What We Did When Our Kids Threw Mud Balls At The Elderly Lady Next Door
‘Wow, what a life lesson was that!’ said Eli to Chris and I as we walked back from the neighbours which he and 3 other kids had bombed.
The drama had started an hour earlier. My 3 oldest kids had climbed over my neighbour’s wall using the ladder-play-gym system Chris (my neighbour) and I had created to make it possible for his kids and mine to hang out after school. (Thank God for amazing neighbours like the Swift family!)
The 4 of them then proceeded to make over 10 large mud balls, and throw them over yet another neighbour’s wall into their swimming pool.
Their rationale? ‘Those are nasty people!’ (And we all know that nasty people deserve mud balls in their pool.)
Why did they think they were nasty people? They had once before yelled over the fence telling them all to ‘Shut up!’
When those neighbours had come out to make sense of the splashes in their muddy pool, they had yelled for our kids to stop it. One of my kids, not to be named, thinking he was David taking on Goliath, threw yet another mud ball – striking the elderly lady’s temple.
I can’t make this stuff up.
‘We are going to come now and tell your parents!’ shouted the lady.
This was enough to stop our insane kids in their tracks. They evacuated the crime scene and all fled home.
‘We have done something bad,’ explained one of my kids through tears of terror, ‘and now we are in real trouble!’ He then told me everything.
‘What were you thinking?’ I asked my son.
‘At first I knew it was wrong, but then the others carried on, then I did it too, then I went mad, and I couldn’t stop. I just kept throwing and throwing.’
Ivy said she had not thrown any mud balls, but then admitted to making them for the boys to throw.
Far from being angry with my kids (I remember doing worse!) I tasted the sweetness in my mouth, ‘Ah, a delicious teachable moment,’ I said to Julie, ‘It’s been a while since one this good came by.’
I called Chris over the wall, told him what had happened. (His kid was still trying to work up the courage.) I asked him what we should do.
‘I suggest we take the kids over now, and they say sorry.’
Five minutes later, Chris, myself, and four kids were buzzing at their gate. ‘Hello,’ said Chris, ‘our kids have something to say.’
One serious-faced elderly couple opened up their gate. Four ashamed and terrified kids walked in.
Doing me proud, Eli, my oldest, sincerely executed the speech he had practiced minutes before:
‘We just want to say we are so sorry. I don’t know what we were thinking. I think we were not even thinking at all. What we did was so wrong. Please, please forgive us. We want to make it right.’
‘You should be sorry,’ said the retired surgeon, ‘Would you like to see what you have done?’ We walked through to the back yard to find a muddied shallow end of a pool, and an explanation of where his wife was standing when the sand-ball struck her on the side of her head.
That’s when the unexpected turn happened. ‘We also have had kids. We know what they get up to. Apology accepted, and don’t worry we will vacuum this up.’
What a relief, thought the kids. What a fantastic couple, thought Chris and I. They could have really gone the distance with this one. (I think of another elderly couple up the road who pressed charges on the neighbouring family for ‘assault by hose pipe’ when they had been sprayed through the fence.)
By the end of our time with our new friends, we accepted an invitation to come again and play with the pet dogs, and also to come and swim. ‘It’s important for children to get to know their neighbours’ explained the gracious lady.
Our kids more or less skipped home, and that’s when Eli said his words. ‘Wow! What a life lesson was that.’
Taking Eli’s cue, Chris and I asked them what else they learnt.
‘Don’t judge people you hardly know. You might think they are nasty at first but if you get to know them, they may be very nice,’ commented Eli further. Another kid chimed in, ‘Mary and Bruce are so nice! They’re not nasty at all.’ A smaller one added, ‘I can’t wait to go play with those dogs, Juba and Orca.’
They carried on, the hard-earned wisdom squeezing out of the situation they had just experienced like fresh juice from an orange….
‘Don’t be nasty to people, even if you think they are nasty.’
‘If you do something wrong, don’t blame others.’
‘If you do something wrong, say sorry and really mean it.’
Those truly are lessons that my kids won’t forget. Now I wait eagerly for more teachable moments to serve up their delicacies to my kids. Hm, I wonder what our neighbours on the other sides of our house can teach them?