When life offers lemon neighbours

Dara Squires
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I have a horrible neighbour. I mean truly horrible. She yelled at my father on Christmas Day. She calls the city constantly with complaints about other people’s property — mostly mine because she apparently hates me.

She told off someone who was helping her clear her driveway because he refused to blow her snow into my driveway. And tonight she yelled at my kids.

It’s not the first time, according to the kids. But it is the first time they’ve told me immediately afterward and I had a witness to verify.

There are a few ways I can — and have tried — to deal with her exasperating meanness. When we first moved in next door I tried the “killing with kindness” approach. My second week here she accused me of stealing tools from her yard — not in so many words, but a definite confrontation. So I rallied the kids and helped her search.

I wanted the children to see that just because someone is kind of nasty to you, you can sometimes change their tone by offering to help rather than countering with meanness of your own. Of course, real-life scenarios don’t always prove my theories true, unfortunately.

So then I showed them we can ignore it. At first I did. And I told the children to as well. I explained to them that some people have things going on in their lives that we can’t understand. And that some people are just rude and nasty and we can’t change it. But allowing them to “get to you” and make you react in a mean way lets them win. Instead, we should be content with what we know is true — that we are not who they say we are and that we do not need to stoop to that level.

Then she yelled at my father.

Apparently, momma bear is also momma daughter, because that really upset me. Following it up with shovelling snow into my driveway and continued “dirty looks” and small scale harassment didn’t help the matter.

I really don’t understand why people have to be like this and I don’t know how to answer my children when they ask. However, since Christmas Day when she yelled at my father, the kids have learned a couple new words to reference the “lady” next door. Sometimes those kinds of words are appropriate and sometimes they’re downright necessary.

Tonight, however, our lovely neighbour yelled at my son for sledding. It’s winter. Our house is on a hill. There’s good slippery snow outside and he got a new sled for Christmas. Why wouldn’t he be sledding?

He may have accidentally sled partway onto — and promptly off of — her property as there is no fence between us (if ever there were a case of fences make good neighbours, this would be it). So instead of telling him to ignore her, or trying to excuse her nasty behaviour I looked at my son and said “let’s find out what the problem is, eh?”

We walked over and knocked on her door.

It turns out she’s just a really horrible person.

Her issue wasn’t that the kids may have crossed onto her property, as I guessed. Her issue was that they were playing. And having fun.  And that, apparently, is too much for her to handle.

She came up with excuses — that they would slide into the road and get hurt mostly. And when I told her I didn’t share her concern she got downright nasty. My son heard her speak to me in an utterly disrespectful and nasty way. And I didn’t like it. But I was damned if I was going to be as bad as her.

So I simply stated my case and offered the question “why, exactly, are you such a grouch?”

That got the door slammed in my face, as I expected. But I wanted my children to see what happens when someone is utterly unreasonable.

I tried, at first, to show them how to deal with a nuisance. Then I tried to show them how to ignore it. And then I tried to show them how to use their communication skills to engage in some conflict resolution. But she wasn’t as interested in teaching my kids good life skills as I am. So finally I showed them how to stand up for themselves and not take guff from anyone.

Sometimes life offers us learning opportunities for our children, but they’re not always the things we really want them to learn. Sometimes real life gets in the way of lessons and unco-operative humans don’t act like the scenarios and examples we want. And sometimes we wing it and just try to remain true to our values and ourselves and hope our children can learn something from that.

I think as long as we’re aware that little eyes are watching even more than little ears listen, our values, our true ones, at least, will be passed on. The kids might have learned a new word for a mean woman, but I hope they also learned that there’s a process when dealing with unreasonable people and that as long as you don’t stoop to their behaviour, even if they continue to irritate you, you’ve still won.

And as I write this, my kids are outside, sledding, with the reminder to stay on our side and safe in the knowledge that their mother isn’t going to let some nasty old you-know-what yell at them needlessly.

Perhaps that’s the life lesson she helped me teach them — that it’s their responsibility to do the right thing and it’s my responsibility to watch out for them. And nothing anyone else says matters as long as we’re taking care of our responsibilities.


You can comment on this column or access previous editions of Readily A Parent using the following short link: http://bit.ly/DaraSquires.

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Recent comments

  • Buster Garvick
    January 17, 2014 - 17:53

    Don't you realize that the degree of petty spite exhibited by this individual is more indicative of an underlying mental health issue than anything else? And then you go and ask her point blank why she's such a grouch?? Instead of the reams of pseudo-new age mother psycho-babble, I would suggest some appropriate sensitivity training may be in order.

