No matter how hard you work, poop happens

time_out copyPeople discipline other peoples’ children all the time.

I’ve done it. It was called for. When the neighbor kids were climbing on their garage I told them to get down. They were first or second graders, or something, who couldn’t possibly be doing anything productive on top of a garage.

When they sassed me in response, I assured them yes, I was the boss of them, by virtue of the fact that every sober parent on the planet would agree with me, as would any emergency room physician.

And then I repeated, rather emphatically, that they were to climb the hell down from the garage roof right now or things were going to get serious.

I’m a parent now, and realize everyone knows get serious really means: I am going to keep hurling empty threats at you until you get tired of listening to me and give me WHAT I WANT.

Fortunately these kids didn’t wait to find out what get serious meant. They climbed down.

Yesterday, someone scolded my kid, but I’m quite certain it was without a cadre of sober parents and emergency room physicians backing her up.

While Jack was walking the dog, she stopped abruptly to do her business on the neighbor’s lawn. This wouldn’t have been news, except that as Jack was cleaning up after her, the property owner came out to lecture him.

Please note that I said Jack was in the act of picking up after the dog before the lecture commenced.

This, understandably, bothered both of us a little.

“Wait, did you say you were picking up after the dog? What did she say? What did you say?”

“She said ‘there’s a whole park back there for that, I work too hard on this lawn for that kind of thing,’” Jack said. “I just looked at her and said ‘it won’t happen again.’

Thank God he didn’t have some sort of smart aleck retort on the tip of his tongue like his mom might have. He didn’t even adopt a high-pitched, funny voice when he told me what she said.

But, still, right off the bat, and with a full head of righteous indignation, I looked up the contact information for this household on our neighborhood listserv, and drafted an email:

“Dearest neighbor, our dog recently mistook your front yard as her personal lavatory, and for that, I apologize. I’m sure our son was diligent in cleaning up after her. If for some reason, though, you feel that the task was not addressed to your complete satisfaction, his dad and I stand ready to replace that particular patch of water-sucking Kentucky bluegrass, and then nurture the spot, day and night, with the appropriate chemicals, irrigation and care, tweezing away any invasive weeds or other pests by hand, until – God willing and the creek don’t rise – that section of lawn is indistinguishable from the rest of your pristine, verdant oasis.”

There’s no question the woman’s yard is tidy. She doubtlessly puts more time into its care than I put into my own yard … or home … or garage, vehicle, personal grooming, kids’ appearance … a fact that’s evident to anyone who has functioning eyeballs.

But, her lawn, like all the others in our neighborhood is also handicapped by virtue of its being outside. There are bugs and birds and raccoons and cats and any number or type of fauna that probably lack the appropriate respect for the amount of work she does, and are regularly tempted to use her lawn as a toilet at some point during the day. That and the fact there are other dog owners who are less responsible in our neighborhood must inspire any number of lectures. All that work, and poop still happens. It must be maddening.

I sat there, reviewing my angry prose, index finger hovering over the send button, and thought about how the woman might possibly respond to my sarcasm.

I remembered how sometimes situations in our neighborhood escalate until someone mentions the fact that he is armed, by golly. Then I started visualizing future headlines: Neighborhood Tensions Mount over Pooping Incident. I wondered if there was really a need to launch a full-on Hatfield v. McCoy thing.

Only, I’m sure we’re the only ones resembling hillbillies in this neighborhood, so it might be more like Hatfield v. Lady Crawley and her Band of Snippy Dowagers.

Actually, I didn’t really almost send the email. I deleted it after asking Mike what he thought, and he said I was overreacting and I needed to get a life.

So… here I am, getting a life, or rather blogging about it. Whatever it is, I can tell you what it isn’t: it isn’t me tending to my yard. That’s for certain.


Your vote clearly means more to me than a tidy lawn. Thank you.


photo by: Ken Wilcox


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  1. I\’m a big believer in the village raising children. My neighbors know that my 8 year old has Autism and is an escape artist. They tell him to go home RIGHT NOW when they see him outside unaccompanied. And if they see my children doing something wrong, they\’re more than welcome to tell them to stop it. After all, I don\’t want them misbehaving and I\’m not a fan of ER visits. And it is insane sometimes what kids think of to try!

    That said, sometimes there are A-holes in your village. And when that happens, you hope your kid is polite and that you can tell them that so-and-so is a voice that they\’re required to be respectful of, but not required to internalize.

    Your son handled himself very well. Your neighbor has f-d up priorities if she thinks poop that is being picked up by a responsible kid, is worth getting upset about.

    And I would have handled it like you did, angry e-mail and all.

    Sorry that happened.