Thursday, June 21, 2007

I Shouldn't Have Answered the Door Today

There is a boy who lives across the street from us who loves to come over and play. He is a nice enough kid, about 6 years old, who is an only child of dual working parents. He is alone a lot and likes the contrasting liveliness of our house. I welcome him over to play with the kids because I think it is good for him, and because my kids enjoy the addition of just about anyone to their mix.

Unfortunately, however, he is one of those kids you have to watch all the time because he seems to be lacking in common sense and the ability to follow directions. Most of the time my life gets easier when another child comes to play because it engages and occupies my children. But when this kid comes over it is work for me. Today was no exception.

It started with the dog. Our neighbor boy is a small child and claims to be afraid of the 200 pound puppy (now, who could believe THAT?!). So, I gave him very specific instructions about how to avoid engaging our playful giant. "Ignore him, don't run by him, pretend he's not there and he'll leave you alone." Simple enough, and quite effective when employed. So what does he do? Finds a squirt gun and walks straight up to the dog and starts shooting him in the mouth. Then he acts indignant when the dog runs after him barking. The boy was kindly corrected, took about a 10 minute break from this activity and then began anew. The second correction was not as kind and seemed to sink in.

Next came an aquatic adventure. The safety cover was off the pool because three of my kids were actively swimming when our friend arrived and continued to do so throughout his visit. Now, this boy cannot swim, so we've had many, many conversations with him about how it is NOT OK to come in our gate, walk by the pool, etc., etc. Luckily, I never considered for one second that any of this actually penetrated his consciousness and I watched him very carefully during this visit, even more carefully than usual because the pool was open. So, when I saw him approaching the deep end of the pool pushing a bicycle, I was already on my feet and headed his way when he inevitably plunged in, bike and all.

I am a trained lifeguard and water safety instructor (I even rescued a six year old boy back when it was my summer job), so I was never actually scared. It was not difficult to pull this spluttering, sinking, completely panicked child out of the water. No, I was not afraid. Just annoyed. REALLY ANNOYED. Because I had to jump in the deep end, fully clothed and rescue this kid because he is clueless.

The poor kid was really shaken up, although I still cannot understand why he was surprised that he sunk when he knows he can't swim and he, to my eye, almost dared himself to fall in. I have never seen eyes so wide. He kept saying, "I am SO sorry, I am SO sorry." I tried to be kind, and I think I marginally succeeded, but even as I was swimming him to the side of the pool I was already reading him the riot act. I might have waited until he was dry, but I could not. I didn't even think to give the poor kid a towel (it's OK, it was 98 degrees outside) much less any sympathy. I marched him, both of us dripping, right across the street and delivered him to his mom who seemed relatively unconcerned about the incident, simply telling her son that if he didn't listen better he couldn't come play at my house anymore. To top it off, she looked at me and said, "Oh, it looks like you went swimming too." That was too much for me. I emphatically said, "Yes, I HAD TO JUMP IN AND SAVE YOUR SON BECAUSE HE FELL IN MY POOL AND HE CANNOT SWIM!" She answered this by letting me know that he was taking lessons. I can only give her the benefit of the doubt and say she must have had trouble processing exactly what happened. Either that or we simply have drastically different parenting styles.

Anyway, today I had a healthy reminder of what a liability both a backyard pool and a large dog can be. No matter how clueless a child or indifferent his parent may be, if something were to happen to this child at my home, it would be my fault. The very thought makes me want to fill in the pool and sedate the dog. Or never, ever, have anyone over. Ever. But we can't live life like this, can we? We can only take prudent precautions and pray, pray, pray. If we start engaging in "what ifs", we would cease to live at all.

But perhaps, just to be safe, this particular child should not be allowed in my yard in the future. Let's just hope he can't find anything life-threatening upstairs in the play room. Wait a minute...are the screens barred?!


Anonymous said...

do you think the parents would sign a waver or something similar? Ask your lawyer or insurance agent. It usually isn't the family you need to worry is the insurance companies duking it out.
Love your blog!

Tina said...


At least the clueless child that I will send to you in August knows how to swim. In fact, he has qualified in backstroke for the All Stars Meet for his age group (8 & under) this Sunday. He missed freestyle and butterfly by .06 seconds each. Also, he generally knows how to behave around your giagantor puppy unless he wants a scar to match his Pumba love kiss.

Miss you much and think of you daily.

anniebizzi said...

Because you clearly have your hands full, I would advise you to invite the mother over to supervise her son when he comes to play. Who knows, maybe she might pick up some parenting tips from you and Jay. Either that, or she'll be driven away by the wonderful chaos and her son won't bother you anymore.
You are definitely exhibiting a ton of patience with this situation...I don't think I could have been so cool with a Dennis the Menace in my house!

Qtpies7 said...

Thats such a hard situation! On the one hand, who wants all that hassle!!!! On the other, he clearly needs some direction and love and guidance.
I have some kids that I don't want my kids playing with, and I have to check my attitude. Our problems are more of the manipulation variety. Several of my 10yo dd's friends will not take my no for an answer and will "make" her manipulate me with things like "She said if I don't come over tonight her mom said it was the only time this whole summer it would work." Umm, too bad, missy, I don't manipulate, it ticks me off! I talked to her mom and she was mad, and funny thing is, they see each other often so far since that day.... Little brat! Thankfully her mom doesn't put up with that stuff either.

Debbie said...

What frustration with the mom!!! Just a thought on the little boy, but I have a dd, 6, who has adhd and when meds aren't working correctly (or when she's extra tired or stressed) her impulse control goes out the window. Many children have problems like adhd, bipolar, etc., but aren't diagnosed until mid-late grade school or later. Now, I am most certainly not excusing his behavior, but the business with the dog sounds just like my dd. Sometimes once a thought gets into her head, it's the only thing she can focus on. It's like their brain goes: "I should not squirt the dog with the water pistol...not squirt the dog with the water pistol...squirt the dog with the water pistol...squirt the dog with the water pistol...squirt the dog with the water pistol...

On another note, I enjoy your blog!

Suzanne Di Silvestri said...

Thanks for the encouraging comments. Debbie, thanks especially for the ADHD tip. The is a wide range of causes behind behaviors and, at that age, it is rarely because a kid is "bad". It is a good reminder to look beyond the obvious.