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Neighbors, my stuff, and boundaries


Aspasia
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We live in a new construction neighborhood, so everyone has moved in within the last year or so. One neighbor put up a playset in their backyard and told everyone to feel free to play on it whenever they wanted. So basically, all the parents of small children bring their kids over there any time, like it's a communal tot lot.

 

Well, we just paid out the nose for a really nice playset of our own and worked our tails off all weekend to assemble it (in my 36th week of pregnancy). We aren't quite as...generous...with our stuff as the afore mentioned neighbor. We decided before we even bought it that it would not be a free-for-all for the neighbors. While we were assembling this beast, one neighbor came over and said, "Oh, our daughter is going to LOVE this!" which I thought was a really weird thing to say about someone else's stuff. This morning I got an email from that neighbor asking what our "hours of operation are for the new play equipment".

 

Seriously??? Am I being stingy by not wanting to allow everyone free access to my backyard? We are totally happy to let neighbor kids play on and with our stuff...when they're playing with our kids. What do I say to this lady?

 

(FWIW, the neighbor who put up the first play set actually told me a couple weeks ago that they wish they lived on the side of the street that is putting up fences (their side, in their enthusiasm to be neighborly when everyone moved in, decided they would go fenceless so the kids could run freely through the yards--our side just happens to be putting up fences). She said she is tired of everyone treating her backyard like it's theirs. Doesn't help that they live on a corner, so people can access it from the sidewalk.)

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I'd reply to the email that you'll have to set up a play date, depending on when you feel up to hosting with the baby's impending arrival. Even if you don't plan on being overly formal, it's a polite way to say "when you are invited!"

 

We had to put a lock on our lower gate to keep out kids we had never met from our backyard. It's not a public park!

 

Good luck--hope you are on the pro-fence side of the street!

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Ugh, I've lived in a neighborhood like this, except it wasn't just yards--the kids ran in and out of everyone's houses like they owned them. It took me forever to get it through their heads that if they wanted to come into my house they needed to knock first and wait for me to open the door and invite them in (or not)--and even then we had problems with kids breaking in and playing in our house while we were away.

 

One possible way to frame your response is that you are concerned about liability issues if someone gets hurt and you do not want neighborhood children playing in your yard unless you have made plans to supervise them.

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I like the "we'll have to set up a playdate" idea.

 

I would also take home any kids who are found on your equipment unauthorized.  Not send -  take - so you can talk to the parent and explain that you are not able to assume responsibility for the safety of their child in your yard.

 

And make that fence tall! 

 

This is a potential liability nightmare so you will have to be firm about it. 

 

People are so weird.   I'm sorry you have to deal with this.

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Kind of flabbergasted that anyone would assume they could use it as they will.

Right??? You can't just walk into someone's backyard! Plus, we have a garden and fruit trees back there. I can't have the neighborhood kids passing through whenever they want.

 

Our yard is partially fenced. Our rear neighbor and one side neighbor have put up fences, but we have to wait until next year to finish it (we can only make so many major purchases at one time--probably should have gone for the fence before the playset!).

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Wow... so how soon are you planning the fence??? Can you do a temporary chain link till the full fence is up?? Tell them you are concerned about the fruit trees, etc? (which you are)

I would also go with the playdate. And be careful how you phrase the issue of liability, they might think it is ok if they are there watching the kids, kwim?

Something along the lines "DH and I are not comfortable with having kids unsupervised in the backyard(you know, liability issues and all), so we'll have to set up a playdate that will be good for all of us"

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Wow! I can't even imagine someone sending an email like that, unless it was a good friend making a joke. I would tell the the neighbor who started all this, that maybe it's time she puts up her own fence. Unless of course her side of the street is not allowed by the HOA.

 

 

(I hate HOA's. My property to do w/ as I please, w/in legal limits, of course.)

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I'm not sure about the wording, but I would make it clear that you are not having a public playground.

Also, do not give an excuse (i.e. liability issues). Excuses are just the start for them to explain why it doesn't apply to them.

Best wishes and congrats on your new little one.

