Wednesday, August 21, 2013

a lovely conversation with a grouchy neighbor

The very first night we moved into our new house back in May, Michael got yelled at by our brand new neighbor because our children were being too noisy. A few nights later he yelled at Michael again because Michael was sawing some wood (inside our house) at 9:00pm. Michael apologized profusely both times. The neighbor (let's call him Mr. H) made it known to Michael that he goes to bed at 8:00 and gets up at 4:00 every morning. Michael is very good at conforming and decided to make a set of rules for our family so that we could be courteous to our new neighbor.

1. No driving in on the driveway that we share with the H's past 8:00 at night because the headlights shine directly into their bedroom.
2. No loud voices or power tools after 8:00 at night.
3. No stepping a foot into his immaculate yard. (Mr. Wilson???)

I genuinely want to be good to people and I give the benefit of the doubt whenever I can. I follow the rules and every time I see Mr. H outside I stare him down so that I can smile and wave at him. The latter attempt at friendliness doesn't ever work as he refuses to look at me. He accidentally did make eye contact with me one time and gave the most unhappy and unfriendly wave I have ever received. But it was progress!! And I was satisfied. I have visited with his wife on a few occasions and she is so happy and friendly and kind. She seems like a dear, sweet lady.

Tonight I was honored with my first conversation ever with Mr. H. Remember, he has only even made eye contact with me one time so there haven't been very many opportunities for conversation.

Before I begin, you should know that the driveway situation at our house totally stinks. We have to park in the back of the house and we share the driveways on both sides of the house with the neighbor on the respective side. There is only room for one car to drive in and out at a time. My kids are almost never in the driveway because I realize it's a dangerous place to be (duh!) and we have designated the back yard and the front yard as the only acceptable play areas. However, today they had driven their car to the front of the house to play with it. I didn't want them out front at that particular time so I told them to take it to the back of the house. They drove up Mr. H's side of the driveway ONE time today to get to the backyard. I was watching them from the front door and Mr. H did not leave his house anywhere near the time that they drove the car on the driveway that we share with him. He did not have to wait for them and was not inconvenienced. Except by the mere sight of them, so it seems. Back to my story.

Michael had just left for work and the girls and I had just stepped outside for some swim time. I have had a rough few days and I'm tired and not feeling well. I did NOT want to go outside. But I try to be a good mom and stuff like that so I gave in and out we went. I began to fill the pool up and Arthur (that's the puppy!) trotted around the back of the garage.  I walked back to get him because I try really hard to keep him out of yards that don't belong to us. He had not been out of my sight for 30 seconds. When I walked around the garage he was sitting just over the property line and looking adorably up at Mr. H. Mr. H was wagging his finger at him with the angriest, most disgusted look I have ever seen on an old man (who wasn't acting in a movie, of course). I picked up our sweet puppy boy and here is the conversation that followed. {What Mr. H failed to realize is that I am not my husband. I won't back down to mean people. I am not the most clever person when it comes to witty responses but I dealt with enough bullying in Junior High and high school and I refuse to put up with it as an adult.}

and one more thing. When you read his lines you need to imagine the meanest voice possible because there was NOTHING kind or gentle about the way he spoke to me. Not even remotely.

Mr. H: (wagging his finger at me. or the dog. or both) You oughtta have a leash on that dog.
Me: We're working on it. I'm sorry he was in your yard.
Mr. H: And another thing. Your kids were in the driveway driving around a toy car this afternoon and that's not okay. Your children can't be playing in the driveway like that unless you want a dead child on your hands.
Me: (only a little flabbergasted. okay a lot. Seriously?? a dead child. Was that a threat?) Okay, since we're making requests I've noticed that you back in and out of this driveway really fast and it's scary. So perhaps you could go slower so that the driveway's a little safer.
Mr. H: (Shaking his head) No. That won't solve the problem. I can't see behind my car and I go in and out all the time. You keep your kids outta the driveway.
Me: Okay, but if you were to be more careful and drive slower there would be much less of a concern.
Mr. H: (shaking his head): No. I can't see behind my car. Your kids don't belong there. Do you want a dead child?
Me: Do you want to kill a child? I'm not asking you to install a camera on the back of your car, I'm asking you to drive slower. My older kids are old enough to to move out of the way if they see a car coming; the baby doesn't come out unless I am with her. If you're driving slowly they will see you and get of the way. I will continue to do what I can to keep my them out of the driveway but I can't be out here every minute. I will work on keeping them out of the way and I would really appreciate it if you'll drive a little slower.
Mr H: No. I've lived in this house for 40 years and I've never had to worry about backing in and out.
Me: Yeah, well you've got a family with children next door now and you've got no choice but to deal with it. You can move your vehicle a little slower. You've got control over that much.
Mr H: You need to deal with me coming in and out of the driveway. You keep your kids out of it.

