June 29, 2017
My kids crowd by the open window as they watch Joey* (name changed) and his very pregnant mama get into the car. They’re headed to the YMCA for Joey’s swim lesson. He’s two years old. One year younger than my daughter and one year older than my son. The perfect little playmate.
Except he’s not. He doesn’t play with my kids. I’m trying to understand why.
My daughter’s favorite word as of late is why. Everything is “why”.
Sweetheart, get up on the sidewalk. Why? It’s time for lunch. Come to the kitchen, please. Why?
This time the why question she asks stings more than the other whys.
Why won’t he play with me? Why won’t he come over? Why won’t he play with me outside? Why?
When our next door neighbor moved in, newly pregnant, with an almost 2 year old son, I thought it was an answer to prayer. I was giddy with excitement as I saw her moving in. Her husband is working overseas, so I thought, surely she’ll have plenty of time for playdates with my two kids and coffee with me. We can girl talk. We can share parenting stories. We can share our lives. You know, living life on life together. I thanked God profusely. Here I am in a new state, a new stay-at-home-mom and now I get a best friend, another stay-at-home-mom no less! This is wonderful.
Only it hasn’t been. It’s been utterly frustrating and confusing.
She came over once two months after moving in. I didn’t want to rush her. I knew she’d have to unpack, settle in, get used to the area, even though she grew up only 30 minutes from here. I gave her some space but I sent her the weekly, hey, how are you doing? Need any help getting unpacked. No thanks! I’m good. Okay, no problem. Give her space.
After two months, I started to ask. Hi friend, want to come over? Want to let the kids play and we can sip water with lemon and share stories? She came over once and never again.
Why? I don’t know. Is it because we don’t have a TV? They do, and it’s on all day. Is it because we don’t have a lot of toys? They do. Lots. It pours out of the apartment. Is it because we eat real food and not take out food three times a day? Seriously, three times a day. McDonald’s for breakfast. Wendy’s for lunch and Sam’s Subs for dinner. Is it because I don’t have any chips and cheese puffs to offer as a snack? She comes home with bags of them. We munch on kale chips and trail mix.
I’m writing this to let my daughter know if one day she asks me why Carter never came over, why he never came outside to play with her, why she was never invited to go over there and play… I’m writing to let her know that I wholeheartedly tried.
I dropped off meals for them. I offered to take out her trash. I offered to help watch her son. I offered to tutor her son. On rainy days, I’d say, hey, come on over and let the kids play in here and go nuts. On hot sunny days, I’d say, hey, come on over and I’ll fill up our water table and let the kids splash around. She took me up on the offer once.
When my children and I walk out our apartment door, we can hear Carter banging on the door, yelling, mama, out, mama outside. It’s heartbreaking. Sometimes, he does’t even hear us walking out the door because the TV is blasting.
I don’t understand.
Does she feel a sense of empowerment? My husband is overseas, I am raising my son on my own, while I am pregnant. I can do this all by myself. Another favorite phrase of my daughter. “No, mommy, I can do it all by myself!”
Or is it sheer laziness? It’s easy to plop your kids in front of a screen and go about doing your own thing, while they are mind-numbingly occupied. I could do that. I could sit inside all day and never step foot outside to soak in some free vitamin D. I could easily go to a drive-thru and spend hard-earned money on fast food meals. I could buy bags of unhealthy junk food snacks. I could go to the local Wal-Mart and fill up a cart of cheap, plastic, throw-away toys.
I choose not to.
I know that we are doing the right thing for our family. I know that we are looked at as the weirdos because of our simple, debt free, grain free lives. Even our families have a difficult time understanding why we live this way.
Asking why is good. It’s important to ask questions. Why am I living this way? Why am I making these choices?
Why’s are good. Ask them. They may lead you to good change. Or you just might discover you are already on the right path. Keep going. Keep living simply.
In the meantime, I’m going to keep on loving my neighbors because Jesus calls me to.