There are some boys on our street who make me wish that using an air riffle was legal. They wander around, swearing at the tops of their voices and generally going out of their way to irritate, provoke or pick fights with everyone who gets in their way. As children go, they could best be described as feral.
Over the course of the last year, they have attempted to smash both the street lights with rocks and the curbside with a shot-put. They have run riot through front gardens – breaking trees and trampling flowerbeds. They have removed sprinkler heads, thrown rubbish around and pinched the girls bikes off them when they have ventured out to play.
One week they ‘borrowed’ a shopping trolley from Coles. Taking turns to sit in it, they rode up and down the street at breakneck speed. Had one of them fallen out onto the road, I don’t think I would have battered an eyelid. It was the worry of the trolley knocking another child off their feet or taking chunks out of my car’s paintwork that prompted me to have it collected and returned to it’s rightful home.
One day, after having gone outside and told the group of mouthy boys to stop hammering our curb with the said shot-put, they started chucking limes at our roof tiles. How much harm can you possibly inflict with a piece of fruit you may think. Quite a lot actually. Especially when the limes are rock hard, and the roof tiles are prone to breaking if you so much as snap your fingers in their direction.
You could be forgiven for thinking we live on a inner-city housing estate, with burnt out cars and old mattresses stacked up in the front gardens. Hardly. We live smack back in the middle of suburbia. Think Ramsey Street, without the regular bouts of arson, murder and intrigue.
To some, these underage pests may not sound too bad. It’s just ‘boys being boys’ you might say. I beg to differ. The petty vandalism aside, it’s the attitude, of these boys, barely into double figures, that just blows me away. The way that they turn the air blue when the other kids are trying to play, the constant fighting and the complete lack of respect towards anyone over 18. If you are thinking that the parents are to blame, that children are a result of their upbringing, then yes, I couldn’t agree more. But don’t even get me started on the mother.
Maybe I am officially now ‘old’. I know that the following is certainly going to make me sound that way – It just wasn’t like that when I was growing up. We weren’t allowed to call our parent’s friends by their christian names, we would have been eternally grounded for being cheeky to an adult and probably sent off to foster care had we dared to swear at one. Yet these kids think nothing of screaming all manner of abuse at an adult. They they did just that at a neighbour recently. Why? Because he stepped in and told them to stop using another child as a punch bag.
Maybe it’s me. Perhaps the world has just moved on, and I never got sent the memo about what is now deemed ‘acceptable’. I know that it is now the ‘in thing’ to treat your child like a mini adult. To dress them up to look 18, to let them stay up until they fall asleep, to educate them way beyond their years and to encourage them to join in adult conversations, voicing an opinion about everything they hear.
Teaching good manners and learning when to keep it zipped no longer seems to be a priority to some parents. It’s all about making sure the child feels important in the world. More important than they actually should be.
I have lost count of the number of presents we have given, where there wasn’t even a ‘Thank you’ in return. This winds me up no end. My daughter spends weeks after her birthday and Christmas, sat at the table, writing out thank you letter, after thank you letter. She may only be doing it because I tell her to, but I’d like to believe that this slow and painful exercise in gratitude and appreciation, will last a lifetime.
Saying that, I do have concrete proof that all my years of nagging about the importance of good manners, have not been in vain. Last month she woke up, called for me and said “Please can you get me a bucket Mummy, I think I’m going to be sick”. I even got a “Thank you”, a couple of minutes later, as she pulled her head out of her Barbie bin, looking slightly green around the gills and covered in last night’s dinner.
My 2 year old is also learning to say ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’ at the moment. Of course he is only parroting back what we say, and has no absolutely no idea why. But this is how kids learn. I go along with the philosophy of getting them while they are young. Hopefully then in years to come, a neighbour will never have to eye him up through their net curtains and wish they had a gun.
As for those loud mouthed pains on our street. It was a happy day for all when a SOLD sign recently went up. ‘Trouble’ is currently packing up and hopefully soon on it’s way. But it just goes to show, no matter where you live in the world, you can choose your house, but it’s completely pot luck who ends up living next door.