Finding My Balls at the Abusive Neighbors’ Place

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?