The neighbours

by DaniGirl on September 26, 2007 · 15 comments

in Life in Ottawa

My leafy suburb is probably one of the most child-friendly in all of Ottawa. And yet, the street we live on has no kids under 10, save for my boys.

When we moved in, we had childless couples living on either side of us. The first couple moved out of the province in the summer of 2004, maybe a year after we’d moved in, and a woman and her three kids moved in. The kids were older – a boy and a girl around 9 and 11, and a teenage boy around 15. The boy was a nightmare, to be honest, and we frequently saw the police bringing him home or coming to get him. He left last summer, and the neighbourhood settled down again.

Last month, the fun young childless couple who lived on the other side of us moved out, too. Laura was quick to reassure us that the new neighbours would be terrific: “She’s a school administrator, and her grown daughter will be living with her.” Well, that sounded pretty good to me, even though I’d’ve preferred a family with kids that the boys could play with.

And then they moved in, and Reese and Candy arrived with them. Candy is a yappy little pug that never shuts up, and Reese is a terrifying-looking Rottweiler with a booming bark that rattles the windows. And he barks at everything that moves. He barks at the kids when they’re in the yard (it took weeks before they were even comfortable going out there, despite the eight-foot wooden fence in between our yards), he barks at the people walking by on the street, he even barks at us when we’re in the house and veer too close to the window.

Now, I like dogs. But big, nasty black dogs that scare my kids and bark like they’re the devil? Not so much. To her credit, the lady tries to control them, and we’re forever hearing her yelling at the dogs: “Reese!! Candy!! NO BARKING!!” If it’s obvious they’ve scared the kids, or if they just won’t shut up, she at least puts them in the house. But still. I’ve taken to walking the length of the fence, just to make sure it’s good and solid with no Reese-sized holes anywhere.

But even the dogs are not the worst part. What are the odds of having TWO next door neighbours, one on either side, who have decided rather than smelling up the insides of their own houses with cigarette smoke, to smoke exclusively on their respective back decks? I mentioned townhouses, right? Every time one of them is out there smoking, it drifts into my house through the open windows. I keep telling myself that the level of carcinogens in the second-hand smoke has probably been considerably diluted by the time it reaches us, but it still lingers in my mind that if I can smell it, there must be some chemical trace working its way into our systems.

By contrast, I love my across-the-back-fence neighbours. They have three kids, maybe 6, 8, and 11, and the dad is some sort of special detective. I think the mom stays home. They’re warm and friendly, and I always enjoy chatting with them. My boys stand on the slide and climber in our yard to be able to talk to the kids, and even the older kids are nice and friendly. Unfortunately, they’re also separated by an eight-foot fence, and it’s about a 10 minute walk around the block to get to their secluded little cul-de-sac. I watch the kids from their side of the fence running rampant through their yard, and wonder about cutting a gate into the fence, or at least setting up a ladder, or something. It really bugs me that there are no kids here in the neighbourhood – the kiddliest neighbourhood in Ottawa, for goodness sakes! – with whom the boys can play.

I love my house, I really do. But I want to live in one of those neighbourhoods where you sit on your porch in the late summer evenings, drink in hand, chatting with the neighbours while the kids run in a pack from house to house. I want to have kids showing up at the door at all hours, looking to play with Tristan and Simon. I want road hockey games in the driveway and tag in the park. Sheesh, we haven’t even been invited (nor, to be fair, have we invited anyone) to a playdate with one of Tristan’s classmates.

Sometimes, even as a grown-up, it’s hard to make friends.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Karen September 26, 2007 at 7:25 am

Sorry about the neighbours Dani – that’s always tough, especially because there’s little control over what goes on around you. I think I even read somewhere that Gordie Howe has recently launched a lawsuit against his neighbours!
That is ironic that your neighbourhood is so kid-friendly too. We also have neighbours on both sides with nary a kid in sight – either married/moved out, or away at school. But across and up the street, there are TONS of boys; my boy is now part of this posse, he’s the youngest, so it’s tough sometimes as they have fewer rules than he does. But it’s great – they come calling on him, and he does the same, pretty much every day. And his best friend is around the corner. Now I’m a little concerned for the girlie – she’s only 2, but there are NO girls that I can see.
But perhaps it will come with school. And I’m sure you’ll find that as your boys get older, and you have more playdates, you’ll be booking several social calendars yourself. Perhaps you’ll be lucky like us -we’ve been able to socialize with some of the parents ourselves now, even without kids, and find that even as a grown-up, you can make new friends.
Good luck with it all!

