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am I my neighbor's keeper?


I believe I have accurately documented the difference in parenting styles between me and my next door neighbor, Nuthouse. In the past, I have been surprised by the behavior of Nuthouse's children. Surprised enough that I should have a permanent disfigurement on my chin from the amount of times my mouth drops to the floor. But I usually avoid them, so I have limited contact with her and her children.

Yesterday Kravitz (the neighbor on the other side of Nuthouse) stopped by to get my feed back on a situation she was mulling over. She is considering calling Child Protective Services on Nuthouse. Now them's fightin' words. Not for me, mind you, but that's a serious claim. I have never personally seen bruises, broken limbs in casts or scars on Nuthouse's children.

I have seen a bloody nose and scabs on the 2-year-old's face that were explained as the result of him falling down the stairs on the wooden deck, and the stairs inside the house, since "his equililbrium isn't very good due to a cold." Seemed fishy at the time, but okay.

So Kravitz wanted to know what I thought of her calling CPS. I said I wasn't sure what my personal obligation was regarding the neighbor's children. I have my hands full raising my own children and making sure they are well fed and happy. I said if I was thinking about calling I would start keeping a log of what I saw, dates, times, events, etc. for three to five days to see if a pattern emerged. I would then research CPS and see what the parameters are, what constitutes neglect, abuse, etc. I would think about calling anonymously to see if it was worth a report, but I would have huge reservations.

I also told her she should really examine her motivation for calling. I have to say I was quite proud of myself for saying that to her face. That is something that, in the past, I would have been too nervous to say outloud for fear of offending her. She said she was concerned about Nuthouse's children, even though she doesn't like the children. What I implied was that she shouldn't call just to get Nuthouse in trouble for kicks. And yes, I wouldn't put it past Kravitz to do this because she just doesn't like Nuthouse.

Kravitz relayed the two most recent events she has witnessed first-hand as evidence. A couple of days ago the three boys (6, 4.5 and 2.5 years old) were climbing, frolicking and playing on the roof of the minivan. Not the hood where you change the oil, the actual roof where one might store luggage on the rack. This sounds completely plausible to me.

You must understand that these boys are like feral spider monkeys. I can't tell you the number of times they precariously balance the plastic kiddie pool in their yard so they can climb up and straddle the top of the six-foot wooden privacy fence we erected between our homes. Every day I see them practice their balancing skills by walking on the handrail of the deck, as if they are gymnasts representing the U.S. in the Olympics. The deck handrail must be at least seven feet above the lawn and approximately four inches wide. So playing on top of the roof of the minivan doesn't seem like much of a stretch to me.

Kravitz also cited this example. Let me add, I did not personally witness this event, but again, it seems somewhat plausible to me. She said the 2-year-old took an actual dump on the lawn. Since he runs about naked in the backyard I could see that happening. She then said the 6-year-old dared the 4-year-old to eat the feces. The 4-year-old rose to the challenge and did, indeed, take a bite. Kravitz watched this unfold from her deck, which really does have a front-row seat to the proceedings in Nuthouse's backyard. Thankfully Nuthouse's addition in the back blocks the majority of my view. Thank you, Sweet Jesus.

Is this worth calling in the authorities? I don't want to be involved. Am I callous and uncaring, a bad neighbor even? I really am doing my best to coexist in this world and to raise happy, health children. I try to lead by example; I treat other people how I would like to be treated. Do I really have to lookout for the welfare of my neighbor's kids? Whatever the answer, I'm not doing it.


2007-07-17 at 7:16 a.m.

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