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Here's a potential problem. My kids have played on the other neighbor's playset all this time. At first, I was really uncomfortable with it, and when dd asked, I would tell her that she could only play on it if she was playing with her friend who lives there. I told her it didn't seem right to play with someone else's stuff without them. But the mom insisted over and over that it was totally fine. So I have to admit that my kids and I have participated in this stupid behavior. Now I'm going to look like a hypocrite when everyone finds out I'm being territorial about my own playset.

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…. Now I'm going to look like a hypocrite when everyone finds out I'm being territorial about my own playset.

I don't think you are a hypocrite at all. The other neighbor started out sharing with the neighbors - her choice. Your choice from the beginning is not to. Your not changing your stance at all.

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Sounds like the first neighbor should have been more careful about how to open her yard. Maybe she needs to re-educate about hours and rules--it's not rude to do that. If she is up front about it and just says that she didn't realize quite how busy her yard would be, people will likely understand (and they'll respond well if she can laugh it off and say, "I didn't realize just how busy that would make my yard...we're going to restrict hours/update the rules"). I grew up in an area with very open yards and expectations, but there were some understood rules about which yards were the most open. It didn't seem to be a really big deal. I think I'd just talk to all the neighbors with children and explain my rules. If I had to put up a fence to keep neighbors out, that would seriously irritate me (I hate fences). Just be nice and up front; don't sound defensive or give the impression that it's "ridiculous" that other people don't already know that your yard is your yard--in some towns and neighborhoods, the culture is very different. Simply explain that your yard and your play equipment are off limits unless your children are out playing. If other children want to join yours, they need to ask your kids, and then your kids will check with you (or whatever system works for you).

 

I have a child that has a different understanding of social rules and takes all one-time offers as valid forever (he has a diagnosis that underlies this), please be up front and specific. It doesn't make you an ogre--people will tolerate specific much better than not knowing what is okay or not okay and somehow irritating you when they thought they had a green light (and no, the neighbor's rules don't make your yard an open yard, but it does contribute to the issue). Some friendly people come across as giving permission when they are actually saying no because they won't be direct; don't be that person. Ironically, we have a neighbor that has given us blanket permission for our kids to use her play equipment, but she would never let her kids play in our yard without asking. I take her at face value on that, and she has never complained about our kids being on her stuff. There are some people who would make exactly the same offer, and I would hesitate to let my kids play at that house AT ALL, knowing they would be resentful toward me later. Don't be one of those neighbors--be clear up front.

 

If someone violates the rules, talk to the parents, and just be calm and direct. It's terrible when people act like you should know exactly what your child did wrong when they haven't given you anything to go on about their preferences.

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Shocking that people can be that way. I would find a way to make the fence happen NOW, and lock the gate. And firmly take all intruders home. And tell people who ask what the hours of operation are, I will call and set up a play date when we are available.

 

Wow.

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Your doorbell will ring right off of the door. I recommend something more like, "if my kids are out, ask them if it's okay to play. Then, they will ask us if you can play with them so that we know you are here." You'll have to teach and reteach a few times so that they are not knocking when your kids aren't out. The grandchild of the neighbor across the street stays with his grandmother from time to time after school or on vacation days. We don't mind him playing with our kids, but he'll knock on our door five times in an hour to see if the kids can play yet. We have to tell him after the first time, "don't call us; we'll call you" every time he's staying there. He's not a bad kid, but he doesn't listen as well as we'd like, lol. 

 

Yes! I've definitely thought about the liability thing, too.

Dh suggested something like this: "Feel free to come knock on our door any time and see if our kids would like to come out and play."

 

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I don't know how to word the email but we had a similar issue when our kids were growing up.  We had our back yard fenced all the way, except on one side, it wasn't all the way to the house.  We did this on purpose so the kids could run and play in the back yard, without having to open the fence constantly. BUT kids would want to come and go at will.  We live on the straight stretch in a street, and they kids always played games on the street like kick ball, or in our yard because we didn't have pets and there wasn't a bunch of dog poop to try to avoid. 

 

We finally got everyone to understand that our front yard was for group play, the back yard was invitation only.  That way when dd wanted to play with only one or two friends, they could go into the back yard and not have to worry about all the other kids joining in.  There was an age gap, and some parents would let their 4yos wander the neighborhood unsupervised, pushing their way into the older kids play.  We too had a large rainbow play structure, tether ball, play house etc, so the kids wanted to play back there, but I was just firm, and they finally figured it out. 

