Some women are dripping with diamonds
Some women are dripping with pearls
Lucky me! Lucky me!
Look at what I'm dripping with...little girls!
-- "Little Girls," From the soundtrack to Annie
I don't know if I run with a hospitable group of women or what. But it seems in any conversation I have with mothers of preschoolers about their dreams for the future, they all hope (or say they hope) that their house will be the house where all the other kids want to hang out. I'm not sure what their reasons were are exactly. To keep tabs on their kids? So they can know their kids' friends? Because they just like kids?
For all those reasons, I would always say that I wanted a home where many children wanted to be.
Well, boys and girls, so far, I have my wish. Not that we are inundated with playdates, per se, but the multiple little girls living in my neighborhood seem to frequently be inside my house. And if we say we are not available (too tired or perhaps too crank to play), sometimes they just hang out on our pathetic concrete excuse for a porch and peer through the window.
Jeff and I are mystified by all the children that suddenly are swarming our cul-de-sac. Where did they all come from? we ask ourselves. When we moved in, there were no kids in this neighborhood. And then we remember, we didn't have kids when we moved in either. But we grew them. And they grew quickly.
I love all these small humans roaming our street in screechy little packs. They are up in the trees, crawling under bushes, scooting the sidewalks, biking in the street. I remember being one of those kids, turned loose onto association-owned property, playing complex games of Spy or Hide and Seek. It was one of the best parts of my childhood, and I like thinking -- realizing, suddenly -- that I'm giving my girls the kind of childhood I had.
But I digress. When the kids get tired of roaming the sidewalks, they often turn up here. I have apparently earned the reputation among the small fry as a mom who lets the kids come inside and make messes.
This is thrilling to my youngest, Olivia, who loves messes. In fact, last week when she was coloring and some friends showed up unexpectedly, she waved them towards the stairs and said something like, "My toys are up there. Go for it!" She considered it pure joy when she encountered the chaos they had created and dove right in.
This is less than thrilling to my eldest who prefers that everything be kept in order and played with in the way the manufacturers originally intended. She doesn't particularly like impromptu games because they lack structure. In fact, when several little girls were playing Hungry, Hungry Hippos (an ill-advised choice of game for me to purchase, what with my noise sensitivity and all), and there were an odd number of players, she created a semi-complex tournament structure that none of the 5-7 year olds could understand and she eventually gave up and walked outside in chagrin.
My honest feeling about all these children underfoot is on the spectrum somewhere between the feelings of my two daughters. I will almost always wave the kiddos in and point them to the best toys. I am not always thrilled with the messes and noises they make. It is much more complicated having five girls in the house rather than two . But it is also more fun. I love overhearing their conversations and observing their games. I like watching Livie play hostess, and Sophia work out complicated negotiations.
My favorite thing about these small ones in my home is that they feel good here. There is one little girl in our neighborhood whose mother is raising her in a fairly free-range approach. She is often wandering between houses and we don't always know where she is. Last week, she was frustrated in a game of hide and seek and came to my porch crying. She let me cuddle and comfort her, and ended up playing with cooking toys while I prepared dinner. When Jeff came home, our daughters were outside in the bushes, but this little one and her brother were both engaged on our floor.
Some of the kids in my neighborhood have strong, loving homes. Some have absent fathers. Some have very social parents, and some very shy. Whatever their families are like, my personal belief is that every child could use as many people to love them as possible. My kids included. So if we can love our neighbor kids by making them feel welcome and wanted in our home, it's worth the mess and chaos.
The lyrics at the top of this page are sung by the despicable Mrs. Hannigan, bath tub gin-imbibing head of the orphanage where Annie and friends live a hard-knock life. She hates her lot in life: overseeing all these little ones. But I often sing this chorus to myself as a mantra when I feel a little Hannigan-esque, exasperated with all the little messes, little voices, little squirmishes, little pink undies to wash, little toys to step on. I look at all these neighborhood little ones and realize I love to love them. And I love my own littles too. "Lucky me, lucky me, look at what I'm dripping with. Little girls!"