We have lived in our home for almost 11 years.
Our oldest child is 8.
We have neighbors who are older - with adult children of their own. Older with high school kids. Older with college kids. There is a group of 4 hours where all the families are related and 2 have young children. Our kids have played with them once or twice but we just didn't... click.
A new family moved onto our street, about 3 houses down from us, a while back. Maybe a year ago. We haven't seen them out and about much but we smile when we see them.
In the past few weeks, Teagan has taken to riding her scooter when she needs to blow off steam. This family has 2 boys and they are always in their driveway with a scooter and a bike. I've asked Teagan if she knows them (she recognizes them from school) and have encouraged her to talk to them. It apparently took some time to build up the nerve.
She finally spoke to one of them on Sunday. Challenged him to a scooter race.
And the kids have spent hours together since.
All of Sunday afternoon. All of Monday afternoon. They play in our driveway, ride scooter, decorate with sidewalk chalk, blow bubbles, ride bikes and scooters. Then they run down to the other house and play in their clubhouse in their backyard.
My 2 kids and 2 neighborhood kids, being friends. I love it!
Growing up, I had a little group of friends from school that lived in my apartment complex. There was always someone to run around with. There was a hill in between 2 of the buildings and we used to hang out on the hill all the time. We'd play in various building stairwells. We'd roller skate and jump rope and ride bikes. We'd explore the dumpster (*shudder*) and trek to the KMart nearby for candy and soda.
Having friends in the neighborhood was really important.
A couple of the girls I hung out with were Korean. I loved going to visit their apartment - their grandma lived with them and was always cooking. There were kids with 2 parents. There were kids with a single mom like me. There were childless adults in our building that I came to know in this community, too.
We ran amuck. It was the classic stay out until dusk scenario. Today, we are generally too terrified of the awful things that could happen to our kids. I think part of why I fear that less is because the danger I faced was in the home of a relative. I found that my community was a very safe place for me.
I played Stable and Teacher in the stairwells when no one was around to play with. I made friends with the single woman who lived next door and took a liking to me. I made cookie bars and sold them out of a shoe box on the front porch - and ended up eating most of them. A friend and I double dog dared each other to take a sip out of a beer bottle we found behind a tree. A nieghbor ran to alert my mom when I fell off a bike.
We were a community. A neighborhood.
And my kids connecting to these kids... reminds me of that. Listening to them playing together, eavesdropping out the window on their conversations, watching them play and run and race... it reminds me of why it's important to cherish childhood, why friendships teach us so much (as adults and as kids), and why community is such an important part of living.