Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Pregnancy Hormones Meet the Neighbors!!!

To say I was irritated with the neighbor girls today would be an understatement. To say I YELLED at them would be closer to the truth. It doesn't take much to push this pregnant woman to the limits anymore, and today was no exception. After watching them trying to get Jer to eat leaves, trying to trick Ali into eating Tabasco sauce on chips so it would burn her mouth, watching them pick Jer up and then drop him a few inches from the cement sidewalk on his head, and watch them destroying yet another one of our toys I had had enough! First, I sternly told them to NEVER, EVER pick Jeremiah up again. The next time, regarding the toy, I hollered at them to give it to me NOW when they balked. The third time, after they began running by my door yelling, "You're mean!" and telling Ali her mom was mean and being nasty to her, I totally lost it and hollered at them with a furious red face that I'd had enough of their lip and if they didn't quit I was going to tell their parents what little brats they are! I think I sufficiently scared them for a couple of hours at least.

I admit that I was fighting immature behavior with some immature behavior of my own. I do indeed have this Grizzly Bear Mama instinct that comes out when people hurt my kids and drive me nuts day after day. I'm not excusing my behavior and saying I reacted in all the right ways. I'm not saying that they pushed me into it because we are ALWAYS responsible for our actions and words no matter how others treat us and no matter how hormonal we are. (Remember the Calm Me Down concept of the Gentle Mothering posts? Remember how Scream-Free Parenting taught me not to let others control my emotional buttons?)

A part of me doesn't know what to do with these kids. Being firm with kids who have faced few consequences in their lives and habitually lie, manipulate, torment, and disobey is overwhelming at times. I want to be a godly witness in spite of the few times I've really blown it with them, and I want to be loving, but I hate to be around them when they are teaching my kids things I don't approve of and treating them like dirt. Ali came home saying "What the heck?" this week and though that may not seem like a big deal to some families, my husband was horrified! We were both beyond horrified to hear, "Oh my God" come out of her mouth thanks to the neighbor's saying it often.
Not too surprisingly, I am the second neighbor to get after the girls this week. They got the most severe tongue lashing of their entire lives on Saturday when a neighbor discovered they had her daughter's ballerina outfit and had trimmed it short, the very day of the pictures and the biggest dance recital in town. Apparently she screamed at them in such a way that their mother Lupe was driven to tears and told me later in Spanish that these people "needed a vacation" as they say in Mexico, if they were so upset they would holler at innocent children like that. I do understand the mom's fury when you consider ballet outfits probably run $100 and lessons aren't cheap either! I think that although the ballet thing wasn't intentional (the girls from Mexico didn't realize it was our neighbor Lola's outfit) this angry mom was still smarting from the fact that the girls had slashed her daughter's screen on her window with a butcher knife, cutting out a huge section of it, and had recently dumped a jug of bubble solution on her daughter's linoleum bedroom floor so they could all "ice-skate." They also roam her apartment continually when she's gone as she has a hang-up and refuses to lock it (it's a hippie-I-want-to-trust-people-thing) and I've told her they go in there all the time and probably eat her super expensive organic food but she still won't lock up.

Later tonight, after I'd cooled down a bit, I went out my back door to find the girls swinging wildly on our outdoor swing. They do this CONSTANTLY. I've told them and told them not to stand on top of the back of the swing and stand on the arms of the swing, but to no avail. So, I calmly and very sweetly told them I was giving the swing away and dismantled the swing part. They began using the frame as a set of monkey bars. As much as I wanted to scream and take a sledgehammer to the swing and throw it in the dumpster, I decided to let it go. After all, it has lasted us a few years and though we got it in new condition at a yard sale for $25, the neighbor kids and long winters have taken their toll on it and it's been patched up and no longer has a sun awning and isn't that attractive anymore. I moved the frame to their side of the tiny yard, to their great delight, so they could scream, holler, and throw each other violently off the bars in front of their parent's apartment instead of keeping my kids' awake by doing it in our yard, and decided to completely just LET IT GO! We now have nothing except a grill in our backyard thanks to the neighbors messing with or trying to destroy everything we have ever put back there. We've learned our lesson and keep everything inside, even our sandbox tub, except the bikes and double stroller in the front hallway (and we have made stern threats that they must NEVER touch them!) We've given away our sandbox, exercise bike, and yard toys, and have had to raise flower pots up to hanging pots and have to keep close tabs on our folding chairs. We never cease to find garbage and litter of all kinds in our back and front yard thanks to these girls.

