On The Fence

I have the hope that my children will read my blogs (far in the future) and be able to know how I think about some things on the off-chance that we never really discuss them. This is one of those subjects that gets fuzzy on a national stage but for me everything starts at the family level. After all, what is America if not one big dysfunctional family.

When we first moved into our neighborhood we were optimistic. Our family was just beginning to grow and it felt good to be moving into a new home near other young families like ours. Not to mention, the old neighborhood came with frequent incidents of drugs, prostitution, and miscellaneous violence. I wasn’t very keen on letting my children play outside in the yard. In fact, I didn’t really like to answer the door. I have a good story, Love Nest, that goes more in-depth if you want to know about our first home together.

So… we moved into a new home in a growing neighborhood and we had all the expectations of any other neighborhood; waving at neighbors as you mow the lawn on a Saturday morning; borrowing a cup of sugar to finish that homemade apple pie; kids riding around on their bikes and climbing trees with a rag-tag gang of nearby friends who all play until the street lights turn on. Like the Sandlot but with a more diverse, co-ed cast of children.

Then one day, while watching the children playing in the backyard a stray Rottweiler comes lumbering into the yard. We all went into the house and I went to look for the owner. She was walking down the road calling for the dog and I told her, “He’s behind my house.” She replied, “Oh good. Don’t try to pet him. He bites.” I was a little alarmed to know a large aggressive dog was living four houses down. “How did he get out?” I asked. “I can’t hold him, he is so big that he just goes where he wants”, she said. “Seems like a legal issue to me…” I said passively. It happened a few more times and my opinions became more direct.

Her dog wasn’t the only concerning one. There was a pit bull that wandered through about one a month. She was indifferent to people but not real excited about other dogs. At the time we had Biscuit who was like our first child. Biscuit was scared of her own shadow so she would have stood very little chance against a large aggressive dog with an anatomy for a killer bite.

We liked our neighbors. The kids played well together and we often played Frisbee or catch across all of the backyards. The neighborhood news spread through casual conversations while taking out the trash or raking leaves. It was fun and felt like community.

Then we got a swing set and a trampoline. We were in the talks of getting a small pool. The legal liability of having something that other people’s children can get hurt on was concerning. The potential for stray animals who are less than friendly was concerning. The media’s constant stories of creepy vans offering candy and hugs curbside to unsuspecting children was beyond concerning. We decided to build a fence.

It makes me think about other scenarios where fences and walls are being discussed. For us, the fence has very little to do with neighbors and everything to do with controlling the environment for our children. Regulating who and what is allowed to access our backyard. We can’t patrol our backyard constantly so our fence is a reasonable barrier for when our eyes are elsewhere. I have to fill in some holes when squirrels burrow under and repair boards that get knocked out from time to time. Anyone is welcome at our house as long as they ask and come in through the gate.

If you think fences, moats, walls, or barriers are necessary then this post is for you. The anger that many people have towards walls is most likely a frustration that we even need them in the first place. A few risks ruin what could be a beautiful open community. At some point we have to decide if the risk is worth the reward. For me it wasn’t so I built a fence.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.


Kids are definitely creepy. Part of the creepiness has to be the fact that they don’t have any reference for acceptable social conversation. We have a neighbor kid who I can tell is really smart, well-spoken for a four year old, and a little quirky.

He hears my girls playing in the backyard and usually starts talking to them through the fence. Then he comes over to play. Boys are a little more risk oriented than girls so I have to routinely stop them from doing things like throwing wooden blocks at each other as they are sliding or jousting with wooden tomato stakes. I have to set boundaries on violent games and the way they all interact verbally. Lately I have had to set a few other boundaries.

One day the girls came inside from playing and were laughing about their neighbor friend. They told me that he comes into our yard without us knowing sometimes and he looks into the windows. Awesome. I have started wearing pants around the house a little more which I think is unfair to me as a homeowner. If I want to stroll commando at 10:30 at night to get an icy cold Coke or make a sandwich then I should have to worry about peeping minors being scarred for life. So we started semi-locking the gate. I would call it locking but some wind blew the gate backwards and those doors are barely hanging now. It is more of a booby-trap than a barrier.

We added a shallow pool to our backyard repertoire and our neighbor was super excited to come play. At first he was in some new clothes and my girls insisted that he join in the fun. I tried to keep them from being too insistent as they continuously asked, “Why don’t you come swimming? Its fun! Its fun!”

I tried to give him a window to feel less pressured, “He is in his nice clothes girls, he will have to go home and change.”

“He could just swim naked!” responds Threeto.

“Dear God no. That is not… um… legal. He would definitely go to jail. Nobody can be naked outdoors, it is in the Constitution.” I looked at the confused four-year-old sternly. Then I gave the same look to the girls. “He can swim if he asks his mother and changes into a swimming suit.”

I don’t condone minors skinny dipping.

He came back over and they all had a grand time swimming around the ten foot wide swimming pool. I told him that we had to be home and outside but if we were then he could join us. That evening the girls went to their Mamaw’s house and Supermom and I had a free night.  We were sitting in the bedroom around 5:00 when I heard an exterior door open and then shut again. I rushed to the living room and saw the boy looking in through the back door. He had come inside and then gone out again. I opened the door and explained to him that he shouldn’t come into the back yard through a closed gate if we aren’t outside and he certainly shouldn’t come into the house unannounced. I suggested that he use the front door to knock and see if anyone is home. Then I walked him out of the backyard. Ten seconds later he knocked on the front door.

“The girls aren’t home right now buddy.” I said as I tried to act like he had just appeared and didn’t come directly from my backyard.

He had a perplexed look and thought deeply before responding. “Okay. I’m going to a monster truck show so I will be back at 5:30.”

“They won’t be home for a day or two so…”

“That’s okay. You can come get me in a little while.”

“I feel like we are not communicating here.”

“Can I come knock on the door later?”


“Okay I’ll be back later.”

I just laughed.

He is such a sweet and innocent kid but he keeps me nervous that he is living in my attic and listening through the air vents. Kids can be so awkward.

If you enjoy a little variety and suspense from kids with no social boundaries, this post is for you. You’re welcome.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.