Summer is here. School is out. My kitchen floor is covered in dirty footprints, sand covers the floor of our minivan, and my shower curtain rod is the placeholder of many bathing suits waiting to dry. It’s a true mess, but the most beautiful kind of a mess. I love that my kids spend more time outside than inside. After this unbearably long winter, we all need it.
But there is one small annoyance. The neighbor kid. The child is nice to my kids, and mildly respectful towards me, but is always over here! Within 5 minutes of our going outside, it’s a guarantee that our next door neighbor will come walking through our gate ready to get in on whatever my kids are doing.
And every time, I throw a silent mini-temper-tantrum. It’s shameful really. I should like this kid, but I can’t say that I genuinely do. The things she talks about, the way she defies our simple rules, the way she WALKED RIGHT IN MY HOUSE without even asking. Oh man, that one really tested me. It all drives this introverted, private mom crazy.
Is it going to be like this all summer? Is it going to be like this the entire time we live next to each other? Why can’t her guardians tell her to cool it? Maybe understand that I don’t want to babysit their kid every time I want some vitamin D in the privacy of my backyard?
But then I got to thinking: this little girl does not have an ideal family life. For reasons unknown to me, she is not being raised by her biological parents. She probably gets teased at school because of things I would rather not mention here – I just know that kids can be cruel and she likely doesn’t fall on the favorable side of the teasing. And honestly? She really is very sweet to my kids. They love her. She isn’t bossy or exclusive or mean. She doesn’t like my rules, but that may be because she is not used to having rules.
So instead of my knee-jerk reaction of irritation, I want to choose to see her presence as an opportunity. An opportunity to show kindness and love and yes, maybe even structure. An opportunity to speak encouragement and love into her life instead of huffing and puffing under my breath. Maybe we can even form a positive relationship and she will come to see her time as our next door neighbor, fondly. Maybe- just maybe, I will too.
We as women should strive to lift each other up. Not just lift up our coworkers or friends or people we love, but maybe even lift up little kids- little girls who annoy us as well. This little girl will grow up to be a woman, facing all of the challenges we as women face, and can use all the encouragement she can get. We all know how hard the world can be.
Despite my initial irritation, I hope to be a good role model, a tool used to help lift her up to a place where she can encourage other people, fight for humanity, and love others fiercely. She is so much more than just the annoying neighbor kid.