I feel bad for the girls in a way because everywhere they go they seem to make enemies due to the lack of parenting that is so evident in their lives. When you don't give your kids boundaries, or refuse to enforce them, you are setting them up for heartache, failure, and angry people. Lupe, their mom, confided the other day that the older daughter has made her younger daughter's life completely miserable with her constant lies about her sister that get her into trouble with everyone. The older daughter feels that the younger girl (the baby of the family) is spoiled rotten and that her parents don't love her or want her. Perhaps this is why she continually lies to get her sister in trouble. If her sister says, "Daddy is guapo (handsome)" the older sister will tell the daddy that her sister said, "Daddy is stupid." The little one is very deceptive herself, but her life is a lot harder with a big sis like that! I often wonder how these girls will turn out.
In the meantime I pray for patience to endure the hot summer living next to them. We've been checking on rentals but the most recent lead we found was a small 2-bedroom home for $1,150 a month, exactly double what we pay now for a 2-bedroom apartment! The good news is that I don't think Lupe could bear the thought of being around her girls all day either and so she signed them up for as much summer school and swimming lessons and soccer activities as possible so they shouldn't be around as much as I thought they would be originally. Hopefully I can find a way to help them go to 5-Day Club this summer which would be really cool.


Josh & Laura said...

Wow Lindsey, I had no idea rent was so expensive in WY! I feel awful for complaining about our morgage payment now, which is WAAY under what you're paying for rent! I pray you will find a house of your own very soon, and that you will continue to strive to be more kind and patient. I love how honest your post is.. makes me realize I would be the same too! I'll be praying..

Anonymous said...

I truly believe that you need to do everything in your power to be the best witness to this family. However, sometimes it comes to the point where you need to completely sever ties, even though they are your next door neighbor. Maybe explaining to the mom that you are no longer able to have a healthy relationship with them because of the actions of her daughters will finally give her the motivation and the realization that she has a huge problem on her hands. Sometimes it takes tough love to show a person that you truly do care. It may be hard to avoid them and ignore them but all of you not just your kids might be better off putting a barrier in between.

Anonymous said...

Enough is enough. If you are going to allow your children to be around them you must have rules and consequences. If they don't follow your rules, give them a warning, and if they continue then they need to go home to their mother. Write the rules out--post them in your home-and review over it with them the next time they visit. If you don't use "tough love" now--it will only continue to downward spiral! If that doesn't work--I agree with the other poster---you must sever ties. "Tough Love" shows true love!

Mrs. Taft said...

I also agree that enough is enough.

The bottom line is, you're not actually doing them any favors by letting them run all over you. Your things are hostage in your home because of their carelessness? That's ridiculous. The ballet outfit was unacceptable, and Lupe's reaction to it was shocking and very telling.

When we are witnesses to people with our lives, what are we witnessing of? A God who doesn't care about order, rules, right, wrong, respect for other people? A God whose concept of "turn the other cheek" is so extreme that He is a wishy-washy wimp? How can your neighbors love and respect the Jesus they see in you if they are in charge, not Him?

What I'm saying is, boundaries are very very godly. When you bring things to Lupe's attention, you are not being impatient or rude or unloving (unless your motives and delivery are as such). You are loving her. You love your children, and wish to witness Christ to them through your actions, yes? And that means more than letting them get away with everything ever in the name of love, peace, and turning the other cheek, doesn't it? The love and witness of Christ isn't just one thing, it is full and whole and composed of many aspects.

If I were you, I'd sit down with Lupe and explain your situation. That you've put up with it for a long time because you didn't want to be a bother, but enough is enough. Maybe the neighbor shouldn't have screamed at the girls, but why on earth were they cutting up a ballet outfit that didn't belong to them? Maybe you shouldn't have yelled either, but why are they dropping your son on his head and ignoring your polite requests? You might even mention the list of things her girls did to the neighbor as a clue why she was so upset.

I honestly think a firm but kind and loving confrontation would go worlds more strides in presenting Christ as He is than just staying silent. After all, people can't respect a leader who won't protect his followers, who does not speak up in the face of injustice, and who does not command respect not just because of his title but because He has not earned it through His actions. That's the Jesus we know and love; perhaps it's time to show a more balanced view of Him. I think it might be more difficult at first, but in the long run would be far more fruitful.

There's no need to play the martyr, in other words. I truly believe that when Jesus called us to lay our lives down for people, it wasn't so they would walk all over us. We're not to cast our pearls before swine, either, yanno? Just my 2cents, I hope you don't feel like I'm attacking you or anything, I'm just truly appalled at the behavior of those kids!

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