Over the summer a woman and her four year old boy moved into the house that is catty-corner to ours. Little Miss and this little boy became fast friends. This little guy is a bit rough around the edges. I’m pretty sure he’s the one that taught Little Miss how to say, “What the hell?!” (um…. yeah….). But he’s a cutie. He’s a sweetie. And I immediately wanted to show him as much love as our family could. His Mama seems to be quite down on her luck, and I sense that things are just hard for them.
For whatever reason, this little guy roams around our neighborhood on his own rather frequently. I don’t want to go all court of motherhood on anyone, but it concerns me. He’s only four, and this is a pretty quiet neighborhood, but there are always dangers. I’m generally a little relieved when he comes to play in our yard because then I know he at least has grown-up eyes, namely mine or Husband’s, watching out for him.
Yesterday was rainy and cold–a very Northwest kind of autumn day. I told Little Miss she could not go outside while it was raining. But wouldn’t you know it, our little buddy was out playing. He had a warm coat on along with his flip flops….. But still it was rainy and cold and I wanted my girls inside with a warm fire snuggled and dry.
The alliance between Little Miss and our little buddy is stronger than rain though, even stronger than sliding glass doors. Finally, after lunch, they’d both worn me down to allowing Little Miss to go sit on our dry porch swing and chat with our little buddy until it was warm and dry enough to play in the yard. Then her parameters were the usual STAY IN THE BACK YARD WHERE I CAN SEE YOU AT ALL TIMES ORFACEDIRECONSEQUENCES!!!! warning. That worked well.
I glanced out the back window (as is my custom every 1-3 minutes/seconds when she’s outside), and she’d disappeared. I ran outside and did a lap around the house only to find her playing in the ditch in front of our house–close to the road.
Enter the Mommy discipline complication.
Little Miss’s consequence for this scary infraction of the rules was to abstain from playing outside for two days.
Did I mention that Little Miss and Our Little Buddy’s alliance is stronger than sliding glass doors….?
Our Little Buddy, was camped out on our back step as soon as we got back from Preschool today. No amount of reminders that “Little Miss is not allowed to be outside today or tomorrow, but you can come back this weekend” would move the persistent little guy off the step. No amount of blunt, grown-up grumpy, “You really must find somewhere else to play,” would budge him.
And Little Miss pined after her friend, pined after the out of doors, and it was brutal. Especially because she was willing to comply with Mommy’s consequences. I could tell she could hardly stand it though. Esepcially when Our Little Buddy brought over a bag full of sugary sweets to share.
Finally, I brought out the big guns and said it was nap time.
So the girls are in bed (not sleeping, but that’s another of my crosses to bear you know), I’m out in the living room preparing to do something productive when I glance out the window and see….
Our Little Buddy.
Bless his little noggin’, the poor little guy just wouldn’t go home.
I don’t know what home is like for this little guy. I don’t presume to know. But I do know that he and his Mom are going through some difficult times in their collective life at this point in time. I know that this kid is desperate for affection. I know that Our Little Buddy seems to hang around here as much to play with Little Miss as he does to chat with Husband and I. I suspect that the structure and boundaries we try to provide for our girls appeal to him. I suspect that having somone bend down to his level and care about what he has to say makes him feel pretty special.
And so my conundrum is this: How do we convey care and compassion to this little guy without usurping my own discipline and still maintaining boundaries for all of our family?
That remains to be seen. It’s a tight-rope walk that I have no choice but to walk. Because our little buddy is still sitting on the back step.