Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Front yard follies and the backyard blues


For the past few years, “playing outside” meant the backyard. Our girls, however, are getting older and enjoy riding their bikes and scooters, so playing out front has become a thing.

A very stressful thing, for us. Whereas we can continue to get stuff done while they play in the backyard, we have to be with them out front. The backyard is contained; the front is a seemingly endless frontier of invisible yet challenged barriers. Also, cars.

Making matters more difficult is the fact there are suddenly many children in our neighborhood, most of whom either have no parents and live alone like Pipi Longstocking or have parents who treat the front like we do the backyard and are nowhere to be found. I often have to beep my car horn at random children to get out of our driveway when I am trying to pull into the garage, and the neighborhood kids have recently taken up the hobby of ringing our doorbell after 9 p.m. and running away. I am only a few years away from answering the door for no one while in my underwear and then stomping out a flaming bag of poop.

Still, we cannot deprive our daughters of the enjoyment of playing in the neighborhood. (Wait, can we?) I recently allowed them that very privilege since I had yard work to do anyway. IT WENT GREAT.

Me: Girls, come here. We’re going to go out front an-

Girls: YEA YEA YEA! (jump up and down, hug each other)

Me: OK, but hold on. Because here are the rules. I need you to listen to these rules very carefully or you’re coming back in right away, got it?

Girls: GOT IT, DAD.

Me: The first rule, the most important rule: No going in the street. No. Going. In. The. Street. It is dangerous, and I’m not going to be able to have my eyes on you the whole time. Got it?

Girls: (staring through me)

Me: Got it?

Girls: GOT IT, DAD.

Me: Also, you (point to Girl 2) start with the bike, and you (point to Girl 1) get the scooter. However, I expect you to share without fighting and without complaining.

Girl 1: Can I have the bike?

Me: I just—did you hear what I just said? You get the scooter, and there’s no complaining. If I hear complaining or fighting, we’re coming in right away. Finally, no riding past where I can see you, got it?

Girls: GOT IT, DAD.

Me: OK, let’s go.

Girls: YEA YEA YEA!

Wife: (in background) Good luck! (directed at me and said with extreme sarcasm)

Literally 10 seconds later

Girl 2: DAD, SHE’S IN THE STREET.

Me: (look up to see Girl 1 in the middle of the street on her scooter, smirking at me like, “Whatchu gonna do?) You’ve got to me kidding me. YOU—get inside.

Girl 1: (flips out)

Me: (take Girl 1 inside as she loses her ever-loving mind; go back out) Well, enjoy riding in peace while your sister recovers. (do some work, look up to see Girl 2 just sitting on the bike with her mouth wide open) Yo, what are you doing? You’re out here to ride, not sit there.

Girl 2: Oh. (makes weak attempt to pedal, falls off bike, almost into cactus in our front yard, starts crying)

Me: What? Who falls off a bike with training wheels while just sitting there? (check her) You’re fine. Come with me and let’s see how your sister’s doing. (go inside, talk to Girl 2 again, go over ground rules and remind her it’s her last chance)

Girl 1: GOT IT, DAD.

(go back outside)

Literally 10 seconds later

Girl 1: DAD, SHE’S NOT SHARING THE BIKE.

Me: (ignore)

Girl 2: DAD, SHE’S IN MY WAY.

Me: (look up; Girl 2 is riding her bike in circles around Girl 1, who is standing there and hitting the bike with her scooter every time it passes; I watch intently to see if my penetrating stare will change their behavior; it doesn’t) Both of you, GET INSIDE!

Girls: (flip out)

Me: (open front door, send them in) Go play in the backyard!

Wife: Oh, no, what happened? I can’t believe they’re inside already. (said with extreme sarcasm)

Note: This column appears in the 1/8 issue of The Glendale Star and the 1/9 issue of the Peoria Times.

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