Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Trying To Reserve Judgement

You can't blame the kid. The kid is not the one at fault here. But yet... I'm getting a creepy feeling about this particular kid and I'm not sure how to handle it.

Ok, here's the backstory: A few weeks ago this strange (read: unknown) kid started to randomly knock on our door asking if there was a boy here to play with. He's older than Nicholas, and Nicholas didn't know this kid. He was hard to talk to, tended to mumble, and gave off a generally strange vibe. I made introductions and let the kids play together out front with me right there, supervising like a hawk. Everything seemed ok, except for the weird things this kid would say. Like he's homeschooled (which, fine - whatever. Would explain why we haven't seen him around. Come to find out, he's NOT homeschooled... or saying he doesn't have a helmet but then I see him wearing one the next day.) Or not knowing exactly where he lived ("um, it's down there around the corner. No, I don't know what street....") and wanting to do things like check out the stuff in our garage and asking to go in our house. And asking Nicholas if he wanted to come for a sleep-over. Strange. Then he came over and wordlessly handed us a small scrap of orange paper with his name and phone number printed - as in off a printer - on it. The next time he came by was with a little notebook and all he wanted was our name, address and phone number. Weird, right? The whole time I'm being nice and trying to engage him in conversation, but it's tricky. When he calls, he's hard to understand on the phone due to the soft speaking and mumbling thing - he's terrible. I guess I'm just used to Nicholas on the phone, who speaks very clearly and articulately. Anyway, this kid calls and invites Nicholas over to his house to play. I ask to speak with his mother. We chat, I get their address, and tell them that Nicholas can play for just a short time and I walk him over. I want to meet this mother and know where my kid is before I just send him over blindly - unlike this kids' mother, who clearly doesn't know us or where her kid is. (btw, when this kid kept repeatedly asking to go play inside our house I wouldn't let him, thinking if the situation was reversed I wouldn't want my child to be going into a strange house. I felt a better level of comfort between everyone was needed first.) So we met and the mother expressed her bewilderment over her son wanting to befriend Nicholas because this kid is 8 and going into the 3rd grade and didn't know at first that Nicholas was just a young 6 and going into 1st grade. I guess this kid has a younger brother, age 5 and going into Kindergarten. Nicholas would make a better playmate for the younger brother. I agree. But whatever.

So the kids play and I return in about 45 min. to get Nicholas. It's at this point I get to talk more with the mother. Turns out she's divorced and is living with her parents. Her older son spent last year with his father in Utah and just returned here in July. He's desperate for kids to play with because he can't stand his younger brother (so he goes out and finds a kid nearly the same age as the detested younger brother? Hmmm...). Mom was in school to be a medical assistant and was happy to only have one kid to deal with last year. But I guess the dad didn't want to send the older kid home, so the mom and her father got the authorities involved and took him back. So the kid is being jerked around, moving to new places every year, and really doesn't know his brother all that well having been gone for a year. The mom, while seemingly nice enough, is not someone I'll be seeking out in the neighborhood. We're just very different. She parents very differently than I do ("yeah, I'm going to have to look into the after-school classes and programs. I'm not sure what to do with the kids. Maybe they can just come home together - my dad is here most of
the time.... although I can't afford the all-day kinder and they wouldn't let me transfer him into the school nearly with all-day for free, so I'll have to figure something else out." School starts in 2 weeks. Time to get figurin'!)

I'm anxious for school to start so this kid will meet others his own age. He just plays with stuff very differently than my kids do. He's more destructive. He's pouty. He'll jump on top of stuff, or throw things as part of play, and my kids just don't do that (until they see him doing it, and they copy him.) I made the kids go outside with me the other day and busted out the sidewalk chalk. This kid didn't like it and kept asking to go back inside to play. "No, we're outside right now." says I, the adult. "but I'm hot! and I don't like chalk!" as he squats in the shade off by himself across the yard while my kids draw pictures on the pavement. "Fine, L, but we're outside at our house right now. If you want to be inside, you'll have to go home." met with an ugly stare and a "hrumph!" And when the neighbor girl from across the street (also a young 6) comes over to partake in the sidewalk chalk, this kid wordlessly gets up, gets on his bike, and starts to ride away. I have to shout at him to ask him where he's going - that he can't just leave without telling me, etc. "I'm going home!" he pouts.

