We have a tough time finding other kids in the neigborhood for our kids to play with and the ones that live nearby are mostly girls. But we tell our kids to play with any nice kids they can find.
Ethan had been playing a lot with a kid from the trailer park but that kid has moved away. One day, our kids were riding bikes and scooters in front of our house and suddenly a cute little girl showed up across the street with a scooter and her and Ethan spent the afternoon racing eachother up and down the block on opposite sides of the street.
I thought it was cool. I thought, "This is kind of thing lonely adults dream about. Why can't some cute girl show up across the street and spend the afternoon racing scooters with me? That never happens." And kids are somewhat oblivious and don't think of things that way. They don't see any magic in it. It's also possible that those kinds of things DO happen to adults but they are too self-involved to realize it. Or that it really does work out perfectly except that girl has knobby too-long-of toes.
When they were done racing the girl came over to talk to us. Ethan said that he knew her from school. He liked her because he knew that she likes lizards and he is lizard-crazy right now. Ethan likes lizards so much right now that it makes him seem a little weird. But while we were all talking and having fun, the girl told us she wanted to go to her house and get her cat so she could show it to us. And I thought, "Good, she's weird too."
After she came back with the cat, I asked her if she really liked lizards. She said she did. She wanted a pet igauna. I told her that Ethan had a salamander but that it was dead. I told her he also had a bearded dragon but it had just died a few days earlier. I told her she could see the dead baby bearded dragon if she didn't think it was gross, because his little body was still in a paper bag on our counter waiting for us to bury it.
So my wife noticed that a cute little girl was out in front of our house and she came out and asked, "What are you guys doing."
And I admitted, "We're showing her the dead baby bearded dragon."
My wife shook her head but couldn't say anything in protest because she knew what kind of man she married.
Later on, I told Ethan he should invite her back over to ride scooters sometime. A couple days later he said that he asked her. She told him there was a 60% chance that she would. She came over that day. Our kids had been outside riding their bikes and I looked out the window and saw the girl and a woman talking to our kids.
I told my wife, "I think that girl's mom is coming over to check us out. You better get out there and make nice."
We talked to the lady. She was going through a nasty divorce and she was a little edgy. My wife said, "Ethan is our oldest kid and that 3 year old is our youngest."
And the lady got a little spazzy and said, "This girl is my youngest. But I might have another one. I'll probably get married again soon."
She said it frantically, like we were already convinced that she would never get married again.
The little girl seemed embarrassed that her mom was there. She said, "Mom, what are you doing here?"
I smiled and said, "Your mom is just making sure that we're not kidnappers."
And her mom shot me an icy stare. I don't think she liked that I said that. After that day, the little girl has never come back to play but I see her sometimes when I pick my son up from school and she still waves to me.
There are two other girls we hang out with sometimes. The older one is named Parker and she is in Ethan's class. Her little sister was in Olivia's kindergarten class. Olivia has gone to two sleepovers with the girls. That's right. My kindergartener gets invited to third grade sleepovers. She's ahead of the pack.
The girls don't have a car and they have to walk everywhere. Their dad is our mailman. They tell us that their mother has to go to the dance club and dance. She has to dance all day. She has to keep dancing and dancing until midnight. So we don't know for sure what she does. But the girls told me she also works at 7/11 and that they can get all the free weiners they want. The parents are getting divorced but they are living together until it all goes through.
When I picked Olivia up from a sleepover at their house, I noticed a lack of furniture. They had a couch, a TV, an Xbox, a dining room table completely covered in some boardgame with castles and catapults. And that was ALL of the furniture. No pictures on the walls or anything.
The school let the kids out early one day and I had to get off work early to go get them. My kids wanted to stay and play on the playground and Parker and her sister stayed and played, too.
I asked them what they wanted to be for Halloween. The little girl said she wanted to be a "rich person" and Parker said she wanted to be a Rock Star or a Ninja. But when Halloween rolled around a few weeks later, Parker wore bloody hospital scrubs and her little sister was a pirate. The costumes looked like they had been thrown out from a second-hand store.
When my kids got thirsty and wanted to leave the playground, Parker whined and wanted us to stay. She said that they were going to stay at the park until her dad got off work. I asked, "When is that?"
She said, "5:15."
I looked at my cell phone. It wasn't even two o'clock. I invited them to come over to our house. They played on our teeter-totter and tire swing. They played Mario Kart against eachother. I showed Parker how to play the drums. Her dad dropped off the mail while they were here but we didn't take the girls home for another hour or two.
Our daughter gives us the inside information on the girls. They couldn't get the Halloween costumes they wanted because their dad is saving money for something. They never have any food in their house, because their dad is saving money for something. But they have a garden and if they are hungry they are supposed to go in the backyard and dig for carrots. Sometimes they dig and dig but they can't find any carrots.
When our daughter told us that story about them, my wife turned to me and said, "They are growing up the same way you grew up when you were their age."
Poor. Their clothes all look too small and their hair is never brushed.
It makes you wonder what to do. We see their parents around pretty often but they won't look us in the eye or say hello or anything. I suppose I could be a big A-hole and let them know I think they are crappy parents and just give the guy money or food, or give food directly to the girls... or maybe I should be more subtle and just sneak into the backyard and hide fresh carrots back there all through the winter.
What do you do?
A while ago, my wife wanted to get to know their parents since our kids were having sleepovers. We went to a fair at the elementary school. I had to leave early to go to work. My wife said, "I kept seeing Parker's mom but I was shy about going up and talking to her. Then we were both eating dinner and we were sitting close together on the grass and I was about to talk to her but then some lady wearing high-heels and fishnet stockings showed up and Parker's mom went running over to hang out with her."
I said, "Hey. Don't put down women who wear fishnet stockings and high heels. I would still respect you if you wore fishnet stockings and high heels.... but maybe not if you wore them to a fair at an elementary school. That IS kind of strange."
Yesterday, Ethan had a paperback dictionary that the school had given him. He said, "This book has the word 'lizard' in it." He flipped open to the first few pages. He said, "Alligator should be right around here." Then he said, "This book also has the words 'naked' and 'sex' in it."
My wife got mad and said, "You can't have that book if those are the kinds of words you're going to look up."
He said, "I didn't look them up. Parker did. When we were at school."
When I picked up my kids from school the other day, we we're walking towards our house and some little kid around Ethan's age yelled at me, "Hey. Do you have any weed?"
I said, "I have lots of weeds in my yard at my house. Do you want to come pick them?"
He said, "No. The weed that you smoke."
I asked, "The weed that YOU smoke?"
He yelled, "The weed that YOU smoke!"
We were walking away from eachother and I yelled back, "The weed that YOU smoke?"
He yelled, "You're dad smokes weed!"
I wanted to yell, "You need to get back in school because you don't know anything!" but that was the moment I realized I was having a The-weed-that-you-smoke- shouting match across a schoolyard full of kids. So I just let the conversation die.