When we moved into our little town home complex in the fall of 2007, we didn't have many neighbors. Such is the nature of a new development. In fact, when we took the kids trick-or-treating that Halloween, we discovered Natalie and Connor were the only children in residence at that point. (Pro: We got bags and bags of candy. Con: We got bags and bags of candy.)
But now, the development is finished and full. There are quite a few young families around. Which means, for the first time in their lives, our kids have neighborhood friends.
I'm delighted they have playmates. Yesterday, they spent the better part of the afternoon running around our building, playing tag and riding bikes and having squirt gun wars.
But since our old house was in the country (read: no neighbors), I feel a little out of my element here. What's proper neighborhood etiquette? How much do I need to supervise? Do I get involved when a minor skirmish breaks out? ("That's my toy! I was playing with it!") If my kids are inside someone else's house for more than an hour (an activity which was initially approved by all adults involved), do I need to go check on them to make sure they aren't overstaying their welcome?
The fact that I have a young baby to care for adds to my unease. On one hand, I'm thrilled that Connor and Natalie are having fun -- away from the computer and TV. On the other hand, I feel vaguely guilty that they are off my radar, and I'm not actively involved in what's going on outside.
But maybe that's OK? I don't know.
So far, we've laid out the following rules:
1. You need to share your toys (bikes, squirt guns, sidewalk chalk, etc.).
2. You shouldn't expect or demand that your friends will reciprocate with their toys. It would be nice, but it's their decision.
3. Never go into someone's house without asking Mom or Dad for permission.
4. If your friend wants you to come inside, make sure it's OK with their Mom or Dad.
What else do I need to know, experienced parents? I need "Neighborhood Etiquette for Dummies." Enlighten me.
This post was originally published in June 2008 at Kelly's blog Love Well. But neighborhood etiquette remains an enigma for her. So please - share your thoughts.