When my husband Dave and I bought our house 15 years ago, we were newlyweds with no kids, and there were just a few things we were looking for – enough room for the two of us and however many kids we ended up with down the road, and a nice town with a good school district. One of the things we never thought to even consider was who would be living next door, across the street, and nearby.
But as luck would have it, the people living around us have turned out to be just as important as the schools, the town and the structure that we call home.
In the handful of years before and after we bought our house, almost the entire neighborhood turned over, with retirees moving away, and families with young children moving in. And these families, along with their kids, have become like our family. Many of the families have older kids who are now in high school and college – and somehow, they are all amazing kids – good students, athletes, and most importantly, nice, respectful young adults, who have been great role models for our own children.
Because these kids are older than mine, I have a fabulous group of what I call “mom mentors,” who continue to help guide me through today’s complicated world of parenting. We have summer “happy hours” where the adults gather outside to chat, and the kids run around and play. The moms have gone away together on weekends, and we have “girls nights out” for dinners – we’ve also done jewelry-making, ceramics painting, and movies. The guys have gone out to bowl. We celebrate holidays and milestone birthdays together.
Some of us, including our family, have done construction to add on to our homes, rather than moving, so we can continue to be a part of this extended family.
Many of us have keys to each other’s homes, and pop in to walk or feed dogs when we’re called on (and let in forgetful kids who have locked themselves out). We’ve cooked for each other when things get busy or tough, gathered mail and newspapers, picked up kids at school, and driven them places they need to be. When our older son Matthew was hospitalized as a baby, we came home after two sleepless nights to find that a neighbor had closed our windows to the rain, and mowed our lawn. When I broke my ankle last fall, neighbors cooked for us, drove our kids around, walked our dog, and even drove me 45 minutes to work.
I feel like what we have is old-fashioned, unique and special in today’s world. And we’re so lucky to have it.