Last Friday, I was coming home from my run and I found the neighbourhood kids playing on our driveway. It’s not the best thing to come home to your neighbours’ kids playing on your property, but Ray and I still remember being kids and haven’t been so inclined to be the party pooper neighbours. So we’ve decided that as long as they don’t make a mess of our lawn or draw on our driveway or mark up our garage doors, we’re fine.
On that particular day, they all congregated around me just to chat. One of the older girls said, “I’m sorry we’re on your driveway. We should probably ask you first before we play on your property.”
I said, “That’s very nice and I would appreciate that. When I get home, you kids can knock on my door and ask for permission. We normally wouldn’t have a problem with it as long as you follow our rules: don’t play on the grass, don’t touch the walls or the garage doors, and stay away from the windows.”
They sounded really happy to have my permission, and were glad to follow my rules. But the minute I turned my back and pulled out my key to get in the front door, I heard bang!
One of the younger boys was standing with his bike in front of our garage door. Our cobalt blue garage door, which had a fresh white scuff mark from his bike pedal.
He had an impish grin on his face and said, “It was an accident!!!”
In a millisecond, I knew. This is the moment where I have to choose between being cool Renee or grown-up Renee.
Cool Renee would have shaken her head, roller her eyes and wagged her finger at the kid. She would have appreciated the humour in the situation and cracked some joke. She would have said something about how it’s okay just this once, only because it was an accident, but they better not let it happen again (with a wink). She would have eased the tension by being funny, just so they knew for sure that she wasn’t uptight or bossy.
But cool Renee never had to pay a mortgage, and she never had to worry about property value and home repair costs. She also never knew about liability issues and insurance policies. So I looked at this boy’s face and made a choice. “Alright, that’s it, guys. You’re done for the day. Off the driveway,” I said as calmly and as gently as I could amidst their protests, corralling them off our property like chickens into their coop. And just like that, I went from late-twenties to almost-thirties. I grew a whole decade older in the ten seconds it took to walk the length of our driveway.
I felt bad the rest of the afternoon, but as I look out my front window at my young neighbour riding his bike down the street – the same bike that left its white signature on my cobalt blue garage door – I’m thinking they got over it. All the older, wiser, more experienced grown-ups in my life tell me that what I did was right. And judging from the fact that I haven’t once seen them on our property ever since, I’m guessing that maybe it was.