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Your doorbell will ring right off of the door. I recommend something more like, "if my kids are out, ask them if it's okay to play. Then, they will ask us if you can play with them so that we know you are here." You'll have to teach and reteach a few times so that they are not knocking when your kids aren't out. The grandchild of the neighbor across the street stays with his grandmother from time to time after school or on vacation days. We don't mind him playing with our kids, but he'll knock on our door five times in an hour to see if the kids can play yet. We have to tell him after the first time, "don't call us; we'll call you" every time he's staying there. He's not a bad kid, but he doesn't listen as well as we'd like, lol.

Good point. And it really is a problem, because I have a napper (and another napper on the way). So maybe something like, "Any time our kids are out, feel free to join them." I mean, this little girl is only three, and my kids never say no to an opportunity to play with anyone!

 

Honestly, part of the reason I wanted an awesome playset was to attract the neighbor kids--not without permission, but just to make our house a place where the kids would want to play. We don't and won't do a lot of the other things that attract all the kids--video games, junk food, etc. I wanted to do *something* that would entice kids to hang out here...WITH my kids.

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How about a flag system?  Get a cute decorative flagpole, a red flag, and a green flag.  When the red flag is up, that means "Sorry, no guests right now."  The green flag means "Visitors welcome." Why not make it an entire neighborhood "Thing"? Have all the neighbors use the system.

 

The red flag will also help you out when your kids want to play by themselves, or with an invited non-neighborhood guest, or when your kids are outside alone while you're in the kitchen semi-supervising.

 

This will also save your sanity when baby arrives- no doorbells and loud knocks to disturb naps!

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How about a flag system?  Get a cute decorative flagpole, a red flag, and a green flag.  When the red flag is up, that means "Sorry, no guests right now."  The green flag means "Visitors welcome." Why not make it an entire neighborhood "Thing"? Have all the neighbors use the system.

 

The red flag will also help you out when your kids want to play by themselves, or with an invited non-neighborhood guest, or when your kids are outside alone while you're in the kitchen semi-supervising.

 

This will also save your sanity when baby arrives- no doorbells and loud knocks to disturb naps!

 

A friend of mine lived in a neighborhood that did something similar:   they had stop signs (or maybe a red circle) on their front doors when kids were not available. No bells ringing off the hook.  It worked well for them. 

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I had a similar issue when we put up our playset.  First of all, you are really going to need a fence!  I was able to teach most of the neighborhood kids that they could not be in the fenced area unless invited by my kids.  I did have a pair of girls, who weren't even friends with my boys, who would stand on the sidewalk and wait for my boys to go out to play on the playset and then they would join them. The girls didn't even play with my kids. They just acted like they were at the public playground!  Once, when I was also very pregnant with a high risk pregnancy, my boys asked the girls to leave.  Later that day, the father showed up at my door asking why my boys were being so mean to his daughter.  I made it *very* clear to him that I was not running a daycare center and my backyard was not a public play area.  I also noted that my kids didn't show up at his house expecting to use their inground pool whenever his family came out to use it.  That solved that issue.

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"With baby arriving soon, we aren't setting up any playdates right now.  When everything settles down I'll try and get in touch with you to set up a time for *neighbor's child's name* to try out the new play-set with *insert your own kids' names here*.  Thanks for being thoughtful enough to ask.  I was worried that people might see it as a communal playground with open hours."

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"With baby arriving soon, we aren't setting up any playdates right now. When everything settles down I'll try and get in touch with you to set up a time to try out the new play-set with *insert kids names here*. Thanks for being thoughtful enough to ask. I was worried that people might see it as a communal playground with open hours."

This is great! Go with this one!

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Good point. And it really is a problem, because I have a napper (and another napper on the way). So maybe something like, "Any time our kids are out, feel free to join them." I mean, this little girl is only three, and my kids never say no to an opportunity to play with anyone!

 

Honestly, part of the reason I wanted an awesome playset was to attract the neighbor kids--not without permission, but just to make our house a place where the kids would want to play. We don't and won't do a lot of the other things that attract all the kids--video games, junk food, etc. I wanted to do *something* that would entice kids to hang out here...WITH my kids.

