Our neighbors are moving. From the moment I witnessed their for-sale stake hit the ground, I devised a plan.
- Part 1 :: Ask hubby to mow the yard.
- Part 2 :: Remind hubby to mow the yard.
- Part 3 :: Hire someone to mow the yard.
- Part 4 :: And the most important part…throw the kids in that freshly mowed yard.
Yes, we have been in our front yard, sun, rain, or cold, for the last two weeks because we know what we want in that house – a family with kids. Our daily driveway spectacular has included everything from scooter races, chalk cityscapes, hula-hoop contests, to tree climbing.
“Mommy, I’m scared to be in the tree. I see ants!”
“Stay up there a little longer. It’s something kids do.”
This nod to childhood nostalgia has all been in the hopes that by chance a family with young kids with a stay-at-home mom should happen to mosey down our street and see that for-sale sign.
Since choosing to stay home, I have always been the lone SAHM on the block. Sure, my neighbors can rest knowing I watch their homes like a hawk while they are away at work. Or maybe it actually makes them uneasy. Either way, I yearn for a partner. And more than that, I yearn for my kids to have playmates nearby.
After living in our house a couple of weeks, we realized our street was barren, so one day, I set out to see if any other children existed in our neighborhood. That’s when I saw her. She was in the distance, so I had to squint, but within the shadows I also saw what was un-mistakenly the figure of a boy holding her hand. As they drew nearer, I judged the boy to be about my son’s age. They went to the monkey bars, but my kids were on the swings.
“How about we go over to the monkey bars?” I whispered to my kids. “But I want to – ”
With the squeeze of their hands and my mommy stank-eye, they knew better than to argue. Friendship blossomed on the monkey bars that day, and my friend and I now laugh about how I stalked her.
Yet although she and her family live in my neighborhood, they don’t live on my street. At three and five years old, my kids aren’t old enough to ride their bikes alone across the neighborhood. But across the street would be a different story. I could stand on the porch and wave to my neighbor while the kids walk over to her house.
My mom had that. My grandmother had that. When I began staying home, my grandmother shared stories of going to neighbors’ houses to play bridge and drink coffee while the kids played outside. I want bicycles and balls strewn across the front lawns. My childhood street bustled with kids running back and forth between houses. We played hide and seek. We burned ants with magnifying glasses. We knew the ice-cream man by name. The neighborhood kids loved throwing sticks between my bicycle wheels and the spokey-dokes. I want my kids to have that… Well, maybe not the sticks in the spokey-dokes part. But that’s what childhood is supposed to be about. And whatever happened to the ice-cream man? It would be a waste of his time to creep down our street.
When my husband and I bought our first house, we knew not many kids lived in the neighborhood. It was an investment, but once we had kids, we set our sights on the ‘burbs, thinking bicycle races and barbecues would be the norm.
And yet…there’s no kids on the block.
New families moving to new communities
Perhaps, we didn’t venture far enough into suburbia. Moving from a 40-year-old neighborhood, our 15-year-old one seemed new at the time. But maybe it wasn’t new enough. A few of our current neighbors bought their homes brand new when their kids were young. So 15 years later, they now are empty-nesters or have kids in junior high or high school. For us to have bought in a new development these days, however, would have tacked on an additional 20 minutes to my husband’s already hour commute from Katy to the Galleria area. As Houston continues to expand in all directions, new developments are farther and farther away from the city center.
Yet, if all young families live in new developments, why is our elementary school overcrowded? Clearly those kids must live somewhere in the vicinity. It has occurred to me that the kids in our neighborhood might have better things to do in the afternoon than work their fingers to the bone with sidewalk chalk and climb ant-infested trees. Our community has no shortage of child enrichment activities. At nearly every stoplight, I sit behind SUVs and minivans full of soccer players, cheerleaders, honor roll students, and Jedi knights. Their schedules are likely busier than ours, so possibly that’s why they don’t have an afternoon to spare?
The element of staying home that probably surprised me the most was the concept of scheduled playtime and “play dates.” Instead of dropping by another family’s front doorstep and ringing the bell, I am expected to schedule an afternoon to play, sometimes weeks in advance. Why is this? My kids are bored. Your kids are bored. Let’s just send them off together. Perhaps the reason your kids aren’t roaming the streets with my kids is because you’ve already scheduled time with somebody else.
But surely in this city of more than two million people, there is one family who has one mom who just wants to collapse in a lawn chair next to me in my front yard while our children peg each other with a dodge ball like children should do. If that person is you, please message me.