“Why are you calling me?”
This was the response given to me after calling a woman I had never met to let her know her daughter was at my house.
“I just wanted to let you know that Cassy is playing at my house.” I had already explained this twice, but it wasn’t sinking in.
“Is she bothering you? Do you want me to come get her or something?”
Why was this so hard? Cassy came over to my house often to play with my young kids. Usually they played outside, but recently she had been coming indoors to play. I wanted to introduce myself to her mother, give her my contact information, and let her know, basically, that I wasn’t a psyco.
I continued to explain that nothing was wrong, Cassy was fine and very welcome to come over. I simply wanted to let her know where Cassy was coming every day and introduce myself. Apparently this was a very foreign concept. Once she comprehended all I really wanted was to say hello, there were several seconds of awkward silence before she responded,
“Okay then…Thanks.” Then she hung up.
I had seen her before, at the park or beside the local pool. I knew who she was, had even said hi on occasion. She wasn’t a bad mother, she seemed nice. Cassy had even told her she was coming to my house. However, she had no idea who I was, and would have been perfectly happy keeping it that way.
I had the sudden realization that if our roles were reversed, this woman would not have called me. It wouldn’t even cross her mind. I would want her to, but it would not happen. With a slight pang of horror, I realized that this woman would not worry if I knew where my children were, or if they had permission to come to her house. She would not send them home for dinner, or make sure they made it home when they did leave. If some one came to pick up my children, she would not question who they were, she didn’t even remember who I was.
When we first started having children, I always imagined that they would have friends over. I had pictures in my mind of them riding bikes and eating popsicles on the curb. But I also always pictured having some sort of basic trust established between me and the other parents.
Everyone talks about how dangerous it is now. I would have to disagree. It’s not more dangerous. There have always been bad people in the world, and kids have always had a knack for getting into things they shouldn’t. What has changed is that no one looks out for one another anymore. Minding our own business certainly has it’s place, but when community disappears, we open doors we never intended.
We have allowed the bad things to come out from their hiding places. No one really acknowledged this change out right, but we all felt it. We don’t feel safe and we stopped letting our kids out. Parents who do are labeled as irresponsible.
It has breed an environment of distrust. A stranger introducing themselves is so out of place that we can’t comprehend it, and question the purpose behind it. Would that have seemed out of place with our peers in grade school, college, or starting a new job? Those places have a semblance of community established with in them. They have to in order to function properly. We let it disappear in our neighbor hoods though, and simply letting our kids ride their bikes around has become a scary endeavor.
I wish I could say that after talking on the phone, Cassy’s mother made a point to get to know me. I know I would. But other than being able to recognize my face in passing, not much changed after that. If her daughter wanted to stay for dinner, I would call and check first. If Cassy told me she had not told her mom where she was, I called. I even called her mom and invited them both to different activities. I was always met with confusion and surprise every time. At least I knew if there was an emergency, she knew where her daughter was.
As my kids get older, I’m sure they will have more friends over to play. I will be calling their parents too. I will expect them to be respectful if they are going to hang out in my house. I will expect them to respect their own parents as well and send them home if I feel it is necessary. If this makes me weird, or confusing, so be it. Whether they know it or not, those parents are putting their trust in me every time they let their kids come over. I will make sure I earn that trust.