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Monday, April 29, 2013

Neighborly

This weekend was absolutely lovely. The weather was gorgeous, which made it so much easier to actually live the weekend, instead of while it away, dreading the return of Monday.

Of course, one incident, involving the neighbor kids, was not so lovely. A "slip-in" apartment building sits immediately next-door to our humble house-turned-fourplex, and the children who live there often play in and around our yard. While I always keep an eye and an ear open for anything suspicious, and I really am not fond of loud, joyous child-laughter, I recognize these kids have limited playing options near home (I'm assuming they're not allowed to head to the parks that are about three blocks away), so I don't mind them playing in our yard.

Except in instances like last evening. One of the kids started throwing bricks from the neat stack at the back of our yard onto the gravel driveway. I came outside and asked him to put them back, which he did, nicely. One of his playmates, however, apparently took great offense to my request. This little girl, who looked to be about 8 or 9 at most, started giving me more attitude than I would tolerate from any adult. She took it upon herself to hurl insults, throw a couple more bricks, and then start cussing me out when I repeated my requests that they play nicely and not mess up our things when they're in our yard. Given her un-checked swearing and obvious disregard for anything I had to say, it didn't take long for me to go find her dad and ask that he step in.

As this little girl ranted and raved at me, and told me in very inappropriate, misguided language how awful I was and all the ways I was wrong, I saw very clearly that she thought she was sticking up for herself. She interpreted my calm "You can't behave that way here" as a deep personal attack, and struck back the only way she knew how. She thought that by being (exceedingly) rude and (marginally) violent, she was really being clever and assertive and strong. So while I'm confident I handled the situation properly, I'm also concerned. I'm concerned that she won't figure out the difference between rude and assertive until the rudeness is so ingrained, changing her behavior becomes incredibly difficult. I'm concerned that she will continue to misinterpret calm, assertive people as personally offensive or as threatening authority figures, rather than as models of behavior, or simply as upholders of peaceful, respectful social boundaries. I'm concerned that in a rash of childish vindictiveness, she might cause more damage on or to our property. (Though I have my landlord's cameras to thank in case recourse proves necessary.)

So, as my brain is wont to do, I spent some time last night and some time this morning, lying in bed imagining what I would do in a myriad of scenarios. Hopefully none of them are necessary. Fortunately, aside from this post- meant to be a reminder to readers to both practice and teach the difference between rudeness and self-assertion- I'm mostly remembering a weekend of sunshine, bike rides, and gelato in good measure.