  • I Would Just Ignore Her Too
    January 17, 2014 - 08:55

    I had a person living next door who was similarly selfish and inconsiderate. Used to block off my driveway, sometimes even park directly in my driveway when she was to lazy to clear her own. Tell her to move and she slammed her door in my face. I had her car towed away - she got a $50 dollar fine and $140 towing fee before her car was relaesed from the impound. A year later she broke her leg. One day, she asked me to carry in her groveries for her. I replied I could not because of her past behavior and that not everything was about her selfish world. I felt just fine. She moved away 3 months later. Good Riddance. Don't be rude when dealing with htese people, just be firm in your convictions. Use the authorities when appropriate because a bully who is saucy to you will be a mute in front of a Judge in a courtroom.

  • this is criminal
    January 16, 2014 - 12:09

    This is bullying, slander and defamation of character by the author of this column. The Western Star should take away this authors column.

  • Chris
    January 16, 2014 - 09:03

    Good job making your frustrations known with a well written piece about a common issue for many. Irate people should be forced to put a sign on their lawns warning the rest of us of their nature. Thanks, I thouroughly enjoyed this read, as well as the comments attached below.

  • JM
    January 16, 2014 - 08:25

    Sometimes people just want to be left alone. All in time people warm up to you and become the best kind of neighbors. Over your lifetime, you meet people everyday, some are wonderful and some are not. You have the choice of having whomever you feel benefits on having a happy life. You can only extend your friendship whether they want to embrace it or not. Just remember you want to have good memories to look back on. Good Luck!

  • NewfieGirl
    January 16, 2014 - 07:49

    This was well written and the writer handled the situation better than most people would kudos to you. You are living next to a difficult, nasty, grouchy, unhappy person and you are handling her nastiness with tact and grace and by no means did I read this and feel you were disrespectful or rude so again kudos to you. And if by writing this you embarrassed or shamed the neighbor so be it, maybe she will lighten up and get off your back.

  • m
    January 16, 2014 - 00:19

    I don't think this is the best way to deal with a difficult neighbour. Since your name is on the article everyone who knows you, and where you live, now believes the person next door to you is a nasty person. You have now embarrassed and shamed this person publicly - that is mean and not appropriate.

  • bob
    January 15, 2014 - 14:03

    @just ignore her: Seriously?? You don’t even know the other side of the story and you are advocating having the author deny a potentially life saving phone call for her neighbor? I hope you are joking and that is not the way your mind works. Wow, you must be a great neighbor yourself!! As for the lady who wrote this column, I think living next to her would be worst than being one of Taylor Swift’s ex boyfriends! But if she slipped on ice in her driveway or had a heart attack while shoveling snow, I would call an ambulance for her. What kind of a disgusting individual would suggest otherwise?? And as for the blowing snow in other people's yards, why not just blow the snow in your own yard, maybe you don't want the big build up of snow? Well maybe the neighbor does not want that either. Perhaps all these people who support this author, should have more respect for other people's property. PS, if somebody was blowing snow at my kids, I'd be mad as a starved dog. Any parent would. Ice and rocks in the face, not cool. But that is just my opinion... Respect your neighbor's property, teach your kids the same. Maybe then you will have a better relationship. Also, good fences do make good neighbors for the simple fact that it aids in the respecting of boundries...

    • John
      January 16, 2014 - 11:29

      Bob I agree with you. I am reasonably sure most neighbors have had words over different issues. Nothing new in this topic other then the author went public. I believe most disagreements are because of disrespect for other persons property and value systems. Most persons would rather cuss and resort to yelling and name calling then communicate. Over the years I have had issues with neighborhood dogs roaming onto property and doing his thing, neighbors blowing snow onto my property causing damage, of course when you approach a neighbor beware they may dismiss you,label you or cuss you. The answer is that every one should show respect for each other and each others property. That's the rule I generally use. In respect to this article if it were me I would likely have a lawyer review this article for possible damages caused. Some neighbor may have been maligned publically...

  • f
    January 15, 2014 - 12:21

    Well Rotten Mary and others, maybe you should swap places with the person who wrote this article and the shoe would be on the other foot. I too can identify with this person as I have the same problem and not only with the same type of behaviour, I also have a dog constantly yapping to boot.... you can't reason with people aren't obviously playing with a full deck.....now that she had her say if the neighbour writes in, her article should also be published ......hummmmm I wonder what she would have to say but I would be willing to put all my eggs in the basket with the neighbour who wrote THIS article.

  • Rotten Mary
    January 15, 2014 - 11:05

    Great article however theirs almost always two sides to a story, this is one side. Every person has a life to live and its not for you to make comment or judgments on other persons in a public manner. Strange sort of dispute management going public with your personal issues. Your neighbor may have had good reasons to behave like this, you have to walk a mile in her shoes first before you understand her atitudes. Names such as grouch or nuisance doesn't help the situation. Sometimes you have to put up with neighbors like this. Not much more you can do.... When you are offered lemons make lemonade.... Works for me....

