Reading While Knitting

Nothing complicated; nothing too exciting, but yes, I do knit while I read. As well as during many other domestic activities.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Not enough yarn, too much. . . I don't know

Today had some energy in it that really left me shaken and upset. My heart rate late this morning probably matched me when I was out running sprints at the beach earlier, and I'm feeling a little shaky right now just typing this.

Funny thing is that I don't like conflict. It's bad enough when it's with someone I love or care for -- at least there the conflict has something else underneath it, the awareness of connection and caring to return to, usually. But conflict with people "out there" leaves me feeling rocked to the core, no matter what self-talk I do.

I heard yelling out front, "You'll hurt yourself! Get down!" And I wandered out to check. Things 2 and 3 were slithering out of a streetside tree, and I looked around. . . nobody. But they were looking up at the neighboring apartment house, and there was a face looking back at them.

A woman, upset, saying, "You could fall and get hurt and not be able to walk again!"

So I approached her and said, "It's okay with me if they climb the tree."

"It's not okay with me! They could get hurt!" She repeated some variations on this theme.

I agreed: "You're right. They could get hurt. It's still okay with me."

"It's not okay with me! I'm calling the police."

"You may certainly do that. How about I call the city and see if there's any ordinances about tree climbing."

"I'm calling the police! They could get hurt!"

So I wandered back inside, after corralling Thing 3 and telling him he couldn't stand and argue with her (he's clearly going to be a lawyer or legislator or something argumentative -- an agitated street person, perhaps?). I called the non-emergency police line and asked my questions about laws pertaining to climbing city trees (and I don't know if this is a city tree -- I think we're responsible for it, actually). I noticed my hands were shaking and my heart rate up. I took a slow, conscious breath every time the "on hold" beep sounded.

There aren't any laws or regulations or anything. They don't want the trees hurt, and they certainly don't want to be sued if the kids fall and crack their skulls. That makes sense. When they asked if I wanted an officer out, I thought of my friend who's a police officer here and thought I'd just talk to her if I wanted to. "No, thank you," I said, "not today."

Since we had friends over, our day went on. I set up toys, my friend and I chatted, the kids played the piano and herded the poultry around. Then there was a knock at the door.

Three guesses?

Two uniformed of our city's finest stood there. Feeling incredibly lucky that we'd picked up and vacuumed, I asked them in, said, "You must have been contacted by our neighbor!" and we started. Before we really got going, his radio went off and he took off -- sirens, even, which means something in this sleepy urban village.

The other officer took a seat and we began. She hadn't spoken to the neighbor, so I recounted my side of the story and mentioned that I was doing well to keep the children off of the roof. She said that nothing I was telling her was outside of normal kid behavior, and mentioned that breaking an arm falling out of a tree might be a good lesson. I concurred. She said that the neighbor hadn't been happy after talking to the other officer, so that seemed positive. She made a face when the neighbor was identified as a renter, and us as homeowners. That made me feel funny. She agreed there was no law against them doing this, and then told me she was the school resource officer. When I'd identified the kids as homeschooled, she said that she gets called out whenever there are kids involved. She took my information and wanted to look at the children. They apparently passed the "not beaten, hale and hearty" test, because she just said hi to them and then laughed when they insisted she tell the neighbor that they could climb the trees.

I think the neighbor ended her call with, "And they're never in school!" Just what we need -- perhaps there's a CPS call in our future. Whoopie.

It took an hour, but the kids persuaded me to let them go out and climb again. No shouts from the neighbor this time. I did have them sweep up any leaves they knocked down, and reminded them that behaving nicely out front might go some way toward shaping this woman's view of them as homeschooled children.

Who am I trying to kid? They're going to keep on doing what they do, and I'm going to deal with it as well as I can and hopefully they won't walk the ridgepole any time soon.

As I think of the morning now, with slightly fewer sympathetic nervous system inputs, I am just. . . tired about it. Maybe the poor neighbor knows someone who was greatly harmed in a fall from a tree -- it's pretty high, and it's over cement. Maybe she doesn't. Maybe she thinks I'm a terrible parent, or they're wild, out-of-control children. I'm sorry we don't live on a wooded farm, with big animals for my children to work off some of their enormous energy on. I'm sorry that her caring about my children's welfare feels intrusive and annoying. I'm sort of weird still about the renter/owner split -- the landlord of that apartment building lives down the street. I look inside of me for graciousness, and there's some there, but it's in a pretty empty bucket today. There's been a lot of intense discussions in our homeschooling support group lately, and it feels like this is rasping away at the same sore spots. I can hold good intentions toward the woman who called the police, but I don't want to talk to her or take her peanut butter cookies, or thank her for her concern. I want to be left alone, mostly. I want to struggle with my children, to help urge them toward adulthood with support from others but less criticism. I want thicker skin and a steadier heart.