At this point I walked away because talking to him was like arguing with a grouchy, wrinkled 12 year old and I could see that going back and forth with him was pointless. He may have 50 years on me but my maturity level seems to be just a little higher and I was not about to keep such a stupid conversation going. I sent a text message to Michael and told him what happened and then stomped around my yard and thought of a hundred more things I would have liked to tell him. I walked back to his yard to find him and then headed for his front door when Michael called me. And that's when I cried. Michael talked me out of confronting him and it probably wouldn't have been a good idea anyway because my emotions were all bubbling at the surface and the last thing I wanted was for that bully to see that he had succeeded in making me cry. Don't worry, you can bet your buttons he'll have a letter waiting for him in the next few days. And he can confront me any time he wants because next time I'll have my guard up.

Poor Mr. H obviously has something that he is very bitter about. I don't know what it is because he has a wife who seems to be just precious. He has grandchildren who visit him all the time. (and who are all really nice!) I don't know why he is upset, but even if there is a perfectly legitimate reason it does not excuse a person's mean and unacceptable behavior. I would love to hear any advice anyone has for me. Or other mean neighbor stories. I didn't know this stuff happened in real life! So please, friends. What are your thoughts?


  1. Awe, Katy, my heart goes out to you But I say, give him time....he will warm up to you. We have to remember that with age, people can grouchy and lose patience out of frustration. Remember, the Lord does not always give us the solution/peace/answer/comfort, we are looking for immediately. If he never warms up to you, you will have learned a great lesson in patience. :) (and through example, so will your children)

    Just a quick related story: My parents have neighbors who have always had an issue with them regarding parking and bushes that grow over the fence, etc. They had a few nasty run ins over the years, but when my brother passed away in December, their hearts were softened and they made peace with my parents (it took a few years, but it happened nonetheless). They have had a wonderful relationship since.

  2. I say to hold your ground but to try to do it with love and patience. I've learned in situations like these that yelling never helps, we've had a few fun neighbors ourselves. :) Maybe you could somehow help him get to know your kids, then maybe he wouldn't be so negative towards them? Sometimes people are just grouchy and we'll never know why. It's interesting that he has grandkids of his own, you would think that would make him more tolerant of yours. Maybe he's mad that you moved in and have disrupted the way he does things if he's really been there for 40 years. It may just take him time to adjust, old people get stuck in their ways sometimes. But I totally think you were in the right with the things you said to him. You live there too and he has to realize that he has to share. You have just as much right as him to be there. I would let him know how hard you are trying to be accommodating and respectful of him. Maybe have a little chat with him and his wife, if she is the more reasonable one. Invite them over for dinner? Maybe she can help him to relax a little. Sounds like he has nothing better to do then watch if your kids cross the property line or not. You may want to nip it in the bud though if you're living there long term, it could be uncomfortable otherwise. If he won't understand, then that's his problem. And although this is probably not directly in line with church doctrine, my grandmother, who is usually right, always said to us growing up that sometimes the most effective medicine for someone is to treat them how they are treating you, to some degree. Maybe he's used to people just bending to him? I don't know, but definitely try love and dinner first. Then a taste of his own medicine last. :)

    1. Thanks for the advice, Ciera:) We are definitely not the only ones this has happened to but I feel like no one else has stood up to him... I have decided that kindness and love are definitely the best route and we'll continue to be respectful. If he gets rude again I will still stand my ground. We'll see what happens. Thanks for taking the time to comment:)