I like that wording. The flag system would also be something to think about. I think you should openly acknowledge that you're doing it differently than the other family.

 

Something like, "I know the Johnson's have set a high bar for open access, but after talking with them about some of the pitfalls that they've experienced, my husband and I have decided to limit access to our backyard to when our kids are out playing. I really appreciate that you checked in with me, rather than assuming that our backyard would be open access. We'd love to have you and Susie come over tomorrow at 3 to christen it!"

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fences make good neighbors.  if they other neighbor doesn't want to invest in a wood fence - they could try a hedge - of something like holly.  or barberry.

 

eta: I live in an area where fences just aren't practical due to terrain - I have some nice lines of arborvitae in key areas (and four foot retaining walls in others). a really cheap temp fence (while a hedge is growing) is chicken wire with stakes to support it.  keeps puppies in too.

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Years ago, we had a Rainbow Playstation in a big backyard that didn't have a fence.  

 

Our neighbors would occassionally send their granddaughter over to play on the swing set when they saw our children outside.  I was fine with that and asked that they always had an adult with the little girl because of her age, but one day we pulled up in our driveway to total chaos.  The little girl was playing on our swingset when we were gone (later found out she did that all the time - without an adult).  She fell and was hurt.  I was afraid of the liability, but thankfully the family didn't sue us.

 

Our children were 12- & 9-years-old at the time, so we made the decision to sell the swing set.  It was sad to see the empty backyard, but we knew we were going to move later that year.

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Good point. And it really is a problem, because I have a napper (and another napper on the way). So maybe something like, "Any time our kids are out, feel free to join them." I mean, this little girl is only three, and my kids never say no to an opportunity to play with anyone!

 

Honestly, part of the reason I wanted an awesome playset was to attract the neighbor kids--not without permission, but just to make our house a place where the kids would want to play. We don't and won't do a lot of the other things that attract all the kids--video games, junk food, etc. I wanted to do *something* that would entice kids to hang out here...WITH my kids.

When we lived in a neighborhood with a lot of kids, I disabled the doorbell so they would have to knock instead of ringing (I also had nappers). We also put up a Stop sign on the front door when we were doing school or just didn't want visitors.

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I don't know about your state, but here health insurances will go after your home owner's insurance if a kid gets injured on your property. So even if someone says, "oh I would never sue" or "I have health insurance if they get hurt, don't worry"...they don't usually have a choice about whom their health insurance goes after.

Every time my kids have needed stitches or the like (these all happened at home), I got a form in the mail from the insurance asking where, how etc. the accident happened. My insurance agent said if I had named another address (friend's house) and they determined it MIGHT be due to their negligence(crack in sidewalk, loose nut on the playset, woobly chair, too slippery, etc.), they might ask their home owner's insurance to pay

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We had trouble with this and we had a fence.  The kids would take note when we left home and then come play.  I knew they came, because several times they did not lock the gate when they left and my dogs got out and they would leave behind cherry 7-up cans and we never ever buy that.  

I kept talking to them and they paid no attention.  What cured them is that one of my dogs caught and killed a possum and then brought it over to show them.  They ran screaming out of the yard and never returned! LOL 

 

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Unless you've moved into a commune, it's private property. I would use liability insurance as an excuse to not sound rude - because they're being rude by assuming and yes it is a liability issue. And I'd get that fence up post haste. 

 

:iagree:  That's what I was going to say.

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Wow!!! We live in neighborhood without fences and don't have this problem at all. The kids next door would never be allowed to come into our yard and play with our stuff without being invited first. I'd just make it clear, it's by invitation only, use the new baby as an excuse. After everyone gets used to NOT using it, the problem may go away.

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I cannot even imagine!  You bought your yard, not a public playground.  I have no advice that you haven't gotten already, but I had to tell you how flabbergasted I am!  Good grief.  You and neighbor need to figure out a way to put up a fence!  Can you suggest splitting the cost with your neighbor.  When we owned a house, no one put up fences, because we had crazy huge back yards (we lived in a cup-de-sac).  After having kids trample through our yard to get from one house to another, we decided to bite the bullet and put up a fence.  It cost a bloody fortune!  We had it up for 2 weeks when our neighbor commented that they were so glad we did, because they wanted a fence, but didn't want to pay for an entire fence.  They were waiting for people on the other sides to put up fences so they would only have to pay of the  back part and  just hook up to the pieces on the side. I was rather irritated.  James Bond wanted to tell them if they hooked up to ours, they should pay for half the cost of that side, but to keep the peace, I convinced him not to.