I guess I should probably run more.

In other news, even though I tried to spend $137 on more orange tweed plus enough white/gray tweed to make myself my own sweater, it was to no avail. Apparently there's a worldwide shortage of Debbie Bliss Aran Tweed (curses on a yarn company which ends lines of yarns only to bring out imposters in replacement. So there, Donegal Aran Tweed!). I'm wandering around Ravelry, cap in hand, Paypal at the ready, but so far have only scored one ball. Sigh. Now I have to figure out how to make certain that my money is refunded to Paypal.

Oh, and it apparently does pay to be young and cute, instead of old and greying. Not that I'd know but Thing 2 was the only one to get an unofficial yarn giveaway yesterday at the A's Stitch'n'Pitch. Photos apparently will be up later -- look for more of our little group.

The nice lady from Article Pract let her choose a skein from a basket and she got a sweet pink tencel/cotton blend and two nice Crystal Palace straight needles. I think I'm going to work her up a little neck warmer or something. It's that soft.

Maybe tomorrow will be a lighter day.

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At 5:33 PM, Blogger Morenna said...


At 6:04 PM, Blogger suzee said...

Yes, I'll get in line behind Morenna for cyber hugs.

Forceful busybodies are just an annoyance until they get into it over my kids. Then I feel both compelled to defend my children (in a big way) and also judged and challenged on my parenting (in a big way). It sucks. You handled it with grace and confidence - congrats!

I was always kind of hoping the cops would show up (in the later homeschooling know about my paranoia in the earlier years!) I'm glad SOMEbody got to go through that!

Hope the yarn turns up...have you tried a Froogle search?

At 7:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I share in your pit-of-the-stomach yuckness. I ***hate*** when other people try to parent my children. I'm usually (though not always) willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, assume that they think they're being kind-hearted, etc... but still. Back off.

We had a similar incident, albeit without the police being called (something I didn't even know to be grateful for, thanks for that!) at the playground a few weeks ago. My kids were running around, and our houseguest X climbed into one of the structures and then refused to jump out again. She *could*, and I know she could, because she jumps on and off of all my furniture on a regular basis. She just balked at it. And I am a big believer in, "You got yourself in there, now you get yourself out." So she sat there and wailed. I watched, from a close-distance, but didn't intervene. One of the other playground moms finally came over and - without saying anything to me first - picked her up and put her on the ground. I was furious; way to step on my lesson-teaching. So I trotted right over, picked her back up, and put her right back in, saying just loud enough for the other woman to hear me, "Well, kiddo, that's one way to get down, but how about you figure out a way to do it all by yourself?" The woman glared at me and went over to the other mom on site to gossip about me, and it all just left me feeling horribly self-conscious and harried and defensive.

Which is a long, self-focused way of saying, I can imagine, a bit, what your day was like. Only yours was sooooo much worse. I hope your neighbor develops poor eyesight or severe laryngitis, promptly.

At 8:32 AM, Blogger allisonmariecat said...

I haven't had anything like this happen yet, but I'm with you on the risk-taking. Sure, we can wrap our kids in bubble wrap and keep them on a leash, but is that preparing them to be confident, productive adults? I have had looks when letting my toddler go up on the playground and down the slide herself, but no one's said anything. If I had to defend my parenting like you did, I would be having palpitations, too.

The nerve of that woman. I can see showing concern for the tree-climbing when a parent isn't visible. But once she saw you, I can't believe she didn't back off.

Virtual hug and chocolate :)

At 10:57 AM, Blogger Yarn It said...

Every time we get in a car we take a risk. A lady in my town just got killed by a car when she fell off the sidewalk. Every day we take risks just living our lives! Kids climb trees! it is part of being a kid. The lady should never have yelled at your children and she certainly shouldn't have argued with you. I am so sorry - I would have felt the same as you.

I commend you for homeschooling your children too - that is a tough job and I personally couldn't do it. I admire all parents who can!

At 11:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I have a daily google search for "tree climbing" and look what shows up!

I'm an arborist and I teach kids, of all ages, to climb trees professionally and for recreation.

Check out this site:

Next week the 25th anniversary of recreational tree climbing will be celebrated in Atlanta. One of the speakers may be familiar, Robert Fulghum...Everything I needed to know I learned in kindergarten.

