Bunnies, bodywash, and neighborhood friends

It’s probably better that you don’t live in my neighborhood, because I would likely judge your kid by some really weird criteria.

Like, stuffed bunnies and bodywash.

It’s been my experience with neighborhood friends that are only children tend to a) lack boundaries, and b) not be mindful of smaller children.  Now, if you have only one child, please don’t get mad.  This probably isn’t true of your child ;).  It’s just been my experience in… two neighborhoods now, for a total of four only-children.

Point “a” manifests itself by kids just walking into our house without even knocking.  Or, blithely inviting themselves into my bedroom while in our home, or opening our fridge or pantry.  Or, pushing past me and our front door’s threshhold when I’ve just told him/her that the children can’t play, because, “I just want to tell you something.”  And so on.  With a little training and clear guidelines, these issues are usually quickly circumvented.

Point “b” is a little more problematic.  Maybe it’s because our school systems are so age-segregated, and if there is no one else younger at home, perhaps an only child may have very few opportunities to develop the everyday skill of patient, careful play that is required when there are littles in the underfoot.  I have found it a lot harder to instill in neighbor kids a value for smaller folks.

We have a neighborhood friend, who is a couple of months older than my oldest son, and is a friend to both Ethan (who is 12), and Grant, who is nearly 10.  He’s an only child.  He is very polite (other than the pushing past me thing), and I have developed trust in him that he’s not going to play or speak… culturally inappropriately, which is a great relief.  His interests are very similar to my boys’ and they all enjoy playing together.  He seems to have a few tics (literally), but frankly, with all the various weird issues my own kids have, this makes me more comfortable with him.  The only problem is that he is absolutely reckless with smaller children, and has no patience with them whatsoever.  He regularly plows over 3yo Audrey (who continues to adore him), has open contempt for 7yo Wesley’s comparative immaturities, and I haven’t even attempted having baby Fiala roam around when he’s over.  Recently, we took about a 3 week break from playing with him, as he ripped into Wesley (only verbally!) at the park, and Wesley came running home with snot and tears streaming down his face… then, when I confronted the friend, he denied the whole thing, even though there were other witnesses…  I wasn’t sure if the friendship would ever recover.  But, kids prove to be more resilient than moms, because they’re all back playing well together again.  Maybe it’s because he has a pool and we don’t.  Still, though, I have been a bit on edge with him, given how he treated Wesley.

Yesterday, he came knocking on the door.  Ethan was at a different friend’s house, and Grant was running a fever, so I had to send him home.  As he turned to go, he said, “Wait!  I forgot!  I have something for Audrey!”  Me, shocked, “You have a gift for Audrey?”  He confirmed this, and was ready to run home and get it, when I told him I’d call him when Audrey woke from her nap, which I did.  He came back, bearing a large stuffed ivory-colored bunny with pink ears and paws, and a pink bow around its neck.  Apparently, he’d attended a 4th of July parade in a small town, and the riders on one of the floats were tossing stuffed animals out for the kids.  He snagged the bunny, and said he immediately thought of Audrey.

I was stunned.  He went up about six notches in my estimation of him, and I felt my heart softening as Audrey buried her head in the bunny’s fuzz.  Lord knows we do not need yet another stuffed animal, but I was bowled over by the friend’s kind thoughtfulness.

Last night, we were watching the Diamondbacks beat the Padres (woo hoo!  They’ve won a whole three games in a row!), and an Axe bodywash commercial came on.  I hate Axe.  It is clearly marketed to young men to cause them to foolishly believe that, if they wear the body spray, young women will literally be attracted to them with some sort of violent magnetic force.  I don’t agree with the shameless marketing.  I don’t agree with the premise.  I cringe at the innuendo and outright sexuality of the commercials.  In fact, we usually have our boys turn our eyes away from them.  I didn’t this time, though, and Ethan, after thoughtfully and bemusedly observing the commercial, turned to me and said, “Mom.  Matt* has Axe bodywash in his shower.  And he has that body buffer thing, too.”  What??!!??  The kid in question is nine.  Almost ten.  But, still.  NINE!! Why in the world does a 9yo think he needs to attract the ladies????  And why in the world would Matt’s mom buy such an item for him, to let him try to attract ladies?????  Here we are, as parents, saying, “Turn your head, boys!” and Matt’s mom is thinking, “I will buy that for my son!”

I suddenly — even though I know Matt’s mom fairly well, as Matt was on the boys’ Fall Ball Little League team last autumn — had doubts about my sons spending time in Matt’s home.  Ugh.  I still haven’t decided what to do there.

———

*not his real name

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About Karen Joy

I'm a partially-homeschooling mother of six -- 3 boys ages 19, 17 and 15 years old, and three girls: 11, 8, and 3. I like birding, reading, writing, organic gardening, singing, playing guitar, hiking, the outdoors, and books. I very casually lead a very large group of homeschooling families in the Phoenix area. I have a dear hubby who designs homes for a local home builder and who is the worship pastor of our church. I live in the desert, which I used to hate, but now appreciate.

