Our young neighbors Bob and Claire are wonderful —which is a fricken relief because we basically share a yard. A flat, treeless yard. When my kids are drawing with chalk in our driveway or playing with the hose, Bob and Claire can watch us from their dining room window until they die of boredom. Likewise, when Bob and Claire grill on their porch or prune their hostas, we can watch them 'till the cows come home.
And we do — we watch each other. It's a running joke. "I saw you with your groceries. Too bad your watermelon fell and cracked in the driveway. I would have eaten some." And "I saw you mowing your lawn and sneezing and coughing. I didn't mean to laugh, but I did."
We're like cats watching cat TV — it's hard to look away. It's lame, but it's a slow neighborhood.
Neither of us can plant trees or put up a fence because of an easement with the property. I've done my best with decorative plants and shrubs but yah, none of them are high enough to hide their house from plain view.
Usually it doesn't bother me. Our friendship with Bob and Claire is straight out of "We Have The Best Neighbors Ever." They watch our dog when we go away, even if she smells like skunk. We watch their dog and one-eyed cat. If I lock myself out of my house, Bob leaves his in-town job and lets me in with his extra key. This happens more than I'd like to admit.
And, to be honest, they're kind of like movie stars. They have a million friends. When Bob mows the lawn shirtless, half the neighborhood peers out the window. Ditto for when Claire sunbaths in her bikini.
But then sometimes, like the first summer I had my third son, Cam, I wished I could erect a 50-foot brick wall to hide from them because you know, it's kind of hard to look like you have your shit together when you have three kids — and one of them is a baby.
There Bob and Claire would be, grilling and laughing with their friends, and I'd be rocking Cam in his stroller in the driveway, praying he'd take a nap — for awhile it was the only way he'd sleep — and I would be sweaty and exhausted and starving and lactating, and Junior and Everett would yell from the kitchen window, "MOM! What's for dinner? MOM! We're starving!" and Cam would start screaming again and then I'd want to scream "Just eat your fingers for Pete's sake!!"
I hated it. I didn't want to let my neighbors hear Cam cry. I didn't want them to hear Junior and Everett yelling.
I couldn't let them see I was losing it.
I started parking the car closer to the kitchen window so I could hide behind it and rock Cam and keep an ear out for Junior and Everett. I'd cry a little. Sometimes I'd cry a lot. Meeting the needs of so many people is overwhelming. Doing it while listening to your buff, childless neighbors laugh and drink wine only exacerbates matters.
But life is funny.
Cam is three now; his driveway napping days are over. Junior and Everett are older and can actually get themselves a snack if they're hungry. I no longer approach dinnertime like Rocky going into the 15th round. In short, it doesn't make me burst into tears.
Bob and Claire now have a one year old, and they just found out they have another on the way. They'll have a toddler and a newborn at the same time.
Sleep deprived, stressed and trying to handle Claire's morning sickness, I overheard Bob whisper to Chuck this weekend, "How do you survive it?"
Chuck shook his head and said, "You just do."
I realized how far I've come. We've come. We've crawled out of the hole. Ok, maybe not out of the hole but we are a hell of a lot closer to the top than we were before. Or, if parenthood were a series of holes, we've climbed out of some of them. Unless we have a puker, we sleep through the night. Bam, there's one hole. We can leave the house without a diaper bag. Bam! There's another hole. We don't use sippy cups anymore. Bam! I only wipe one other person's ass besides my own. Bam! That's a huge hole.
Yup. Now we'll be the ones listening to their kids scream — maybe over the sizzle of the grill and the clink of wine glasses. And maybe, just maybe, a few more shrubs.
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