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Suburbia would kill me in about 15 seconds flat... lol

 

LOL Same here! I moved to get away from stuff like that happening. The only things that run across my yard uninvited are raccoons and foxes. At least I can shoot those if they become a pest.

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I don't know about your state, but here health insurances will go after your home owner's insurance if a kid gets injured on your property. So even if someone says, "oh I would never sue" or "I have health insurance if they get hurt, don't worry"...they don't usually have a choice about whom their health insurance goes after.

Every time my kids have needed stitches or the like (these all happened at home), I got a form in the mail from the insurance asking where, how etc. the accident happened. My insurance agent said if I had named another address (friend's house) and they determined it MIGHT be due to their negligence(crack in sidewalk, loose nut on the playset, woobly chair, too slippery, etc.), they might ask their home owner's insurance to pay

I just talked to our insurance agent, and she said it doesn't even matterif there is evidence if negligence. If someone gets hurt on our property, we're liable. Period. She said that if we had a pool with a fence and a locked gate, and someone broke in and got hurt, we would still be liable. Crazy.

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Ugh.  I totally get your feelings.  We used to have a pool at our old house.  Some kids seemed to think that because we'd invited one over from the neighborhood to play in the pool, that it our pool was fair game for everyone.  They'd stand at our fence (yes, really) and talk to the kids in the pool.  Honestly, it was a terrible liability - I don't know who can swim and who can't.  Why am I playing life-guard to the neighborhood? Where are their parents anyway!!??  It was hard to be the "bad guy" and I always felt like the mean neighbor.  :grouphug: 

 

I hope you find a good solution and that parents will be understanding.

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"With baby arriving soon, we aren't setting up any playdates right now. When everything settles down I'll try and get in touch with you to set up a time for *neighbor's child's name* to try out the new play-set with *insert your own kids' names here*. Thanks for being thoughtful enough to ask. I was worried that people might see it as a communal playground with open hours."

Great response!

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I would be very clear with this or you will have trouble.

 

"Actually, we weren't planning on it being an open playground.  I'm sure we'll have kids over for playdates though when we are ready to invite people over!"

 

Aside...it would kind of freak me out that people would make that assumption, just because one family did it. 

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I find it very sad that the thought of being sued without negligence is a drawback to having a playset.  

 

I am paying close attention to the advice.  I like the flag idea.  We were gifted an extremely nice playset.  It was from a daycare center that closed up and is nicer than the one the town has.  We haven't put it up yet, since we haven't moved in.  I figure if I get rules in place ahead of time then no one can take them personal.  

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I find it very sad that the thought of being sued without negligence is a drawback to having a playset.

 

I am paying close attention to the advice. I like the flag idea. We were gifted an extremely nice playset. It was from a daycare center that closed up and is nicer than the one the town has. We haven't put it up yet, since we haven't moved in. I figure if I get rules in place ahead of time then no one can take them personal.

It isn't necessarily about being sued. It's just the way insurance works. Even if my neighbor had no desire to file a claim against our home owners insurance, if they sought medical care with coverage from their medical insurance, it's the health insurance company that would file the claim against my home owners insurance company. Kinda stupid. I think it should be based on negligence, but just because your kid happens to be on my property when he gets hurt, MY insurance premiums might increase? Weird.

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LOL Same here! I moved to get away from stuff like that happening. The only things that run across my yard uninvited are raccoons and foxes. At least I can shoot those if they become a pest.

 

Add groundhogs, squirrels, and opossums and it's the same here.

 

We tried living in a nice section of a really nice city.  It wasn't for us.

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I really like that flag idea if I lived in a neighborhood like that.

