Neighborhood Kid Always Hanging Around


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Dear Robin:

We recently moved into a new home in a new city.  A kid down the street (Andy) has befriended my 9 year-old son and is constantly spending time here, eating meals and going places with us and while it was cute at first it’s not cute anymore.  

I feel like an unpaid babysitter and ATM machine and I have enough on my hands as it is with two other kids under 8. I’m not sure whether to talk to him or his parents and how to do it without coming off like a horrible person and upsetting my son in the process.  Any suggestions?

-Harried Mom

Dear Horrible Person:

Your letter arrived over 6 months ago and at the time I filed it away to use later, but a recent discovery prompted me to find and answer your question.  More on that in a moment.

I understand what it’s like to have kids underfoot who did not slither from your nether regions.  My home is a hub for my son’s friends and at times it can be exhausting.  However, when I once asked him why they don’t gather as often at the homes of other kids, he stunned me with this:

“Everyone wants to hang out here.  They love your cooking and think you’re really cool.  By the way and totally unrelated to my preceding comment, can I please get a new Xbox game?”

Yes, I am well aware that the Master Manipulator gene was passed to my kid, but I also think it’s true our place is a favorite spot for Jake and his buddies.  Despite the extra work that comes with being Kid Central I relish the noise, the activity, and knowing my son has friends who want to be around him and our family in our home.

Before I give you the advice you are seeking, I ask you to consider a couple of points:

Your Son’s Feelings.

You told me when we messaged that your family moved from three states away and this is the third move in the past 8 years.  Your son is at a tender age and I’m sure all the moving around has been tough on him.  

Before you do anything, consider your son’s perspective and whether your annoyance is worth alienating him from Andy.  The repeated relocations must be trying and the joy of finding new a friend surely assuages the pain of being torn away from each former one.

The Kid.

Have you considered whether there might be a very good reason apart from his friendship with your son that Andy is spending so much time at your home?  

Maybe he’s a latchkey kid, without the luxury your family enjoys of having a non-working parent, and he’s lonely.

It’s also possible his home is filled with sadness, anger, violence, or silence, or worse yet: all of the above.  

Your house may be an oasis of respite for this child: a place he can get away from an unhappy family and bask in one that feels more “normal” to him.

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.
– Leo Buscaglia

I know a great kid who along with his brother is being raised by a guardian in our neighborhood. He loves hanging out at our house and I’ve always wondered what his story was.  Last night I utilized the Google Machine and was horrified to discover he and his brother witnessed their father murdering their mother.

With a claw hammer.

So yeah, I’m inclined to open my heart and home to this young man and any other kid who may be going through some sort of struggle or who just thinks our place is a good place to be.

The Advice.

If my thoughts above have not moved you to reconsider or if you think my admonitions are unwarranted in this case, pay the parents a visit and tell them you enjoy their son’s company but you’d like a little more reciprocity (assuming you don’t see a bloody claw hammer lying around and you are OK with your son spending time at their home).

When going on outings that require money, simply ask him if he has any and if he does not, encourage him to get some from his parents.

Finally, you are the adult here so act like it.  If Andy drops by and it isn’t convenient for you, simply tell him it’s not a good time and to please call in advance when he wants to visit.

Then close the door in his sad, rejected, lonely little face.



This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Cousin Eddie

    And the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes that day.

  2. mike

    Robin, thanks for tackling that question from a couple of angles and being sensitive to both the mom and the young friend.
    I remember when we were kids (all eight of us, egad) and one of my friends spent almost every afternoon at our place. I never thought about much about his being there, or how much he ate (many dinners), but I did know that his own home was dark and cheerless and both his parents drank.
    I was just grateful that he could come over to our house so I didn’t have to go to his.

  3. Mary

    Robin ,thank you for your answer to this letter. It is hard at times in our modern, busy , and sometimes stressed out lives to keep a wide perspective. I am on my second nest ( Custodial Grandma) ,and your story of thise poor little tykes illustrates WHY there’s sometimes more to a situation that needs consideration.

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