Shadows Around the Edges

posted in Awkward Encounters, Parenting Challenges on by with 34 Replies

“Is this a daycare?”

There’s a woman I don’t know, wearing a huge, grubby T-shirt, leaning on my fence, looking over my yard.

“Oh, no – haha.  I’m sure it looks like one, but no.  I live here.”

“It looks like a daycare.  I thought it was a daycare.”

She makes a squinty, slack-mouthed face at me and then looks down at her phone.  She’s still leaning on my fence.

“Yeah, well, it’s just my house.”

I feel awkward so I turn away to yell a futile and unnecessary “Be careful!” at one of my kids.  My friend who is visiting with her two kids gives me a quizzical look.  She’s wearing big sunglasses, but I can still tell she’s giving me a look.  I’d be giving her the same one.

The woman is still just there, at my fence, doing something with her phone.  She doesn’t seem altogether, um, well.  I mean, is she looking for a daycare for her child?  Does she have a degree in Early Childhood Education and just happened to wander by while scouting for a new job?  Is curiosity about our heaps of bikes and slides and kid-sized lawn furniture really all that’s brought her here?  I decide that I don’t need to engage her any further so I mumble something about getting back to the kids and hope she just leaves.  She does.

is this a daycare

My encounter with this woman was puzzling and awkward, but she wasn’t threatening, exactly.  She mostly just seemed a bit dim.  I felt kind of uncomfortable though, talking with a stranger who approached my fence (and walked all the way up my driveway to do so) as my kids ran and played.  It felt invasive.

Just two days later, a police officer appears in my driveway to drop off a sheet of paper with a photo of a shifty-looking middle-aged man on it.  It’s a mug shot.  He’s a registered sex offender, and he has apparently just moved in down the street.  Great.  The kind of neighbor that absolutely no mom wants to have.  But what can you do?

I’m pushing my kids on the swings one morning when I see him, the sex offender, walking along on the sidewalk.  I busy myself chatting up the girls and try not to think about it.  I don’t know any details about his criminal history.  I don’t want to.  I am aware that just because I know about his presence, just because he’s registered, doesn’t mean that he’s any more dangerous than some other random person who could walk by my house anytime.  Still though, I wish he would move away from here so I don’t have to feel an ugly knot of fear in my stomach while I’m talking about beautiful leaves on a beautiful day with my beautiful girls.

I hate these reminders of my vulnerability as a parent.  I work so hard to keep my children safe and happy; it’s unsettling when these kinds of shadows creep in around the edges of our sunny days.

As much as I hate it though, I know that it’s also good to be reminded of this vulnerability.  I need to remember to be vigilant, to use caution and good judgment, even as I try to trust and connect with my fellow humans.  When it comes to my neighbors, I’ve always felt lucky to have such great ones.  Next door is a woman who knew and loved my grandparents and who, for some reason, finds my dogs charming.  Across the street is one of my very best friends.  We share laughs, wine, coffee, and tears, and we help each other with kids and laundry and life.  And there are at least five other houses right here on my street full of kind, helpful people.  But now there’s one that’s different from all the rest.  One that used to be home to a young family, and now just looks dark, even on the brightest of days.

It’s really hard to protect our children, without being over-protective.  To teach them to say hello and be polite to people, but not to trust just anyone.  To teach them to have a healthy fear of strangers, but not one that’s anxiety-inducing.  To show them that the world is full of wonder, beauty, and love, but make sure they know that it can also be dangerous, ugly, and mean.

That responsibility is enormous.  I’m never sure if I’m doing this right or not.

I just love my little hooligans so damn much.

So stay away from my fence, weirdo strangers.  This is not a daycare.  It’s my life, my heart – climbing, running, and swinging all over this yard.

bike helmet


This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post in response to the prompt, “When it comes to my neighbors…” Check out the link-up hosted this week by Finding Ninee and Go Dansker Mom!

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  • Allie Smith

    I had a similar experience – we found out after buying this house and after we moved in that there was a registered sex offender down the street. I couldn’t believe it! We never even looked! But, fortunately, he moved out this summer!

    • ShakespearesMom

      Ugh. It’s unpleasant, for sure, but hopefully he won’t be there long. I think he’s just renting.

  • Raine and Skye

    So much truth in your post. It’s good that you know your other neighbors well though. That probably helps since you can all look out for each other.

    I remember my mom telling us once that she didn’t know if she was parenting the ‘right way’, just that she did the best she could and hoped that her best would be good enough to shape us into good people. I think that’s what loving parents do – give their kids their all. And from reading your posts, I can tell that you’re definitely doing your best so your girls are probably gonna be pretty awesome!

    • ShakespearesMom

      Thanks so much for those kind words! And yes – I have some truly wonderful neighbors and I’m really grateful for them.

  • Kristi – Finding Ninee

    We have a creepy neighbor as well and I so totally planned on writing about her but then, my little 45 minute post turned into something else…UGH I hate that you feel afraid. So we have some issues here, and some have involved police. I’m really REALLY happy (and maybe a little jealous) that you have the neighbors to share tears and laughter with though….

    • ShakespearesMom

      Oh, man. I’m sorry you have creepy neighbor issues. And I do know that I’m really lucky to have some amazing people around me. Thank you for being such a great internet neighbor!

  • Kelly Mckenzie

    Is this a daycare? Oh my! Smiled when I read that and then cringed as I moved on through the post. It is awful when the once bright and sunny house turns dark. Had the same thing happen to us when “druggie renter” moved into the house across the street. Such darkness that consumed a good part of my thinking. It all started when I pulled up at dawn after dropping off my two at swim practice. The house had been vacant since being sold a few weeks earlier so I was surprised when I heard a thud coming from the darkened driveway. Looked over and saw two young guys frozen. They were hunched over lugging something long and heavy and obviously didn’t want to be on my radar. Great. The next 6 months were hell. I’m with you – it’s your life. Your heart. Hang in there.

    • ShakespearesMom

      Thank you, Kelly!

  • Joy @ Comfytown

    We have some very interesting neighbors, and I’m sure they’re not thrilled with our toys and bikes and stuff all over the place. You’re so right about the constant balance between friendly and vigilant. It never ends, it’s what our world is. They’ll be ready thanks to their wonderful, smart, protective mom!

    • ShakespearesMom

      Aw, thanks, Joy!

  • normaleverydaylife

    It’s scary to thin of what can happen to the ones we love so much. The “what if” makes me second guess my decisions so many times!

    • ShakespearesMom

      I know. I try not to be unreasonably anxious or anything, but I do worry. Motherhood brings out some fierce love, that’s for sure!

  • Frantic Mama

    First, so strange that some woman wandered up to ask about a daycare! Funny but weird too. Glad she left soon after. As for the new guy down the street, ugh, that sucks. Good to know that the police officer actually came over to inform you of that– I didn’t know that was a policy? I am definitely on the over-protective side too, though I would argue that maybe it’s not “over” doing it as much as it is being very aware of all that’s out there (the good and the bad!).

    • ShakespearesMom

      I guess I don’t know if the whole police officer thing is a regular policy or not. The police station for our town is super close to my house, so maybe that has something to do with it. And yeah – the wandering woman was pretty weird. You just never know who’s going to appear at your gate!

  • Destiny Dawn Long

    If you want to know, you can look up what the offense was. There’s a place to do it online. Or you can cross your fingers that some 18-year-old got in trouble with his 15-year-old girlfriend’s parents and now has to walk around as a convicted sex offender for the rest of his life.

    • ShakespearesMom

      I think I just don’t want to know. It’s not going to make any difference in how I go about my life, so I’m just going to hope he doesn’t stay here long. And thanks for reading, Destiny. How the heck are ya?

  • Allison C

    Love this post! & I have no idea how I would feel/react if there were a register sex offender moving in by my family. Although I am incredibly fascinated by weird lady. As in she could be a novel. Love how you shared her character, even if she asked you inappropriate questions. Thanks for this post & for linking up!

    • ShakespearesMom

      Weird lady was totally more like a character than a real person. I have no idea what her deal was. Thanks for reading!

  • Nicki Gilbert

    Oh Kate I can so feel those dark shadows encroaching on your sunny days. What a beautifully-written, honest post – you describe the vulnerability of being a parent so perfectly. It’s huge. Just huge.

    • ShakespearesMom

      Thank you so much! I think the vulnerability is one of the hardest things about being a parent for me. I feel things more deeply now, which isn’t necessarily bad, just hard sometimes.

  • Leslie

    Great post– it’s something I feel I take for granted. Until that one thing makes you feel vulnerable and you begin to remind yourself not to be so vulnerable! It’s a vicious and scary cycle

    • ShakespearesMom

      It’s true. It’s a hard balance.

  • Anna Fitfunner

    We had a RSO in our neighborhood for a while as well. I don’t think that we felt all that fearful, but I have to admit that I did keep a closer eye on the kids than in other places we lived. On the whole, though, it sounds like you have some wonderful neighbors. Lucky for your family, and especially your kids!

    • ShakespearesMom

      Yes – I do have so many wonderful neighbors, for which I am incredibly grateful!

  • Experienced Bad Mom

    Wow. I felt your struggle throughout the whole post. What are you going to do? Exactly what you’re doing. Like you mentioned, there are great neighbors to outweigh the bad.

    • ShakespearesMom

      Yup. And I’m so grateful for the good neighbors.

  • Kenya G. Johnson

    The strange lady leaning on the fence reminds me of one of my grandfather’s neighbors back in the day. He’d avoid going out in his backyard unless her car was gone. She probably liked him but she was too nosey for his tastes. I never knew her real name because he has some name for her like “Nosey TalkingLady.”

    I didn’t know neighbors were notified of RSO’s. I thought you just had to do your own homework and pull up that “map” on the computer. Good that you know, but I’m sure it doesn’t help knowing in some ways.

    • ShakespearesMom

      I’m lucky to have great neighbors around me – everyone’s friendly, but not too nosy. I’m not really sure if the police department always notifies neighbors in my town, or if they were just being nice this time – I honestly have no idea.

  • Cari

    Am I the only one wondering if these two incidents are connected? I think in some states, RSOs can’t live near daycares, schools, etc. I wonder if she was making sure you weren’t running a daycare, as that might have prohibited him from moving in? Just thought that possibility might make you a *little* less creeped out by her!

    • ShakespearesMom

      You could be right! I didn’t think about it that way, but that would make sense. I haven’t seen her around since she came by, so who knows?

  • Michelle Grewe

    If your house looks like a daycare, you are probably doing this whole parenting thing better than most of us… And on another note, I try to tell myself most sex offenders probably slept with a 16 year old girl who lied about her age. It helps me sleep at night.

    • ShakespearesMom

      I like to think that’s the case here too, Michelle. Here’s hoping!

  • Kelly Meyer

    I struggle with finding that balance as well. Having identical twins means we get stopped more often and that strangers think that it is okay to quiz them about their names and ages. How do you teach them social politeness and expect them to know when to set it all aside and scream, run, fight?!

    • ShakespearesMom

      I don’t know how you do that. And I totally get what you mean about strangers asking them their names and ages – twins attract a lot of stranger attention. I hate it when people I don’t know ask their names. I’m sure for the most part they’re harmless and just curious because they’re wondering if I’ve named them Sherry and Terry or something, but it feels weird.