2 urbanpedestrian September 26, 2007 at 7:40 am

I want to live in a neighbourhood with lots of kids and other people milling around, too. We just moved to Ottawa and found a neighbourhood with 3 high schools and 2 elementary schools within a few blocks, but kids rarely mill anymore. They’re always ferried back and forth in parental vehicles and come to the playground under strict supervision. Neighbourhoods just ain’t what they used to be and it’s a real shame. The front porch, for instance, is virtually obsolete. Older homes have them, but newer homes have double car garages instead. When I was a kid we’d wander the streets and all the neighbours would be on their front porch. I’d stop and say hi — can Steffie come out to play… then me and Steffie would go on to the next house and call on Kelly and we’d debate whether or not to go get Paula, too. Ho hum. Now all the kids are on msn.

Also — the smoking thing drives me crazy, too. I’m afraid to leave my windows open. One cigarette next door and my bedroom stinks for the whole night.

3 Wendy September 26, 2007 at 8:16 am

Dani, I live in the same part of Ottawa as you and we are having the same problem. No young kids (mine being 4 – 2 1/2 and 11 1/2 months) or none that we know about – everyone keeps to themselves. Personally I think it is the townhouse thing in that many with families decided to go to the singles and in our part the townhouses and the single houses are in separate parts of the neighbourhood.

4 alison September 26, 2007 at 8:17 am

I’ve been more than lucky with my neighbours. I do live in a leafy neighbourhood with quite a few children around, in fact, right next door are two girls — one the same age as my eldest, and one 2 years older. And their parents are friends that I could call up when my car wouldn’t start when I went to leave work last week and ask them to pick up my girls for me at daycare, and when I finally arrived home, Cliff had not only picked them up, but fed them supper too. My girls are too young yet to be roaming the neighbourhood on their own, but that day is coming. Often, after supper we go to the playground at the end of the street and I’m just about to drag them home when one of their school friends arrives, and I have to stay for another 20 mins while they play and I talk to the parents. And we do have a few front-porch sitters on the street. If I see Steve and Kim out on their porch with a drink, we’ll sometimes wander over for a chat. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

I think the other commenters are right, once the kids have been in school a while, the play date invites will come, and you’re bound to find some of the parents to be people you’d like to be friends with. I know I did.

5 kgirl September 26, 2007 at 8:19 am

It totally sucks when you get the bum end of a random draw. Can you remove a few slats in the fence between you and the neighbours you like? the previous owners of the house we lived in velcroed two of the slats on either side so that the little boys could run into each other’s yard. very cute.

We live in a neighbourhood that is a mix between old Greek people and young new families. The old Greek people are very sweet and very nosy and act like they own the ‘hood, but we’re slowly taking over 😉

6 yvonne September 26, 2007 at 8:24 am

come sit on my porch any time lady. Bring your hockey sticks. The nets are already blocking all the traffic! 🙂

7 Veronica September 26, 2007 at 8:26 am

I guess we’ve both been feeling a kind of neighborhood envy.

And the dog problem – certain breeds of dog were intentionally bred to be barkers (like Rottweilers and little yap dogs). People like your neighbors need to consider what a dog was bred for BEFORE they buy one, because an owner will never, never train a dog not to bark if that breed has been bred for generations to do that very thing. This bugs me.

In my neighborhood, the dog problem is that neighbors buy scary pitbulls and don’t leash them Ugh.

8 Nicole September 26, 2007 at 8:35 am

Thanks for putting things into perspective! I have been thinking dark thoughts about our across-the-street neighbour and his four vehicles that he has parked everywhere, with the exception of in his garage. There is twice the number of cars than licensed drivers in that house and I couldn’t care less that his “collection” includes two Porches and a BMW. What I care about is one of them is parked on his front lawn!

