Sunday, July 27, 2008

How Young Is Too Young?

There is a situation in my neighborhood that is causing me some alarm- not a great amount of alarm but enough that I find it somewhat troubling so I am turning to the smartest ladies I know to see if I am being a little too....well, too Toni.

My neighbors have three children: an 8 year old (Rachel), a 4 year old (Caleb) and a 20 month old (Sadie). Rachel and Claire are good buddies. Rachel lives with her dad and stepmom and Caleb and Sadie are their children. Capisce?

Well, the dad, who I'll call Steve, is a nut about his yard. I mean, a crazy man. He mows several times a week and doesn't like for the kids to play in any area that is not outfitted with play equipment because it smushes the grass. (Honestly. This is not a lie.)

Steve's wife, Amy, a hair stylist, works every other Saturday, thus leaving the kids alone with Steve. This is where Steve's lawn obsession becomes my problem. Steve mows while leaving the 8 year old in charge of the 4 year old and, worse, toddler Sadie. Now, as a SAHM, I get that sometimes things need to be done and when you have an older, more responsible child, they can really fill a void. There are many, many occasions where Claire has to step up and help with Liam. I get that.

She distracts him while I pee. She takes him to the basement while I make dinner (remember I am not a cook so this is usually a microwave warm up of leftovers) but never is she in charge of him for any more than a short while. I just don't see this as her job or responsibility and she is only 8!

A few weeks ago, Steve mowed (twice, as is protocol and takes about 2 1/2 hours) and then cleaned gutters, power washed the house and sprayed weed killer on every weed lining the street in our neighborhood (again, not a lie.) and this took a total of about 6 hours. I know this because we were outside the majority of that time.

While Steve was doing all this, Rachel watched, changed, fed and entertained Sadie. Claire and a couple other neighborhood girls played for a while but, once I realized Rachel was the one in charge, I insisted Claire return home. Rachel eventually had to take Sadie inside the house as it was really hot and the baby was cranky; a neighborhood girl accompanied her. I felt uneasy about this girl going inside alone with Sadie and Rachel because I am good friends with her mom and it made me uncomfortable to think of two 8 year olds watching a young toddler. I chose to butt out.

Well, of course, Sadie got into markers and marked all over herself and a wall. When Steve learned of this, he freaked. He screamed (according to the other girl in the house) at both 8 year olds and grounded Rachel from the computer (where she and her friend were playing and NOT watching the tot) for life! and made her clean the mess.

So, now I don't know how to handle this. I don't want to cause trouble but I am uncomfortable with letting Claire play at their home when the mom is out. I feel that Rachel has way too much responsibility at too young an age. Am I completely overreacting by making the rule that Claire may not, under any circumstance, be alone inside with Rachel and Sadie?

Is this just me being irrational and over the top, or not? At what age is it appropriate for an older sibling to watch a little one? I babysat at 11 but I was a strangely mature 11. What do you think?


Melissa said...

Anything more than about thirty minutes would be waaaay to long in my opinion. That dad is totally out of line and you probably need to talk to the mom about it. Although how I don't know. And I wouldn't send my kid over there knowing that was the situation.

I wish I could give you some better advice on this one. I don't see how you can bring this up with here without totally pissing her off.

MamaMichelsBabies said...

Dad is completely off his wonker. ANd your 100% right about not letting Claire over there. Especially since this guy felt he had some sort of right to yell at not only his 8 year old but someone elses entirely.


I wonder if the other girls parents know this guy was yelling at her? I don't even want to imagine the drama that would take over my neighborhood if someone were to scream at one of mmy inmates. Ug would see red. And so would I.

I would be honest about it not only to Claire but to the other girls parents as well if asked. And I'm sure youll get asked at some point. Me being the tactless twit I am I would mention it to the Mom, just ask her if she knows that little girls watching her sisters for hours on end while Dad is fulfilling his OCD tendencies.That's just me though, but if your not wanting to rock the boat, I'd wait to be asked, then be honest. If they get mad then they get mad. If the truth hurts, baybe they will change it.

Good luck. Neighbors are SOOO not easy.

MamaGeek said...


I personally wouldn't let my daughter over there or I'd maybe talk to the Mom IF I thought that would do any good. That's a tough one, but I don't think you're being 'too toni'.

Lawn freaks. They just ain't right.

wright said...

First -crazy to mow your lawn so many times! But more importantly, crazy to leave your 8 year old in charge. TOO YOUNG!

Dana said...

I am wondering where the 4 year old is? And I don't get it how people can be so obsess over their lawn, it's just grass people!!!

6 hours is just a bit too looong to be watching a child of that age. Esp. when she has a friend over, she's not going to want to watch her. Totally not right for Steve to yell at her, Um excuse me where were you?

Sheesh, some dads sure don't know the meaning of being a FATHER.

Robin said...

Wow. I would definitely not let Claire over there when Mom is not. And to expect an 8 year old to watch TWO younger kids? No way. It's one thing when you are in the house and just away for a few minutes and you can hear, but mowing the lawn, or adult inside/children outside vs.versa, way to much responsibility for an 8 year old.
As for butting in and talking to the Mom. She may not know want might very well appreciate the knowledge, but that could also be opening a whole other can of worms. That one is a tough call.

Kellan said...

I think this is too young! Alexis is 7 and I would not more leave her with a toddler - she's a child herself and they should not be left/held responsible for any child! What if something horrible goes wrong - is the 8 year old to be held responsible? That would not be right! I would be uncomfortable, but I think I would say something to the mom.

Take care - Kellan

Kellan said...

Hey - BTW - This post/topic would be perfect for my new blog On The Flipside (! I am - from time to time - going to ask for "guest bloggers" on that site and I would love to invite you to be my first guest blogger using this post. Let me know if you are interested. If you want to modify the post in anyway, you could do that, but I think it is a great topic/question and I'd love to use it (referring all links back to you and your blog). Kellan

Anglophile Football Fanatic said...

Totally inappropriate behavior on many levels. 1. 8 is far too young to be in charge of a 2 year old. 2. grounding for life? PLEASE 3. yelling at the other child? VERY WRONG.

I think you need to talk to the mother and say Claire cannot be helping when Rachel is expected to babysit a toddler for six hours. Do you think the mom even knows?

And, Dad? Cares more about his lawn than his kids, doesn't he?

Missy said...

Well, since I am a chicken who avoids confrontation at all cost, I would not say anything - but I would not let my daughter go over there either.

If I were not chicken, I would say something - maybe just casually to the mother, that you had heard about the incident from last weekend, and you were concerned about the 8 year old watching the baby for long periods of time?? Not sure how Mom would take it, but if it is bothering you enough to blog about it, something probably needs to be said. :)

Head Gaggler said...

You are totally right in this situation. An 8 year old should not have that burden. Steve should hire someone to come for a few hours on the weekends so get his chores done. As for my kids, I don't know when I will be comfortable with my oldest watching his sisters, could be never, cause...well, he's a boy and he's not responsible. Tough call but I would not let Claire play over there unsupervised.

Christina said...

That's crazy. An 8 year old should never be in charge of two younger kids for that long. I feel so bad for that poor little girl, being asked to do far too much and still getting punished.

No idea how to approach it, though. It's really not your place to question his parenting. But you're completely in your rights to not let your daughter play there when mom's not around, I think.