Neighborly Love?

March 23, 2009

Whenever I watch movies or TV shows that show neighbors sharing their sugar and eggs or sitting out on their porches talking to one another, I think, “who really lives like that?”  Most of my neighbors have been strangers or someone you said hello to in passing, and that is especially true in Type-A city where it is almost like the monuments are a constant reminder of the importance of stony silence.

That said, we have a new neighbor.  She seems to be a single mom of a 3-or-so-year-old-boy, or at least the dad doesn’t seem to be around.  And they have been having some troubles.  The boy has been trouble getting to and staying asleep in his new bed- he keeps climbing out of it.  This has resulted in nights of screaming crying on his part and screaming on hers.  There have been times when my husband and I have stood at the wall, waiting to see if she is going to hit him. 

I was talking about this with someone recently and they suggested that I should say something.  My reaction was, what can I really say?  “I hear you screaming at your kid- here’s how I think you should parent…”  She offered that maybe I could share a parenting hotline number, but again that feels intrusive, especially when she doesn’t seem to be physically harming him (in which case I would, of course, call the police).  And the truth is, I feel for her.  I can’t imagine being a single mother, living in a new place, with a son who is struggling with the transition. 

I don’t want to be that nosey neighbor who offers cookies glazed with unwanted advice.  But when do you offer help?  When do you act like a neighbor?  And what is the neighborly thing to do?

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