But, I digress. It can be very difficult to make adult friends. My husband and I eagerly awaited to see who bought the place two doors down from ours and acted like ten-year-olds when their moving van pulled up (the new neighbours are here, the new neighbours are here!!). Oh how we wanted it to be a young(ish) couple with children but it turned out to be, yet another, older couple nearing retirement. Sigh. Well at least they don’t own any German automobiles.

9 Loukia September 26, 2007 at 10:13 am

Oh, that is not fun! The whole large scary dog thing – I hate that! Keep your dogs on a leash, people, especially at the park! The other day I walking hand in hand with my 2 year old when this huge mean dog ran right into us, practically, almost resulting in me going into early labour and scaring the crap out of my son. I have zero tolerence for that. It is no secret that I don’t like dogs.
Luckily, though, our neighbourhoud in Chapel Hill (the newish Minto development?) is just amazing, and I love living there. We have great neighbours, and a little girl Christos’s age lives just down the street, as well as lots of 6 year olds that sometimes play with him. Lots of great families… a children’s doctor lives to our right, and one of Christos’s CHEO nurses lives across the street! I feel very safe, needless to say! 😉

10 Madeleine September 26, 2007 at 1:00 pm

I’ve had the second-hand smoke neighbor. Below us in a two-family, and perfectly lovely neighbors in every other way. He went outside to smoke every night, after dinner. We would just close the windows, because what else can you do?

The barky dog, on the other hand, might merit a noise complaint. Ick.

11 liz September 26, 2007 at 7:57 pm

See if the friendly cul-de-sac has any houses for sale?
And ask your backyard neighbors if a gate would be okay.

And (ahem) animal control for the next door neighbors?

12 slouching mom September 26, 2007 at 8:28 pm

With our across-the-street neighbors, it’s not dogs at issue, it’s CARS. And motorcycle. And boat. All spilling over the driveway and out on the street.


13 Alley Cat September 26, 2007 at 9:08 pm

I understand completely. I used to live in a crappy area where the neighbours were not the best. This led to us buying a house in an area with very few neighbours, and now I wonder who my daughter is supposed to play with when she gets older. Ooops.

14 Natalie September 26, 2007 at 9:10 pm

What are you, a moron? Why don’t you compare a little kid accidently peeing in a public pool while you are swimming? That is the same as a few puffs of cigarette smoke drifting by you, outside. Now, compare your dear self to someone inhaling that cigarette in their lungs, all those so called carcinogens are being absorbed into their system, and when they exhale, it is no worse than all the garbage being emitted from the paint in your house, the carpet, the plastic you drink from and cook in.

The little child who pees in the swimming pool is quite different from a bucket of urine being thrown in your face, and yet you are part of the politically correct idiots who damn smokers. Tobacco is a plant that grows in fields; so do trees. Do you cry fowl when neighbors burn leaves?

Douse your BBQ with starter fluid, suck down aspertame in your diet poison, and take a Tylenol for a hangover. I guarantee you will die before me, as i light a cigarette and eat food from the outer isles of the grocery store, which are fresh and nutritious, rather than food coloring and chemicals and processed crap you probably

feed your unsuspecting poor family.

Well, watch it on TV. They are all right! Have another microwave dinner and drink something in a plastic container. Ah, praise be to you, another mindless robot, politically correct, living the good life. BTW, what is your credit card debt? Living that good TV LIFE!!

Stop! Don’t go onto your deck! Someone might be wearing Old Spice, 10 house away!

15 Sharon September 27, 2007 at 7:40 am

Nathan really has no one to play with where we are. When I was young it was full of kids and now all that is left is the parents of these kids. NOW more are moving in in the developements (GOD HOW I HATE THAT) But they are still too far away for a 6 year old. Honestly take my advice for what it’s worth. Maybe you should look for another neighbourhood. I know you love you place but wouldn’t it be worth it to sit on your front porach and see the kids playing with their friends in front?

I just invite kids over for Nathan. I would never move. Kinda hate to move away from my parents next door. 😉

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: