Backyard pools and all their issues

Wednesday was…pretty good. Might have been the coffee. Had a lovely cup at Tatsu’s Organic Bakery before I went grocery shopping and the weather was glorious and the kids were normal-ish and everything was fine.

Must have been the coffee. Or the coffee gods. πŸ™‚

* * *

We’re thinking of getting a little pool. The kids were great obeying the safety rules last year, and this year, with both of them strong swimmers, I’m inclined to getting a slightly bigger one. An above-the-ground pool that is about 3 feet tall and just perfect for some summer evening cooling off.

But.

There’s a but.

There’s a little grandson next door who adores Sonja. He is 4, and a very young/immature 4. He of course idolizes Sonja and her wacky, active personality, and when Ben’s around, he’s even more impressed. Together the three of them race up and down the driveway with or without bikes or scooters, and their high-pitched screeching is annoying delightful to listen to.

But the little guy has a habit of just running over whenever he feels like it. He will try all three doors to get into the house so if by chance one or all are unlocked, well, hello there little man…he just walks right in. Which is ok if one of the kids is here and expecting him but not so much when they’re either not here or not expecting him.

He will try the garden gate the same way as he does the house doors and if it doesn’t open he will just shake it (a la Sonja style, she teaches him all kinds of bad habits) until the gate lock breaks, and opens. He can then enter the backyard and either play there, or try the back door and wander into the house that way.

Once he’s in the house he makes a straight line toward the bunk beds. Up the ladder he wants so he can jump down. The first time he tried this while Sonja was showing him her room I watched and said ” you can not climb the ladder by yourself, an adult has to supervise”. He was curious, I get that, so I watched him climb up and lo, of course he couldn’t make it back down again. I taught him how to walk carefully back down using the steps, and immediately he wanted to go up again and ‘jump down’.

I said no.

Then I explained that if any child climbs the ladder and jumps down in this house he will no longer be invited to come over to play.

“No more Sonja to play with if you climb the bunk bed ladder”, I said.

“Why”, he wanted to know.

“Because the bunk bed is not a toy and not even Sonja is allowed to climb the ladder. Do not climb the ladder, or you won’t be able to play together anymore.”

Sonja was very good at obeying this rule. The bunk bed situation has worked out great for us (even though it was a stressful incorporation into the household given that at least one of us had strong reservations), but we’re talking about our own kids here.

Someone else’s kid is a different story all together.

Well, the little boy comes over to play with Sonja regularly. I try to keep them outside as much as possible, but he comes in whenever he feels like it, and either goes toward the bunk bed or down the stairs. (The basement has a whole other set of issues and this point in time, a visiting child cannot play down there unless I’m present and supervising.)

All this is mildly irritating, but will be incredibly stressful once we have the pool set up.

It is law that the pool be covered when not in use, and be behind a locked gate.

Except…I have kids. Kids who obeyed my rules about the pool last year, but are still kids. They play in the backyard, and when they want to access something from the garage they open the garden gate to get to the driveway and then the gate remains open since now they play both on the driveway and in the backyard…

I allow my kids to play in the back even with the pool back there. They’re not allowed in the pool, not even to retrieve a toy that may have fallen in, but they’re allowed to play freely. I can’t always sit and watch them play, as much as I like sitting…

Bottom line is, they are my kids, they live in this house, and if I want to let them play freely without locked doors and gates, well, then I should be able to do so.

But I can’t do that anymore with the 4 year old. I’m going to have to implement locked doors and gates (which, with summer vacation upon us, is going to be tricky) and have a serious chat with the neighbours next door. As far as I understand it, it’s the grandmother who watches the children (the little boy has a 2 year old sister, too). The grandmother is living in the basement of the house owner who is my official neighbour (and I love her, she is a fantastic woman). Where the parents of the kids live I don’t know, I don’t see them often, but there are usually at least two, if not more adults present around the toddlers. Once that pool arrives here at my house, they will have to be more diligent in enforcing the kids’ abilities to come and go as freely as they’ve been used to (or as the older child has been).

I really don’t want anything to happen to anyone. And I want my kids to be able to have fun with their neighbours.

I tried to do my part, but he doesn’t listen well (which is partly because he’s only 4, and partly because he doesn’t know me well). I don’t want to take on the responsibility of disciplining a child who doesn’t obey my rules, but I will enforce the ‘no you can’t come over because you did x or y yesterday’ if that were to happen.

I hope it won’t happen. Part of the fun for my kids is to have kids living next door.

So as I’m contemplating this pool situation and how to approach the child’s family next door, I sit and drink coffee. Which is, by now, back to its normal state: home-brewed with coffee cream.

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