Backyard Utopia Threatened / Our Amazing Daughter

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. 


5 responses to “Backyard Utopia Threatened / Our Amazing Daughter

  1. you are an exceptional parent Shannie. Most wouldn’t have treated this in a benign appeasing manner which would subsequently confuse. I applaud you.

  2. I agree, you did it all right. I love how she put it to him in her own 6 year old way! Go D!!!!!! The spirit of that one is amazing to me…..
    I carried two kids, and that did not make me a mom! It was the tears, the highlights, the tough times and good times that made me a mother. The wrinkles and sleepless nights. I never cried so hard, or laughed so loud before.

    You are a amazing mother! Great parents… both of you

  3. Ok. I must weigh in on this, being adopted myself and the mother of a boy who often shoots things in my backyard. First, adoption. When I found my birth mother, 10 years ago at the age of 27, I was struck by how many people when trying to tell my “mom’s” apart referred to Chrissy, my birth Mother as my “real” mother. At first it really pissed me off, being so new to the whole relationship and being so protective of my “real” mom. But as the dust settled I realized that life isn’t usually that dramatic and people are just clumsy, usually well meaning. I would still correct them but with out the lecture part. It might help to explain to D what these boys really are meaning, not for the boys but for D. She will probably get this a lot and having a gracious way for her to explain herself could serve her well. I don’t remember any of these coversations when I was little, the one I remeber was from my Mom and Dad, that my birth mom did this amazing thing out of love. Not for my parents, but for Me. So I could have a better shot of it.
    Now, as far as the boys. There is a certain way that boys play that really streaches the limits of ones imagination of humanity. When the boy in question is your own I think you feel differently about all the killing and pooping and jumping. I have learned this from my boy who can be very comasionate and loving and crazy and horrifing all in the same afternoon. Thye are playing. As much as that play is totally offensive, I don’t think you run the risk of D startin in on it. Probably she will learn to avoid them. To come inside when they appear or go to the other yard. My Mother always said “you have to learn to deal with people you don’t like. that is part of life” That would be my real mother. the one who bought me birth control when I was 15, The one who lied to the police that I had been home all night. The one who couldn’t protect me from the neighborhood boys, but who taught me to protect myself…..

  4. I was always told I was “special” because I was adopted. Your parents must have really wanted you to “choose” you. I think I was just told that to appease the fact that I never knew or will know my biological parents. If I was told I was special, maybe I wouldn’t spend half my life searching for the woman who gave birth to me.
    I love when you said being adopted isn’t any more special than not being adopted.
    It’s so true. All children are special regardless of how they come to us.

    You are in a dilema with the neighbor boys. That’s a tough one, as I have been there.
    A privacy fence is a good idea. We cannot shield our children forever from the world, but we should be able to keep our own backyards a safe and healthy place.


  5. When I was a child I used to dream I was adopted and my “real” mom and dad where Russian royality who survived the cival war. They were going to storm through my classroom and whisk me off with them. I would suddenly be rich, royal, and ready to rule a country. If only I had secured my rights to this story….The Diary Princess would be paying all my loans off right now:)

    My other huge fantasy was going to boarding school. I guess I didn’t feel speical enough. D and Z know they are special. The enviroment you provide for them has given them a safe place to develop and feel unconditional love. I say guard that place with your life. I am on the same page as JB with this one….Life lessons will come no matter what, so build that fence and protect your safe haven!

    I live in France, and people with backyards don’t just build fences they build walls! Neighbors are great but what do you do when you want to eat cheese, drink wine, and sunbathe topless? Ok, obviously I don’t have kids yet:) But I have been in your backyard and I have met these boys….build the fence.

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