Posted on July 7, 2009, in Friendships, The Kids. Bookmark the permalink. 24 Comments.

  1. ahhhh – the ever present “what to do with neighbor kids”. So hard. Glad to hear that he is starting to take notice of the little ones.

    Is Matt* an only child? Does he share the bathroom with anyone else, an older brother or Dad maybe? While I TOTALLY agree about the Axe soap commercials, wait to dump the kid with the proverbial shower water. There may be a good reason why there is that soap in the tub. Here’s hoping!!! 🙂

    • He is an only child, too!!

      Unlike the other kid, Matt* has an overdeveloped sense of hipness, so… I guess I’m not too surprised. And, I don’t think that one thing will keep me from letting my boys play with him. But, it was definitely a reminder about what may go on in friend’s houses that I’m not aware of.

      And… based on similar commercials, I swore I would NEVER use Herbal Essences, until I stayed over at a friend’s, and she had one of their conditioners that worked wonderfully on my hair, and I’ve been using it ever since. 🙂 So, you’re right in any case; I shouldn’t be too quick to jump to conclusions!!!

      • I was going to say the same as Lori said about it maybe being someone’s who is older. I don’t like those commercials either and our family actually laughs out loud at them and scoffs at them but my husband or my son (who is older than yours) – can’t remember which – got some of that for Christmas or something once and they both actually do really like the stuff. We don’t buy it much – partly because of their advertising practices but partly because it’s much more expensive than similar products with a different name.

        I did have to laugh after reading this comment of yours though, Karen, because I hate the Herbal Essences commercials too -more than the Axe commercials! – and I’ve sworn I will never buy their products because of them! So, we all pick and choose our battles with product companies I guess. So, I wouldn’t worry too much about the boy using this. 😉

  2. Oh, we have neighborhood kid issues too. Really with parents who think it’s appropriate to send their kid over at 5 pm, which is when he gets home from all-day day care, but is when we’re sitting down for dinner. And when I tell him, politely, that we’re eating dinner, he says, “okay” and then comes back the next day at the same time. And the next day. Same time. And grabs toys from the other kids. And calls adults bad names.

    We actually have just taken to saying, ‘No, A can’t play today.” He usually says “Whyyyyyy” and my husband says, “Because we said so.”

    It doesn’t help that the sister of the kid, who is six years older, was trying to get me to set up a playdate, saying, “They never play together!” I said, gently, that I knew it stunk for her brother that he is in day care all day. But he can’t come over at our dinner time–we do keep to a family schedule–and expect us to change our schedule for his convenience. And I hate that the parents, instead of talking to us about the issue, just whine to another neighbor about their kid not playing with our kid…and that neighbor saying to me, “I just think everybody should play together!” To that I told her, “Well, you know, not every personality is going to click with every other personality. Expecting everyone to get along is kind of silly. We’re all so different.”

    Ugh.

    • I think our society has really devolved into passive-aggressive behavior, like instead of talking directly with you, complaining to the neighbors. Ugh, indeed. I like directness. Kind directness, though! I think what you said about not every personality clicking was a good response. I probably wouldn’t have been able to think of anything that appropriate on the fly!!

  3. it could also be the result of a clueless grandparent purchase or whatnot. “hm… he’s a boy… this is for boys… it’ll do”. my 7 year old at the time nephew once got aftershave in his stocking from greatgrandma.

  4. Oh brother, Karen. That would drive me crazy! Both the older sister and the gossip!

    Karen Joy, thanks for sharing about the marketing of Axe. I had no idea! I’ve never gotten any, but I considered it for one of my kids who doesn’t have his own scent yet.

    When my boys were just starting to stink like men (and one of the neighbor kids made a big stink about it in public) , I tried to find body wash and deo. that wouldn’t smell like old people. I think I picked up Adidas and the updated version of Old Spice. (Old Spice Sport maybe?) It was solely based on the fragrance. We didn’t watch much t.v. so maybe there were similar commercials about those products, but I didn’t know about them.

    I, too, have have noticed that onlies seem to be socially awkward (to give them the benefit of the doubt) around friends’ siblings. One little neighborhood boy was not very nice to my youngest. He only wanted to play with the big kids, and he made that clear. How ironic that he didn’t want to play with the only boy in our family who was interested in playing with him!

    • Esther ~ Was your “big stink” comment intentional? That made me giggle. I’m sorry! It sounds like it was not a good situation for your sons, but them raising a “big stink” over body odor made me laugh! And commercials… Sports are the WORST!! THE WORST!!! Here we are, trying to watch baseball as a family, and all the commercials are for sex-filled “comedies,” various men’s products — including the inevitable ED products or urinary control medications, etc. Ugh.