 

Everyone in my neighborhood has six-foot privacy fences.  But I found it pretty strange that there are gates connecting some backyards.  Two of our neighbors open up the gates and let their dogs play together.  There is a gate connecting my backyard to one of the neighbor's.  I didn't think anything of it until my dog's favorite toy was missing and it looked like the neighbor dog had it.  And then one day we were startled when a neighbor was just suddenly on our second floor deck getting her cat.

 

When my dad built my DD a swing set he put a couple of screws through the gate.  Now it can never open again!  :leaving:

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We had it up for 2 weeks when our neighbor commented that they were so glad we did, because they wanted a fence, but didn't want to pay for an entire fence.  They were waiting for people on the other sides to put up fences so they would only have to pay of the  back part and  just hook up to the pieces on the side. I was rather irritated.  James Bond wanted to tell them if they hooked up to ours, they should pay for half the cost of that side, but to keep the peace, I convinced him not to.

This is something we're kind of afraid of our neighbors thinking. The rear neighbor built his fence *right* after we moved in, and the one side neighbor built theirs about a month ago. He had mentioned his plans to us at one point a few months ago, and we asked about paying half, but he declined. I wasn't sure if we should pursue that, or if he really just wanted to own the whole fence. It seems like, so far in this neighborhood, everyone has been paying the whole thing, but I do worry about people considering us mooches. Our other side neighbor has said that he doesn't intend to build a fence, so we are planning to pay for that entire side (and the portion of the rear part of our yard that hasn't been fenced yet) ourselves.

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The kids in the neighborhood *will* be eager to try out the new play structure.  It might be nice to have a little "open house" day so that everyone gets to have a bit of time on it.  Have a little pot luck afternoon, or offer small snacks.  Invite parents as well as kids to stop by and play and chat.  That should take the edge off of the initial curiosity a bit, and help limit any perceptions of favoritism down the line.

Growing up fairly free-range, the liability issues were explained to us, so that all the kids knew that so-and-so's pool was off-limits if you weren't invited (so their parents could supervise), so-and-so's skateboard ramp had rules (and required signed parent permission!), etc.  We didn't like it of course, but we respected it.

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How about a flag system?  Get a cute decorative flagpole, a red flag, and a green flag.  When the red flag is up, that means "Sorry, no guests right now."  The green flag means "Visitors welcome." Why not make it an entire neighborhood "Thing"? Have all the neighbors use the system.

 

The red flag will also help you out when your kids want to play by themselves, or with an invited non-neighborhood guest, or when your kids are outside alone while you're in the kitchen semi-supervising.

 

This will also save your sanity when baby arrives- no doorbells and loud knocks to disturb naps!

 

 

Yes, yes, a million times yes!  It's hard to expect kids to be the ones to set boundaries (mine couldn't have said no when they were little) but it's hard to argue with a flag.  I have seen this flag system work, so I would even talk to the lady who started out letting everyone in her yard who now would like a change.  Get her on board, and get this system in place before that baby arrives!  

 

I will say, though, having lived in one of those neighborhoods where all the kids play in all the yards--it can be incredibly fun.  Of course, we were really lucky for the most part as far as personality of the kids and how well they all played together.  There was one older boy who was the leader and didn't allow any bullying or mean stuff.  He was awesome!  

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I think Plink's response above is the best one. It states in a tactful way that your yard is not a playground and the neighbors need to wait for an invitation.

 

When we moved here years ago, a couple of neighbor boys thought our basketball goal was neighborhood property. They even knocked on our door while we were eating dinner once to ask us to please move our car so they could play!! No asking if it was OK....just...can you move your car??? He seemed annoyed that we would dare park our car in his way, in our own driveway.

 

Our next door neighbor brought his two-year-old granddaughter into our backyard to jump on our trampoline!!! I heard voices in the back yard and looked out, and there they were. The fenced yard didn't stop them. There was a gate, after all. Thankfully it only happened a couple times. Maybe my shocked expression cured him. They had a hot tub in their backyard. Maybe I should have gathered the kids and jumped into it without asking.

 

I don't understand at ALL the mentality that you can go onto another person's property and use their stuff without even asking, or assume that they will be sharing their swing set, pool, etc. Just bizarre. Wait until you are invited. I think the flag idea is a good one, but I would suggest having just one kind of flag to put up when you ARE okay with neighbor kids coming over. If the flag is out, it's okay. Simple.

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