The two little kids who live next door come over most Saturday afternoons. It began when the older child was about two and a half (she’s now six). She remembered playing with toys at my house while the grownups had cake and coffee and asked me if she could come over. Her mom said yes, and now she and her little brother (three) come over together. We play, talk, laugh a lot, and have a great time.
This past week, the kids were on vacation with their parents. I had more time to write, but not nearly as much fun as usual. Their visit is as much a gift to me and my husband as it is to them. We don’t have any grandchildren and don’t expect to, so they are a special “bonus” in our lives.
As a result, we and our four neighbors have become good friends. We are in and out of each other’s houses and yards regularly—more like it used to be in the old days. This is especially fortunate because we don’t have any other near neighbors. We can borrow from each other, ask for help, offer help, and not worry about messy housekeeping.
Compare this to the life of a battered woman, especially a woman with limited resources. Though her neighbors may very well hear her abuser’s wrath or see her injuries, they are not as likely to offer help. For one thing, he sounds mean. For another, she often stays inside. This isolation protects her secrets, but impoverishes her life.
Yet socializing is dangerous when you don’t know if you’ll have obvious injuries or be too depressed to open the door the next day. Your kids can’t invite their friends in after school, either because the batterer made that rule or they’re afraid Mom will be “sick.” Often they can’t take part in after school activities because their mom doesn’t have a car. Even families with more resources suffer this kind of isolation because of the shame, fear, and uncertainty battering creates in their lives.
But no one should be afraid to make plans. Plans often mean fun, learning, pride, the joy of seeing your kids or friends’ kids grow and accomplish something. They involve living.‘