In the Neighbourhood – Part 2 (Red Flags)

A red flag is a good thing. A moment of furrowed brows and a pausing to try to piece a moment together can give you insight into an intuitive moment and possibly save you from energy needlessly spent. It can also just be a red herring, but I find if I pay attention and keep track of the red flags, well, you end up feeling stupid when you look back and realize you didn’t listen to them and change course. But you might end up with a good story.

The first red flag, when I started to get a sense of the bigger, dysfunctional picture, was when I noticed that Maria was not heeding my instructions about my daughter. I had repeatedly asked that candy and high sugar snacks not be given to her after dinner. You might find it interesting to know that I know my daughter exceptionally well, and have come to observe that sugar before bed made her hyper, leading to a frustrating night which led to a tired morning. I also know that keeping a schedule is highly beneficial for her personality and have taken great care to ensure she eats, sleeps and learns well. This cannot be said of my neighbour who feeds her son at 9pm sometimes, lets him stay up until 2am if he’s ‘not tired’ and hasn’t been on time for school in two years. Structure and scheduling are not part of her world.

Frequently I would go to get my daughter for her bathtime and find her downing a bowl of ice cream. At first I didn’t say anything; just dealt with the energy of a hyper child. But after voicing my request for a no sugar evening, and still finding ice cream, Fruit Loops, cakes, popsicles, and more, one of us was sure to snap, and on this occasion, it was my husband. He had gone over and to retrieve our daughter and yet again found her mouth full of something bright and sticky and came back to monologue in the hallway about how she may not care about structure, but this family does and I don’t know how many times we have to say it clearly for her, but it messes with bedtime and I don’t want her going over there if everything we say having to do with our daughter is blatantly ignored!

Essentially.

So when I went over to bring our daughter back home, I put on my manager voice and said as directly as humanly possible that my daughter was not allowed to have sugar after dinner, and if she is eating it, then she has come to get my permission first.

That seemed to work a while. Until Maria replaced sugar with something so much more wonderful, so much more exciting that it was easy to forget that little pesky red flag. I was too busy trying to make out the next one. It was bigger and much more red.

In the Neighbourhood – Part 1

My neighbour. My neighbour across the hallway, from Brazil with a son the same age as my daughter. Proximity means playmates. Playmates for playdates. So many. So many until it was clear this just wasn’t going to work out. It’s not me, it’s you. We need to break up. Neighbour break ups are hard. They include the children, they include belongings (‘you left this Tupperware at my place’) they include awkward handoffs, run-ins, and long pauses between sentences when speaking. Neighbour break ups are not as intense as a divorce, but sometimes I think having a legal document to end the relationship would actually make things easier.

My neighbour. We’ll call her Maria for privacy reasons. Maria from Brazil who is chaotic in every way. This is no secret. She basically introduces herself using that adjective. Her accent is thick and never-improving, and she speaks as though she were already engaged in heavy conversation with you. She is a mid-sentencer, a mid-thoughter, and is unapologetic. These tactics are coy and plotted, all to appear to have as many best friends as possible. Once while walking down the street with her she engaged in half-conversations with every single person we passed. I got home and wondered how anybody could possibly know everybody in the neighborhood. Turns out nobody does, least of all Maria; but she is a master of passing friendships, casual-to-the-point-of-intimate hellos, and it works. It worked on me. For awhile.

I caught her. Or rather, I was witness to her faulting in her game, and when I saw her game clearly, I felt like I had caught her in her own act. I decided it was time to break up. Not just for my sanity, but because my daughter was spending enough time with her that there was no way her gimmicks and devices weren’t rubbing off on her, as I saw them rubbed smoothly all over her son already. Being a passing friend, a neighbour with two doors and a hallway to separate us means we don’t need to have the break up conversation. Having a 6 year old that doesn’t need to be introduced to the complexities of adult social behaviour means I don’t need to have the break up conversation. One day, I will explain to my daughter why I put so much distance between us, even though at this age she sees this woman as her hero. My move to slowly and carefully eradicate my neighbour from our lives has been a journey, and warrants a story.