Finding My Balls at the Abusive Neighbors’ Place

by doodaddy on May 30, 2008

Boobaby’s six-year old godbrother kicked a ball over the 15-foot fence behind our yard. (And if that sounds like we live in a fortress, remember that this is San Francisco. We’re on a steep hill, so the neighbor’s place is at least that much higher than ours.)

Anyway, in a sheer and precise example of why being six must be one of the best things in the world, after da boy had kicked the ball over the fence, he got another ball and did it again.

It’s understandable — he has no “small yard” concept. His family is from a medium-sized Midwestern city that lacks nothing by way of sophistication but definitely falls way behind us in yard deficiency. Lest it be forgotten, we’re on a peninsula here in ‘Frisco (I get to call it that ’cause I live here, but don’t you try).

  • Land is scarce.
  • Yards are small.
  • So I have to run up to meet the neighbors and find our balls.
  • The neighbors who shout things at their kids, right in the same backyard where those balls got kicked.

Like “Are you always this stupid?”

And “Stop stop stop STOP STOP STOP STOP doing that!”

And “I don’t know why you’re crying, you did it yourself.”

I’ve never heard physical fighting — for various reasons, I’m still what’s known as a “mandatory reporter,” which means that I would be legally obligated to report any evidence of bodily harm. But I was an observant teacher for many years: I know that some of the worst traumas are emotional and leave deep, sad scars.

A century ago when I was in my 20s I had a girlfriend who came from a “happily yelling” family. They shouted at each other all the time, even in front of me. They called  it their “therapy.” And it’s true, they did all seem really happy and connected — like loud arguments were just what they liked to do. I smiled, nodded, and profoundly was not convinced.

Parents shout at their kids, obviously. I’ve raised my voice with students, and when Boobaby gets old enough, I expect that it will happen in my family, too. But if we yell, it won’t be habitual and it won’t be mean-spirited: that’s a promise.

Maybe the neighbors go inside and apologize to their kids, maybe they make it all right somehow. I doubt they do, but I hope I’m wrong.

So, the dilemma remains: Do I just buy a new ball — I mean, do I get two new balls — or do I go up there and have a look?

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in Challenges,community,fears ·

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Xbox4NappyRash May 30, 2008 at 9:52 am

If for no other reason than nosiness, I say go get ’em.


mep May 30, 2008 at 10:09 am

I have heard some truly horrible things coming out of the mouth of the single dad next door and directed to his kids. I never know what to do. His mom and uncle live above him and his kids so I assume they hear the same and can judge if anything physical is accompanying the verbal assaults (though, I agree with you, the emotional scars are just as bad). I have been hesitant to intervene because he is an ex-Marine whose guns and ammo catalogs have accidentally ended up in our mailbox before. I can also attest that the kids receive lots of love from the rest of the family who lives in the same multi-unit building and seemingly even from their dad when he’s in a good mood.

When his kids knock on my door to retrieve balls that have landed in our yard . . . I fall all over myself being nice to them and assuring them that it’s no big deal. Also, I ask the kids to get our mail when we’re out of town and then thank them profusely and give them Dairy Queen gift certificates. It’s not enough, I know.


Chris May 30, 2008 at 10:22 am

Go get them balls. From a fellow teacher, trust your teacher insticts.


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