  5. glutenfree4goofs

    The bunny story brought me to tears. The inconvenience of those kids in your life (barring real danger) may be Gods way of helping instill those better qualities in them that they wouldn’t naturally get in an “only” home. I have one elderly neighbor (not saved) who I love and struggle with at the same time. I have to constantly pray “Lord, protect my ideals but don’t let me burn bridges!” I hope this is relevant it seems a little off topic but I felt I needed to share it. 🙂

    • Jess ~ This isn’t really funny, but in our last house, we were having trouble with an elderly neighbor, a single man. I got total “child predator” vibes from him (and maybe from the Holy Spirit). It became very problematic, because I would have to be outside with my kids 100% of the time, because he’d always show up outside as well, to work in his yard, or whatever, when my kids were out. I started to pray in earnest about what I was going to do, and asked God to solve the situation for me. And the guy — seriously — died of a stroke a couple of weeks later. 😮

  6. I think we all have those kinds of kids in every neighborhood. These are the kids whose parents couldn’t care less about the impending intrusion into our haven called home. I realize that these kids need to be shown love and concern, but it seems we have to go that extra mile and also train them (simultaneously) the basics of manners. I feel that God places certain kids in our lives because we may be the only christian example for them. I pray for the children that walk through my doors.
    I hope you are well. I made your cuban pork dish. YUM!
    Take care,
    Jeanne

    • Hi, Jeanne! I was thinking about you this afternoon. I need to call you! Anyways. I have mixed feelings about ministering to other kids. That’s probably bad…. but I still highly prefer that my kids spend most of their time with “good” kids, and have them play with the less mannerly kids only once every week or two. It can be so draining to essentially mother a wayward child. But, you’re right, they need our prayers and love. We had some trouble with a couple of brothers whose parents let them run wild… and I have to confess I was relieved when they moved. It’s all a balance…

  7. Your titles crack me up! I just can’t help but read to see what it’s all about. We are fortunate, I guess to not have those neighbor problems. Kids here tend to stick really closely to school friends, and the few neighbor friends my kids had before elementary school age became really scarce once they started school. Reading posts like this make me gald for that (they do have friends, of course, just not close ones in the neighborhood). I also just realized that we don’t have any friends who are “onlies”. Pretty amazing, considering the dropping birthrate in Japan!

    The body soap thing is really strange, but then again, even without the innappropriate advertising I wouldn’t be letting my kids lather up with all those chemicals! Yuck!

    • Sue, for a long time, I’ve been cutting back on food chemicals, trying to be as natural and simple as possible. Now, I’m branching out into personal care, too. One thing I’ve recently done is switch to “real” castile soap, especially for my little girls (for the rest of us, I’ll just switch when our current soaps run out). I remembered reading that you could use castile soap on hair, too, so I tried it on my 3yo. It worked great! A couple of days ago, though, my husband was hugging her, and asked in bewilderment, “Why does your hair smell like a bar of soap?” 😮 Hahahaha!

      Since kids tend to stick only with their school friends, where do you find your kids’ friends now? Older family friends? Sports? Church? Just curious. We, too, have friends from all those places, but I think we’d really miss having “everyday” neighborhood friends.

  8. My kids just have never really had “every day” drop by friends. Their best friends are all from church and the kids of my closest friends. When they were little we got together either at church for various things, or at a park three to four times a week. That was more than enough for us. Now days we see those same friends anywhere from two to four times a week, either just getting together to play, or in organized activities, or church. I know it probably seems like a small world for a lot of people, but that’s what we have for now, and we are happy.

    • I don’t think three or four times a week sounds “small world”!! We have gone through stretches with no neighborhood friends, and done similarly, only seeing friends maybe 2-3x/week! Right now, though, we seem to be “rich” in boys in the neighborhood with whom we can play! There are five families within close walking distance that the boys play with; I don’t think we’ve ever had so many!

  9. So this reminds me of our pool sneaking kid. I still have yet to actually see parents over there. Also one of the other kids in the neighborhood got a pool and so now he goes over there all the time. I feel bad, but the last time we let a neighbor child come over we found her telling the kids inappropriate things.

    And about the Axe. I laughed the entire time I was reading that part. We don’t recieve any channels good enough to watch tv so I have never seen their commercials. But BB has asked for it several times. He says all I buy are soaps that smell like girls (and he is sorta right) and he wants to smell like a MAN! I don’t think that he is the least bit interested in catching girls. But he wants to be thought of as growing into a man so this is part of it for him. I have actually been buying some for his birthday. HMMM….now what to do?

  10. As a 9-year old I would have been much more interested in the flame-thrower potential of AXE body spray than in its purported slut-attracting powers.

    http://www.denverpost.com/breakingnews/ci_12083387

    • Hahahahaha!!!! 😆 I probably shouldn’t laugh at that. The thing that’s so ridiculous about those sorts of “news” stories, is that it raises awareness in teens that they can light their cologne on fire, when previously, they may have not been aware!!

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