I don't know - is it me? I know this kid is just trying to find playmates. I know his home life is fucked up (at least it sounds like it is based on what his mother shared), and my neighbor won't let him play with her daughter because she gets the same odd vibe that I do and she's not comfortable with her just-turned-6 daughter playing with an 8 yr old boy. Why would he want to? She's VERY girl. At least half the time he comes by I tell him it's not a good day to play. He's here right now - Nicholas really seems to enjoy him for some reason (big boy crush?), so I let them play from time to time - but it makes me nervous. However, Nicholas never asks to play with this kid, he just goes along with it when he calls or knocks on our door.

Am I just being over-protective? How has anyone else handled the kid you wouldn't pick out as a friend for you kid if it were up to you (which I KNOW it isn't, but still - this feels weird to me.)

Yikes. What a pain. I feel bad for the kid and would want to give him some love and attention because he obvious needs it, but... he is too old to be playing with your kids.

I hate playdates in general. I hate when other moms badger me about playdates. I work (very flexible hours, but still) and I don't want to watch your kid for 3 hours on a Saturday afternoon, nor do I want to have my child gone for that long. My just-turned 8 year old has a friend from a lovely family but seriously they call everyday for a playdate. I have issues with the kid (very hyper and sassy) and won't spend my precious time on my weekends or afterschool debating snacks, tv and what they can do with an 8 year old. Not even my 8 year old!

A new kid just moved in a few months ago, I call this kid the "the stalker". If we are home he is at our door. He seems to watch us drive up and then pounces. He interrupted me 4 times the other day while I was moving the grass. My kids are clean, in pj's and reading books by 7 pm. This kids obviously has a later bedtime because he will ring the doorbell at 8 pm.

Set limits like you already have. Don't let him in your house. Limit the play time to 30 minutes outside with supervision. Let me go to the park with you guys, or ride bikes.

DO NOT let your child go to his house. Sounds a bit unstable. What if mom has a new boyfriend over? Sends chills up my spine...
hmmm, I think you should trust your instincts. I probably would not let him play with my children. Especially if Nicholas isn't into him.
The kid may only be 8 and his fucked up home life may not be his fault - BUT, I think you should 100% go with your gut on this child! I would not let Nicholas play alone with this kid. Of course, I have no idea how you break the news to Nicholas ...

My neighbors have 2 boys: 6 and 8. My 6 year old daughter plays with the 6 year old boy all the time. The 8 year old boy will readily play with them - BUT only if none of his friends are around. Once his friends show up, the kid is GONE. And, I have NEVER found the 8 year old on my porch asking for my daughter to come out and play - the only time he comes over by himself is to escort his brother home. Now, the 6 year old is always on my front porch asking if Elle can play ...
I don't feel you are being too overprotective. If this kid gives you the creeps then go with your instincts. However, I have a feeling he's just very lonely and doesn't know how to talk to others due to his situation at home. Yes, it is kind of weird that he wants to play with your 6 yr old but I've also seen 8 yr olds playing with 4 yr olds. (same sex though) and they all got along fine.

Just keep an eye on them, like you have been doing. I have a feeling when he's playing with your son, he's able to take his mind off of the unstable conditions at home and can be happy. And I do believe after school begins, he may come around less if he finds other boys closer to his age there. Good luck with this.
Trust your gut on this one. He sounds very much like a child I taught, and although his home situation is not his fault, I would try to avoid your son playing with him. His mother, while nice, definitely doesn't seem to have your values, so I wouldn't let Nicholas go over there to play. In my opinion, you've been very open about his problems, but don't feel bad steering clear. You need to protect your won kids more than not hurting anyone's feelings.
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