I know I’ve had a conversation with some of you on Facebook about this, but it’s something that still really bothers me. There is a kid in the house behind us. We are separated by a fence. The house is completely unkempt and the garden looks like only it was hit by a tornado. In the almost 6 years we have lived here, we have only seen people out there about 4 times. So we had no idea there was a kid living there. And this past summer she appeared. On a bicycle. By herself. And told us that she had seen the kids through the fence and her step-dad told her to look for the biggest house in the neighborhood. She told us she was only wearing her bike helmet because she hadn’t washed her hair for a while. And when she did take the helmet off, that was an understatement. And so I let her into the house, because my kids are really friendly, and I don’t know how to turn a kid away, even though I wasn’t that comfortable. SHe’s just a kid, right?
Over a few weeks I gleaned that both her mother and the stepfather are on disability. Her mom for a host of medical reasons and her step-dad because he hurt his back in a skydiving accident. He is a sullen, Nazi looking (don’t ask my imagination why) sort of menacing man who I now started to see sitting on the back porch (which faces our garden), smoking cigarettes with an expressionless face. Sometimes he’d nod at me.
And then school started, and the little girl would still come around – but we’re a household with 3 kids and have a pretty strict schedule we desperately try and stick to, and having a guest who would come round every dinner time, was not part of that plan. We’d often see here riding her bike, or walking around the neighborhood. No part of me thinks that a 10 year old girl should be walking around by herself. No matter how nice the neighborhood.
One side of me wanted to take her in and give her some disinfectant and a meal. But here’s the tough part: she’s not a nice kid. Both of our nannies have expressed that they have not been comfortable with her, and the other day Nompu told me that the child pushed my 4 year old. On Saturday she came around while my kids were riding outside, so I could hardly tell her to scram, and after about 15 minutes, Mia came running up with her to ask if she could please have a sleepover. And the kid said that she would run home and have her stepdad “get his butt over here” so we could meet him. And I just didn’t like the alarms sounding in my head – the way she spoke, and that weird Nazi man coming over. She then told me that I couldn’t phone her mom because she had just had all of her teeth removed. I’m not kidding.
On Monday night she rang on the doorbell at 7pm. Darian went to the door and told her that we don’t have school night visitors. That evening we sat the kids down and explained that while we like to be friendly to everyone, we’re really, really cautious about the people we let into our home and our lives, and sometimes we just don’t feel comfortable with everyone. It’s our prerogative as parents to make these kinds of decisions when our kids are little. And yes, I want my kids to know people from all walks of life, but I also get to decide who I think it a bad influence. I know I’m not going to be able to choose their friends forever, and it’s not even something we do now. But we do get to make what we believe are the best decisions for our kids.
What I’m left with, however, is the suspicion that, whether she’s a nice kid or not, she is a little girl who is not being very well looked after. Yes, I know that dirty hair isn’t a crime, and I’m sure there are plenty 10 years olds who walk around by themselves, but they’re letting this kid get on her bike, and knock on the doors of people she doesn’t know, and I just hope to God that one day she doesn’t knock on the wrong door.