I'm Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville wife and mother with a passion for family travel, (mostly) healthy cooking, exploring Tennessee, and raising kids without losing my mind in the process. This is where I share my discoveries with you, along with occasional deep thoughts, pop culture tangents and a sprinkling of snark.
January 3, 2014
My husband and I have always wanted to be the owners of That House.
Not That House with the reclaimed wood floors and and tastefully spare decor. Or That House with the peeling paint and unmown lawn. And certainly not That House with the police car lights flashing outside several times a year.
No, we wanted to be That House, the house where all of our children’s friends come to play. Most of you had a That House growing up, right? It was the place where snacks were plentiful, rooms were comfortably lived-in, and the parents were friendly and welcoming. All the kids naturally gravitated there to play.
If That House were our house, Dennis and I reasoned, we would know our kids’ friends well, and therefore be better connected with what was going on in the lives of our own children. This would become especially important when they were teenagers– While my parents were fairly clueless about what was happening when I was in high school, the mom in That House was a seasoned counselor (from the many heart-to-hearts she had with teenage girls at her kitchen table) and keeper of all our secrets. She was good about knowing when to keep information to herself and when to share it with the moms and dads of the girls she advised. She had a tight relationship with her own daughters because she knew what was up. Well, now that I have kids of my own, I want to know what’s up, too.
Or at least, I thought I did.
You see, my wish has come true. We are That House in our neighborhood, and with well over a dozen kids living within easy walking distance of our home, our humble That House has gotten quite a lot of use over Christmas break.
On any given day over the last couple of weeks, somewhere between three and nine neighbor kids could be found roaming in and out of my house and backyard. Between them all, the requests have literally been endless: “Where’s the bathroom?” “Mommy?” “We want pizza.” “Can I have some water?” “Where did Bruiser go?” “I want something to eat.” “Can you get the checkers out of the toy closet?” “Mommy?!” “Can you get out the Play-Doh?” “Grace and Tommy won’t stop fighting.” “We’re hungry again.” “Have you seen my other shoe?” “Can we have some candy?” “The ball went down the sewer grate.” “Bruiser hit me!” “MOMMY?” “Do you have anything besides milk and water?” “Can you turn on the Xbox?” “Will you call my mom for me?” “Bruiser won’t stop bothering us!” “Can we watch a movie now?” “MOMMMMMY!!!???!!!!” “What time is it?” “Can we take the dog for a walk?” “MMMMMMMOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
This kind of thing is pretty typical– but over time, conditions have rapidly deteriorated from “okay” to “definitely NOT OKAY” as the kids have become maybe a little too comfortable here.
Oh, who are we kidding? The inmates have taken over the prison.
I first realized there was a problem when the seven-year-old from up the street strolled through my front door without knocking a few days into break and headed through the house and into my office.
“Uh, hi,” I called out from the kitchen. “What are you doing? The kids aren’t here.”
“I’m getting a gumball,” he answered dismissively.
What the what?
The next day, five kids were in my den playing Poptropica on the computer when the doorbell rang.
“I’ll get it,” one of them called out, hopping up and racing to the door. It was the UPS guy. The kid took the package and shut the door in his face, just as I came around the corner.
They have even started answering my telephone when it rings. No. I am not kidding. That happened. More than once. But wait! There’s more! They’ve destroyed the newly-organized toy closet! And broken Bruiser’s new kite! And at one point, I looked outside and saw them with every single gardening tool in our garage, hacking away at the ivy on our backyard fence! Spotting my son waving a giant pair of pruning shears around was not what I’d call the best feeling in the world. No it wasn’t.
Please don’t think I’m taking all this quietly. Each time these incidents have happened, I have told whomever was involved that it cannot, MUST NOT happen again– The problem is that something new then happens- something I never could have anticipated. And the result is that I am seriously on the verge of some sort of holiday meltdown. I mean, you should see my house after two weeks of Christmas vacation. The floors are tracked with sneaker prints of various sizes. Nearly every room in the house is littered with dolls and toys and gaming equipment. You can’t come inside without tripping over a half dozen pairs of shoes and winter coats that the kids have flung down after playing (for an all-too-brief amount of time) outside. Worst of all, Kidz Bop is blasting non-stop from Punky’s bedroom.
Freaking Kidz Bop.
That’s me in the corner. Huddled. And rocking.
A few days ago, I finally caved. It was time to hand the That House mantle to somebody else.
“It is now someone else’s turn,” I announced when my kids awoke and immediately asked to invite their friends over. “You can go play outside, and when someone asks to come in, I want you to suggest that you all go to THEIR house.”
They went outside and did just that.
The other mothers were duly consulted, and -shockingly- there were no takers. I guess I can’t blame them- I can only assume they’ve spotted me over the last couple of weeks staggering out of the house with frazzled hair and a hangdog expression on my face, and I know at least a few of them have seen the shocking condition of my home when they’ve come to pick up their children at the (very) end of the day. What woman in her right mind would want to put herself through THAT?! No one, that’s who.
No one except me. And the word’s gotten out. I won’t name names, but I’ve gotten a few calls and texts lately from moms I barely know, asking me to keep their kids during the break. Apparently these days, That House is synonymous with Free Daycare.
School can’t start back soon enough.
Image via Boston Public Library/Flickr