That’s when good neeeeeighbours! Become! Goooooood frieeeeeeends!
Come on, as if you weren’t singing it too.
Sometimes I think about what it would be like, living next door to a family with two children under five. Sharing a wall with two children under five. My conclusion is always the same: it’d be flipping horrendous.
I have always wanted to be part of a Neighbours set-up where we’re friends with the people next door. Cheery waves from the driveway, hanging over the fence to ask after each other’s parents, popping in to borrow sugar, that sort of thing (why is it always sugar? Are people putting so much sugar on their Weetabix that they regularly are caught short?).
This has never happened. For two reasons, I think: first, I am not an easy chatterer. When we come home I am tired from wrasslin’ toddlers, and know I still have to wrassle them inside the house without anyone running under a car, so I would much rather give you an awkward smile than stop to chat. Second, I feel terribly guilty about how awful we must be to live next door to, which inhibits friendly communion.
‘Oh darling, what a lovely dinner you’ve made. Candles and everything. Let’s eat.’
‘Hang on a second, my love. The children next door are having their faces branded with a hot iron again, and it’s ruining the atmosphere.’
I’M ONLY TRYING TO BRUSH THEIR TEETH, NEIGHBOURS, HONESTLY.
I had high hopes when we moved: a bigger house, no one living underneath us, and a brand-new set of people to be nice to. None of them had heard me give birth unexpectedly, which was a huge plus for all of us. Then I realised that having a bigger house only means there are more places in which to scream.
Children are loud. There’s yelling, and crying, and jumping off things, and the accidental droppage of crockery, and screeches of laughter and indignation. There’s the fact that every morning they shriek about having to get in the bath and then shriek again when they have to get out. There’s the fact that they always, always want the same train. And then there’s me, goaded beyond human endurance approximately every twenty-five minutes, shouting things like enough now, and leave your brother’s tongue alone, and stop poking that worm and get your shoes on.
That’s just a normal Monday.
We try hard not to be obnoxious, but obnoxiousness comes with the territory. The first month after we moved in, T cut five teeth. We brought the neighbours a Happy Christmas/We’re Really Sorry present to try and extend their goodwill a bit, but you can’t tell whether someone’s saying ‘oh, we never hear them’ through gritted teeth when you’re looking by the light of a street lamp. I stop the boys dinging matchbox cars against our bed frame at 6am, and park our giant child-friendly car at a respectful distance from next door’s sporty BMW.
But I still have to brush their teeth. And no force in heaven or earth is going to stop them poking a worm when it’s long-past time to get to school.
Chris and Maria, I’m so sorry. Please come over for sugar whenever your Weetabix is lacking. I promise our children aren’t feral. I promise I’m not having a psychotic break.
I can’t promise you’ll never hear me give birth unexpectedly, but let’s cross that awkward bridge if we come to it.