Bike Gangs and Spare Grandparents

When we moved to a cul-de-sac in the suburbs, I had no idea how wonderful the cliche would be. On these lazy summer days, when I’m trying to pare back even our fun playdates, our neighbors keep us from being housebound without an event. (Something Bea loves!)

Regularly, kids are out biking and playing. We’ve got neighbors with a daughter Bea’s age as well as grandparents whose grandkids – also Bea’s age – visit regularly. We’ve laughed that we need to get t-shirts made for our neighborhood bike gang, they’re out so often.

IMG_1048I recently discovered that our monitor reaches out front, so while Elle takes her morning nap, Bea and I head outside for some bike riding. I’ll bring a book to read on the driveway while Bea peddles around. But usually, I don’t get much reading done. More often, we all gather outside. The kids help Judy water her flowers, or they’ll abandon their bikes and dig around Connie’s mailbox. They’ll race down the easement toward the empty lots behind the houses.

Adults will gather and we’ll laugh and watch the kids. Right now, we’re at about 50-50 young families-grandparents. At first, I’d apologize for Bea just biking over, barging in, “helping out.” But I’ve found that these neighbors love the young kids. They often talk about how the neighborhood has regained its vitality because of this little bike gang.

One of the things I love most about our neighbors is this diversity in age and life experience. Bea told one neighbor she could be her “spare nana.” She watches their house from her bedroom window and will yell out, I love you, Susie!!! if she emerges from the house. Susie’s grandkids and Bea are inseparable and even reserved Elle will give a smile.

It’s been a reminder for me, too, on the importance of cultivating friends of all ages. While I get so much support and encouragement from moms in the same phase as me and I love having friends who are in that next phase, who give me hope, these women are able to remind me that life is big and these years are quick.

They laugh about over-scheduling and date-nights. We talk tomatoes and gardening. They always know the gossip – both current and the history of our neighborhood. They watch their grandkids with an enthusiasm a mom couldn’t give. They engage with my kids when I’m tired and answer all the questions because they can. They have spare popsicles and toys and are generous with their flowers.

When we were looking at houses, we looked in neighborhoods that were mostly young families in our same phase; we looked at neighborhoods that seemed old and in need of revitalization; we looked at neighborhoods that didn’t have any chairs on the front porch. When we moved into our house, it was in December and front porch living was in hibernation.

Now, in our second summer here, I am thankful for this neighborhood where we landed. For the neighbors who are in our same place in parenting and for the ones who can give perspective and guidance on this journey.

What is your neighborhood like? Do your neighbors gather out front? Is there a diversity in ages or phases of life?

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2 thoughts on “Bike Gangs and Spare Grandparents

  1. What a lovely post!

    When I lived in a seaside community north of San Diego, there was a ‘spare grandparent’…my Pit Bull, Kareem. The neighbours would drop off the kids in his ‘play area’ my open garage.

    They would ride him, pull his tail, and generally bedevil the guy…and he loved it. Then they would all have nap time, using this rather large dog as a cuddle-pillow.

    Kareem was a former fighting dog, with an expression rather like that of a pissed-off Cape Buff. He hated adult men, was tolerant of women, and positively loved kids. These were the safest children on the planet. He would have died to protect them, with no hesitation.

    I will admit that he did freak out some moms who didn’t know him, as he absolutely HAD to look in prams, and kiss the kids inside.

    When he passed away, there were many, many tears shed.

    And so Annie the Pit Bull took his role. And the love continued.

    http://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com/2016/06/your-dying-spouse-167-spiritual-darkness.html

    1. Kareem sounds like an amazing dog!! Love that he found his therapy in loving kids. 😉 And, so telling that your garage is always open – sign of a good neighborhood right there!

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