  • bob
    January 15, 2014 - 10:48

    It is great that the Western Star give the author here the ability to offer her side of the story. What about the other side? I wonder if the neighbor could tell a different story? Maybe the author or her children do not respect other people’s property? Maybe the neighbor was worried that the child would slide into her house or shed ect… and get hurt on her property (making her liable). I don't let my children play in other people's yards without making sure it is ok first, just to teach them respect for other people's property. I could definitely be wrong, but it really is not right for the author of this article to user her soap box her to try to publicly shame her neighbor, and not give that neighbor a chance to at least put fort their side of the story. This article purpose is kind of like passive cyber bulling. Let's face it, the author's name is given and most people will be able to figure out who the neighbor is. It reminds me of a similar story a few years ago about in the Western Star about how wrong it was that her neighbor wanted here to trim her trees back from over the neighbor’s property. Well that was the neighbor’s right, but again, the author of that story berated the neighbor publicly and of course, the neighbor was not given there own column to explain or defend themselves. What has the Western Star become? Is this just a forum for the employees of the Western Star to publicly shame the people they don't like? Grow up...

    • david
      January 15, 2014 - 16:14

      Yes. there are always two sides to a story. Sometimes, one "other side" amounts to a complete lie. Other times, the other party's side is so indefensible that the only reasonable tactic is to instill doubt by not responding (a tactic that would have been so much more effective for everyone in the first place...ironic). FWIW, I don't believe this is to be a situation where a difference of opinion is to blame. After reading the details that this person is willing to put her name to publicly, this appears to me to be quite credible, and likely accurate.

    • Bob
      January 18, 2014 - 09:11

      david, you are making assumptions based on just hearing one side of the story, and a very emotional side at that. Nobody here knows what really happened and to say that you believe the story without getting all the onto from multiple sources just make you look foolish. But you have the Right to believe who and what you want on faith alone if that is what you wish. There are lots of people like that. They are called suckers...

  • david
    January 15, 2014 - 10:28

    There are far too many uncivilized people in Newfoundland. The kind of mean, childish pettiness that would leave any educated person simply speechless. And in a place that tourists are constantly sold as so "friendly".......that really is the most galling thing of it all: the hypocrisy. The simple fact is that many people in Newfoundland have such small lives that engaging in spite becomes a major pastime. And rural Newfoundland can be the worst, due to the complete lack of police presence. Grudges get passed on from generation to generation...like animal breeding.

    • RU for real
      January 15, 2014 - 13:19

      Jeez, this guy is describing himself. Go back and read some of your posts.

    • Information-Based
      January 16, 2014 - 12:57

      Haha, this is rich. "The kind of mean, childish pettiness that would leave any educated person simply speechless." It would seem you would be distancing yourself from all your previous mean, childish pettiness. It would also seem you think yourself educated, and that you only deem "educated" people to be above meanness and childishness and pettiness. Of course, maybe I'm wrong, because you are obviously not speechless in this case. But then, I can't deny the irony of you writing "many people in Newfoundland have such small lives that engaging in spite becomes a major pastime," if you're not intentionally describing yourself.

    • david
      January 16, 2014 - 18:13

      Sounds like you might try to stop reading them. Seriously, I don't mind.

  • Massey Drive Moma
    January 15, 2014 - 07:09

    I share your exact thoughts on recognizing the opportunity to teach lessons to little eyes. I have this EXACT same issue but with a male and I have come to the conclusion that they just hate life and are simply envious and miserable that you have found a way to be content without selling your soul to a bank or mortgage company only for them to find out that it wasn't their fault, it was the bank managers fault for letting them sign the dotted line. Some people never figure out the formula for simple happiness and they despise you for your smile. Don't let Ms. Grouchy Pants steal your thunder but stay humble and pray for her peace, who knows, it may work!

    • John
      January 15, 2014 - 19:00

      Massey drive moma, your comments are way over my head......

  • Just Ignore Her
    January 15, 2014 - 06:48

    Do not do anything kind for her ever. She will never be kind to you. If she fills in your driveway, call the police, let her get lippy with them. Pity her if she ever needs anyone to call an ambulance for her. It might not arrive.

  • Also have horrible neighbor
    January 15, 2014 - 06:38

    I'm glad that I am not alone, but I find it amazing how this article made the paper when so many of us have similar stories, but nothing ever got reported on. We had our 1st neigh throw loud parties without a care for us and our sleeping kids. Threaten us for calling the police. This coming from professional people, fire fighter and a teacher. This also went on for 3 years. Now we have a neighbor whom we have never seen or met, who seems to have a problem with our kids playing ball in our front yard. Yelling at my daughter. We also have friends across the road who had a neighbor call police on them for apparently blowing snow at her kids. They got lawyers to put a stop to them blowing snow in their yard and called police again for doing so. All I am saying is there are a lot of bad neighbors out there and your not alone, but this is only getting attention because this is your job. No one else going through this would ever get published, but we should. These people need to be called out and get help.