I know Cole's parents have their hands full with him. I also know that they do try to hold him responsible for his behavior, but I find myself judging their parenting. When Cole wants candy for a snack, I think to myself "who lets a behaviorally-challenged kid eat junk food?". When Cole lets himself into my house, I think "why haven't they taught him to knock first?"

I really want my house to be a place where kids feel welcome. I have this image in my head of my kids as teenagers wanting to come hang out in our basement with their friends instead of visiting the the pot-smoking hangout. In order to create that reality, I think I have to make our home a place where my kids feel like their friends are welcome...even if those friends don't have the best manners, language, or habits. The trick for me, I think, is clearly and kindly letting their friends know what is acceptable in our house and what is not. I guess Cole gives me an opportunity to practice that skill...

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