I pulled into my driveway weary. The kids were grouchy, antsy and griping that they were hungry. I pleaded with my daughter to take her brother sledding while I made dinner. They both moaned in protest and launched a negotiation for screen time. But in the midst of their opening remarks, my neighbor kid trudged by with a sled under her arm.
The kids clamped their mouths shut and bolted upright in their seats. They craned their necks to watch as their friend headed for the hill beside our property. I’d barely put the car in park before the kids tumbled out in a mad dash for the door.
I stepped inside to discover a snow gear cyclone raging in the mudroom. Mittens, snow pants and scarves flew over my head as the kids frantically got ready to go outside. I stood dumbfounded in the eye of the storm. Hadn’t I just been rejected for the sledding idea? But before I could open my mouth to ask that very question, the kids rushed past me and slammed the door in my face.
Obviously, adding the neighbor girl to the sledding equation made all the difference in the level of fun. In fact, adding the neighbor kids to the equation always makes all the difference in the level of fun.
I can’t imagine life without our neighbor kids. They are part family, part friend and part of the landscape of our lives. And they transform mundane outside play into something other worldly.
Just add a neighbor kid and suddenly:
Swingsets become fortresses.
Yards become battlefields.
Sledding hills become olympic mountains.
Wooded areas become imaginary towns.
Pools become obstacle courses.
The neighbor kids will be woven into every memory of my kids’ childhood. They are front and center at birthday parties, star in all of the backyard theater productions and form the entire membership of secret clubs. On any given day they’re jumping on the trampoline or climbing the swing set or playing video games in my basement. Sometimes all at once. And even when they aren’t here, I hear their joyful shrieks across the street.
More than any other of my children’s friends, the neighbor kids get to experience our family at it’s most authentic. They aren’t phased when they get sent home because my kid is misbehaving. They come back again and again no matter how chaotic my household or how grumpy and frazzled I am as a mom. They happily do any chore right alongside my kids and don’t make a fuss when I ask them to play with the younger siblings. And they never complain when I plop the hundredth frozen pizza in front of them and call it dinner.
I love that I get to watch these precious children grow up right alongside my kids. Our family is better for having them be part of it. And I am forever grateful that they are not just part of my kids’ lives, they’re part of mine.