Back when my brother and I were little it was pretty much the norm to have a parent staying at home. Our mom did, and so did a great many other mom’s in our neighborhood. Because of that, we were never really bored because there was always someone we could go and play with, and we knew we could play with them because they’d be at home just like us.
Nowadays, having a parent stay at home is the exception rather than the rule. The boys don’t have very many friends that live in the neighborhood. They know the little boy across the street who is a year older than Cameron, and the little girl next door who is two years younger than Brendan and two older than Cameron. Brendan used to be friends with the little girl two doors down, who is a year older than he is, but her dad stopped letting her play with Brendan a couple of years ago and told me it was because she was a girl and he was a boy and he didn’t think that was appropriate (We aren’t very fond of that neighbor).
Back when Brendan was in second grade, and the girl next door was in Kindergarten they both went to the same after school program. We were excited about this, figuring that they would have more time to play together there than they usually did once all of us parents got home from work and put dinner on the table. As it turned out, she didn’t want to play with him there because there were other girls in her class that she could play with. Unfortunately Brendan didn’t understand this and the two of them ended up getting into a huge fight. It was so bad that once or twice over the next couple of weeks we’d see the girl or her parents outside and Brendan would turn right around and go into the house.
I finally confronted him about it and found out the two of them had fought. Not wanting the relationship we’d built with our neighbors to go the way that things had gone two doors down, I went next door and talked to the girls mom. She got the full story out of the little girl, both she and Brendan apologized to one another and life went back to normal. After that they went back to being friends, but I noticed a dip in the amount of times Brendan asked to go next door to play, and the number of times she appeared on our doorstep.
It’s possible that was in my imagination though. Because shortly thereafter I stopped working and Brendan wasn’t in the afterschool program with her any longer. It seemed over our first summer home that it was difficult to catch them at home and not busy because both her parents worked such long hours. I briefly considered offering to take her in and watch her over the summer but wasn’t sure whether I wanted to commit to two extra kids for 12+ hours a day (because she’s got a baby brother who’s about 8 months younger than Kaylee).
Last school year was much of the same, by the time homework was done, and dinner was on the table there never seemed to be much time for the kids to go out and play. Then winter set in and once that happens we pretty much never see our next door neighbors until spring since the weather rarely warrants us going out to do much more than shovel the driveway.
When spring finally arrived I noticed once or twice that our neighbor was leaving his house at the same time I was and taking his daughter to school. I thought that odd since he and his wife had always worked so early in the morning. I figured maybe he changed his hours to at least be able to take her into school and thought no more of it. Then I started to notice him home in the afternoons after school as well, and feared maybe he’d lost his job. I prayed I was wrong, but hadn’t had the opportunity to meet up with him and ask about the changes.
Finally a few weeks ago I noticed that the little girl next door was riding her bike up and down her driveway looking lonely. I was outside taking out the trash and as soon as she saw me she started talking to me and peppering me with questions, finally ending with wondering if Brendan and Cameron were home and could play. I told her they were and soon all the kids were outside playing sidewalk chalk in the driveway. In my brief conversation with her, I found out that my neighbor had not lost his job after all, he’d just changed jobs and was able to work from home meaning that he was essentially a stay at home dad.
I couldn’t have been happier for them. I didn’t realize how stressed I was trying to hold down a full time job and take care of three small children until I stopped working. Now that I’m home, there is a different type of stress, and the kids do make me crazy from time to time but they would have done that anyway and now that’s the only thing I have to worry about. I hoped my neighbor was finding the same relief in his life even if he was still working.
Once school started I noticed him loading his daughter and their toddler into the car and taking them down to the bus stop (which is across the neighborhood from our houses because you have to live more than a mile from the school to ride the bus, and our houses are just inside that mile). Knowing how much of a pain it was to load Kaylee up last year and take her to drop off the boys at their schools it seemed silly to have him do all that extra work.
So late last week I saw them coming home from the bus stop and ran next door to catch them. I explained to him that I was already taking the boys up to the school and taking his daughter would be no problem if he wanted. It turns out that she really likes riding the bus so he didn’t take me up on the offer, but as we got talking I learned that his new job is as a real estate agent and once in a while he’s got to leave the house to do different things associated with that job.
Like us he has family in town who can take the baby on short notice, and in an emergency they’ve also found a drop in daycare. But as he commented, and I’ve found the same thing myself, sometimes those options are just not convenient. Like when you’ve got to run up to the school for a quick meeting with the teacher. Not really something you want to take your little one to, but taking them to a family member’s house actually doubles the time you’d be gone. Times like that you wish there was another option that didn’t take you out of your way.
This got me thinking. I don’t work, so there’s no reason at all that I couldn’t help him out in situations like that. Besides, with Kaylee and his little boy so close in age she’d love having a playmate for a while. She’s been so bored the past few months, and more so now that Cameron isn’t home to play with her. I offered this to my neighbor and he was ecstatic. Then he surprised me by making the same offer. It’s not that I thought he wasn’t nice enough to do so, but the difference is he does work from his home.
I came home and told Matt all about what had transpired and wondered if our neighbor would ever really take me up on the offer or if he was just being polite. I told Matt that I would take him up on the offer the next time I needed to in order to prove I was serious and hopefully convince him that it really was okay to ask me to watch the baby for a bit. But as it turns out I didn’t need to.
Monday night after Matt and I had gotten the little ones into bed, we were in the basement playing a game when we heard the doorbell ring. We thought it odd that our doorbell should be ringing that late at night (it was just before 8:30) and went to see who it was. No surprise, it was our next door neighbor wanting to know if I’d be free to watch his little one for just over an hour on Tuesday morning. He looked like he felt guilty asking, but I assured him it was no problem.
I worried a little about how it would all go down because at the ages his little boy and Kaylee are it’s sometimes difficult to judge if they’ll be open to the experience or just bawl for their parent. I haven’t had much interaction with him yet so I would be a complete stranger and I don’t know that he and Kaylee have ever interacted. But she and I went next door and knocked after we’d dropped the boys off at school. Seeing someone else who was his size excited him and he eagerly chased her out the door and into the yard.
It took some doing to convince the two of them to go in the house but I finally managed it. Once inside I’d set out Cameron’s Rescue Bots which are Transformers designed for smaller children, and Kaylee’s Backyardigans. The two of them had a blast playing with the toys, and running through the house. The little boy wasn’t scared at all about navigating through our house as we have the same floor plan as he does, and his room and Kaylee’s room are even the same one so he felt right at home.
When his dad came to pick him up, he seemed relieved to hear the two kids had done so well together. We discussed definitely doing this again, and even getting the two of them together at times that we didn’t necessarily need help. Well I can’t wait to put this new arrangement into practice. In fact, I’ve got the perfect opportunity for Kaylee to try being away from me. Brendan has his next orthodontist appointment on Monday morning, should be a great time to see if our neighbor can take her off my hands for an hour.