There's a great book, 'No child left outside' that talks about the trend to keep kids indoors and risk free. How does that prepare them for the real world?

I get such a kick out of people freaking out about risks when they have higher risks in their to me about risk while you're sucking on a heater and you have NO credibility :)

Good for you! Let the kids climb, they could become arborists or canopy researchers or who knows what?!


At 12:07 PM, Anonymous kate said...

So sorry -- what a hassle. But think of the good behavior you modeled to the kids. Proactive calling and finding out the true laws, calm discussions with both involved. Think of it as a wonderful homeschooling lesson:) What a great mom you are.

At 5:17 PM, Blogger Lara said...

You are awesome. And have some hugs from me. :)

At 10:25 AM, Blogger Robin said...

People are such busybodies. UGH!!! I have a hard time dealing with people like that. I was in a jewelry shop the other day getting some batteries replaced on watches we had, and had some lady (another customer) insisting to me the other day that I "MUST" buy myself a separate wedding band (yeah) to wear "every day" instead of wearing my combined engagement ring/wedding ring combo, which is permanently fused together. I'm like, mmm, that's an idea. She was all militant about it too. Why oh why do people CARE so freaking much what other people do? I know I'm more of the live and let-live persuasion, myself.

At 1:22 PM, Blogger Tamami said...

I may have said something like "be careful guys," as I walk by the tree. I have said to a little kid standing in a shopping cart to "sit down, honey," when the parents were not in sight. But... this woman is not normal! Obviously she never climbed a tree when she was a kid -- or was she ever a kid!?

At 4:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I first moved to my tony Norcal Marin neighborhood, my then five year old daughter had the Mother-of-all-Meltdowns and ran out into the street. I had to run out, grab her (kicking and screaming) and bring her inside.

She fell asleep on the couch and about 20 minutes later, the sheriff came knocking on the door. He insisted on "interviewing" her with me out of the room.

She must have answered the questions correctly, because I wasn't taken to jail...

At 5:03 PM, Blogger Kristen said...

I am very familiar with that feeling in my guts when others intrude on my territory like that. Sounds like the neighbor could do well with some kind of hobby and a new set of social skills.

My kids are natural climbers- most kids are, I think. We don't have any climbing trees on our property, but whenever they come across one they have at it and I let them. When I was a kid (I feel so old saying that) my sisters and I climbed trees everywhere, we rode our bikes anywhere and more than half the time our parents had no clue where we were. Yet, somehow we survived and I have managed to retain a sense of adventure into adulthood. Your neighbor should feel joy and relief seeing your kids climbing trees. It's the kids that don't that I would worry about...

At 5:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

After the birth of her first child, a friend of mine was at the grocery store with her baby cradled on the length of her forearm, supporting the baby's lower body in her hand with his head at her elbow, which allowed her a free arm to shop with. A busybody said to her, "You're choking your baby." She wasn't, but she turned to the busybody and said, "I know!"

I have always admired her for that response.

At 7:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have my sympathies.

My wife and I were the lone "let them scrape their knees so they'll learn they can hurt themselves, and therefore grow enough judgment so as not to break their legs" couple in a neighborhood full of helicopter parents hovering over timid kids.

It took a couple of years, but we got the neighborhood turned around.

Frankly, the correct response from the authorities should have been to inform the neighbor that tree climbing was perfectly lawful, and the ancient prerogative of all children everywhere, followed by not wasting your time or the taxpayer's money following up.

My observation is that you're paying for way more cops than you really need if they have time for noncriminal tree climbing nonsense like that.

At 9:51 AM, Blogger Sarah said...

With four boys, I can tell you I've been through quite a number of experiences like this and used to get quite upset too. Now I can care less. I either totally ignore them, or give them the sweetest, nicest side of me I can muster up ... that usually stops them fast in their tracks. I love doing this! Try works wonders.

At 1:40 PM, Blogger Sarah said...

I'm sure you were super nice...she sounds like she's one of those people who just love to be as crabby as possible everyday. And it's surprising how many people don't like kids too! There's nothing you can do about that!

At 12:53 PM, Blogger Katherine said...

How did I miss this post?

I am speechless. I lean on the "let the kids do what they do" side as well, and I hate that getting that judged feeling when I let my kids do things that seem pretty normal to me (like something so silly as watching a raccoon, remember that? Or even feeding ants.)

I seriously can't believe she called the police. But I'm also seriously impressed with your kids' tree-climbing skills. ; )


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