By Anonymous Guest Blogger
In my 40-some years, I’ve been pretty fortunate to have mostly amazing neighbors. There were some that were louder than others, and there was an unfortunate season where a renter next door turned all three floors of the house into a giant grow room. Yet, even then, there was also the elderly lady across the street who wrote down every license plate and the time and date when they visited. That way the police had plenty of evidence. All in all, I thought I was neighboring well.
So it took me by surprise when a neighbor I thought was a good friend suddenly turned on me in a way that hurt my whole family. It’s hard when people show you their true colors, especially when you’re an sympathizer and you just want to make everyone happy. And even more so when people tried to warn you about the person and you thought they were, well, wrong.
However, I’ve discovered that neighboring – even with the hard ones – offers an excellent chance to model for your kids what it looks like to engage in healthy relationships.
First lesson: we don’t call names. It is possible that I messed this one up, and I realized that when I heard my own words come out of my son’s mouth. Yes, some people probably do belong on the Jerry Springer show, but a great number of the things my children say about their siblings are also true and I still don’t want them to speak that way. That was a fun conversation, and one that I hope I’ll remember the next time someone cuts me off in traffic.
Also, we take responsibility for our part. I made mistakes and I took some very expensive steps to be responsible for those mistakes. The other party did not, and that speaks volumes about them and not me. We own our faults, and we work to better them. I was raised in a home where the only option was perfection, and I felt compelled to hide my mistakes. I want my kids to be OK making them – and also growing from them.
And finally, it’s OK to set boundaries. In this case, when I stepped back and considered what the neighbor wanted me to do, I realized it wasn’t my responsibility. Nor did I have to apologize for something I did not do. We do not have to make everyone happy in order to be good neighbors; in fact, some people are unreasonable in their demands. We are and continue to be good neighbors, and it’s OK that they don’t like us. This is a lesson I wish I’d learned as a kid, not an adult…and I hope my kids watched and noticed.
Alas, all is not lost, except the friendly neighboring banter back and forth across the fence. And while I miss that, next time I move, I’ll hire a detective to research the entire street.
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