I grew up on a street where everyone had a few acres each, we had 18, so we didn’t really know any of our neighbors. The neighbors with property touching ours that we did know-slightly-were older and none of them had any kids. So there were never any kids at our house that weren’t invited.
When we moved here, it was my first time living in a neighbor, hence my first experience with neighborhood kids. The first year and a half, we never really saw any kids. None of our immediate neighbors that we knew had kids. Though my one neighbor had grand daughters that came over occasionally. And they would come over and play. They’d all make a bit of a mess, but they played nicely, and I never had any problems.
But then some boys started coming over to play with Caleb. At first I thought it was great, but then they broke things and made messes, left banana peels laying about in random places on the floor, not to mention their arguing! And I realized that I need to set some rules. I’m very laidback. I don’t really have rules for Caleb, but he knows how to behave. These kids didn’t.
I realized that it was my house, and I could make up any rules that I felt like. If something bothered me, I just had to tell them not to do that, even if it seemed random and unfair. The biggest thing that allows Caleb to have fun playing and let me keep my sanity is making everyone play outside. Not only does it keep the terrors out of my house, it also gets Caleb out running around in the woods and playing in the dirt (without me having to do either of those things).
I can also tell them to leave when I want to. I can tell them that they can’t come in, if it’s not convenient for me. It’s not really the same as having a guest–though I am polite and I always feed and water them–because I didn’t invite them. They just show up and some days just stay until I kick them out (nicely, of course).
Probably other people don’t have to realize these things and learn them the hard way, but that’s how I deal with the sometimes ubiquitous presence of neighborhood kids.
What about you? How do you deal with kids that don’t know how to behave? I don’t even like that word and it’s connotations, but some kids just don’t know how to act at someone else’s house. What are your strategies for dealing with feeding them and containing messes?