There is a roving posse of kids in my neighborhood. Most of them are fine, nice kids, though they’re all older than Henry and Eli, so sometimes their play styles don’t quite mesh (see above: “roving posse”). There’s one in particular, though, who is a certified Bad Kid. His older brother broke into a car across the street from us (not that older brother’s actions mean younger brother will do the same, but it didn’t make me necessarily want to open my arms and welcome the younger into our home to look through my underwear drawer). (The car break-in was the final straw for older brother, apparently, and he got sent off somewhere and we don’t see him anymore.) Younger brother (whom I’ll heretofore refer to as Bad Seed) and his sister are completely free range. I’ve never seen them with any type of parental unit. Bad Seed is one of those kids who just doesn’t seem to have any sense. He’ll be in my driveway spraying everyone and everything with water from my hose, and I’ll say “Ok, time for you to go home!” or “That’s enough spraying with the water!” (i.e., “wow, I can’t deal with you at all anymore!”) and he’ll comply for 45 seconds and then there he’ll be back in the driveway spraying water into the open living room window.
Our fabulous new playset in our backyard has resulted in the posse making frequent visits. They always ask first, so I let it go, though frankly the whole thing makes me uncomfortable. There were my two little boys playing on their own playset, and they were being pushed out a little bit by the more gymnastic older-kid antics (you know you have to worry when you hear the older kids saying, “Kids! Don’t try this at home!”). The whole point of the playset (ok, not the whole point, but a major point for me) was for me to be able to make dinner (or secretly eat chocolate) inside while Henry and Eli played happily in the backyard. Not to be Neighborhood Mom.
It all went down on Monday. It was one of those tired days where I knew I couldn’t deal with the posse at all, so I decided to take the kids to Fort Williams after school. I got them all packed up in the car and suddenly realized I’d left Zuzu’s carseat in Dave’s car, so we weren’t going anywhere. I should have just burst into tears then and gotten it over with. The house was sort of a mess, though, I figured I’d make the best of it and we’d all happily putter inside for the rest of the afternoon. Ten minutes later Bad Seed’s sister drops Bad Seed off in our backyard. Henry and Eli went out there to play with him. Everything seemed generally fine; I continued to putter inside. I had to run out to check on them every 12 seconds, because they refused to stay right in the backyard where I can see them, and I don’t like Eli wandering too far because I think he’d try to walk to Portland or try to take the bus or something. Next thing I knew they were down at the storm grate, and apparently Bad Seed had grabbed Eli’s hat and shoved it down the storm grate. The minute B.S. saw me coming he took off running. When Henry and Eli told me what he’d done, I’m pretty sure flames actually shot out of my ears. He’d left his skanky sneakers in our backyard, so I grabbed them and found Bad Seed. I said, “Why did you throw Eli’s hat down the storm grate?” and he said without missing a beat, “Because Henry told me to” which I just don’t believe at all, and I said so. I also added something about, “If that were true, then you have a HEAD why don’t you USE it to make a GOOD DECISION and have some SENSE.” Not sure exactly what I said because my entire head was essentially on fire. So the good news/bad news of it is now I have a reason to ban Bad Seed from our yard, but that also means I have to actually enforce it, which is terrifying.
If only the day ended there. Eli and Henry started playing happily together in the yard (they took off all their clothes, which is usually a good way to keep the prudish Posse out of our yard). I was making dinner. Eli came in all covered in mud, so I threw him in the bath. Henry also came in all dirty, also into the bath. I went in to scrub with a washcloth, and when the dirt wasn’t coming off I suddenly realized they were covered in TAR. They had taken shovels and dug in the nice, fresh tar Dave had carefully and neatly placed around the posts under our back porch. I went completely bonkers. It was a whole combo of not having had a chance to properly yell at Bad Seed, of knowing Dave was going to go nuts (common theme of annoyance with Dave: he works hard making things look nice, the nice things get messed up 8 minutes later), and now I had no idea how to get the tar off of everything.
Sigh. After it all I managed to clean the boys up with some of that citrus cleaner stuff (certainly more skin-friendly than paint thinner, but still fairly toxic, no?). Since they were naked there was a lot of tar to deal with, in places you don’t want to know about. I did end up giving the bathtub a thorough cleaning by virtue of scrubbing off all the tar, and that probably needed to happen anyway. Dave did come home, and gave them a Stern Lecture that was so much exactly what I said that it’s clear we’ve been together a long time.
I probably yelled too much, but I tend to go nuts when I feel like I’m on top of things and then get handed a Giant Platter of Mess to deal with. I do forget that they’re only little kids, though. Luckily Bad Seed hasn’t tried to come back (so maybe he has some sense) and when I’ve run into him (several times, it’s not like it’s a huge neighborhood) we’ve not said a word to each other, which is fine by me.