Ever since the boys next door, seven and nine, moved into their grandmother’s house with their mom, the integrity of our Backyard Utopia has been threatened, even compromised. The grandmother has always been a pleasant neighbor, keeping to herself except for chit-chat from the front steps or back porch. She witnessed the birth of our Utopia when we installed a gate connecting our backyard to our back neighbors’ yard. Our children have known each other since birth and enjoy hours of free play between the yards. They’re often overheard discussing an invisible shark that secretly hides and moves things at night, or debating the origins of treasure they’ve dug up. It’s not uncommon for their romps to stretch from breakfast to dinner. The younger siblings require management, but for the older children and the parents, it’s an arrangement made in heaven. Until now.
With very little structure and/or directed activities they boys next door are left to their own devices. All that stands between us and them is a rusty, old, waist-high chainlink fence. They’re generally out there fiddling with power tools and gasoline, and when they’re not hanging on our hazardous fence and/or montinoring and commenting on our every move, they’re filling our children’s heads with toxic waste. Instead of overhearing conversations about fosil-hunting or bug-collecting, I hear the nine-year-old boy provoking our six-year olds with the likes of, “I shot a bear last night. It was in your yard, blood everywhere.” or “If you play in that mud you’ll be sick for three months. You might even die.” Occassionally, I’ll just sit inside the window listening to D defend her positions. “I’ve had this mud on my body for my whole life,” she says. “It never makes me sick. Ever.” These boys are emotionally neglected by my standards and I don’t want to contribute to their neglect by not including them in the fun, but one never knows what will come out of their mouths or across the property line next, therefore, they require constant close supervision.
Last week I took a risk, going inside to put Z down for a nap. Five minutes later I called a frustrated D in for lunch. She sat down and said, “X told me I wasn’t adopted, Mom. I told him, yes I was. That’s right – right, Mom?” I said, “Of course it’s right. Nobody knows your story better than you.” She said, “Then he said, well, who’s your real mom? And I said you.” I sighed. All this, in five minutes. She went on, “I said, my mom is my real mom. And then they both said, then you weren’t adopted. And I said, yes I was, and they said, then A isn’t your real dad. And I said, yes, he is. But they said, if you have a real mom and a real dad then you can’t be adopted.” The recount went back and forth forever until D put an end to the conversation by chanting yes-yes-yes-yes-yes-yes. “Those boys don’t know what they’re talking about, right Mom? I was right, wasn’t I?” Of course, being right was the real spine of D’s story, not adoption or real parents. I assured her she was correct and offered to go next door with her if she cared to further bring home her point. She took me up on it. We marched over to reitterate that yes, indeed, a person can be adopted AND have real parents at the same time. It was quite a scene. The shades were drawn, the tv was hot, newspapers were piled all around, there was a hamster cage on the floor. D even told them about her real birthmother named H. Horrified, the boys mother attempted to smooth things over. She told D that people who are adopted are extra special because their moms and dads really, really wanted them because they couldn’t have babies. She was speaking out of goodness and genuine concern, I realized, but I just couldn’t let her words go unturned – not in front of D. I explained to D that with a little help from the doctor I probably could grow a baby in my belly and that all children are equally special because of who they are, and that being adopted actually isn’t any more special than not being adopted. Sometimes the special label only serves to seperate children not unify them. And anyway, we’re all special, aren’t we?
TC often accuses me of missing the point of stories due to my obsessive word/phrase/meaning nitpicking, but in this case wasn’t it more important for D to know where we stand than for me to appease a well-meaning, but misinformed neighbor? Perhaps I could have waited until we were alone before launching into my lecture. But I’ve never been good at that.
The sanctity of our Backyard Utopia must be preserved; I’m pricing privacy fences.