Growing up in a town very similar to Lexington for close to 20 years, I got to know my neighbors very well.
I recall many times when a neighbor picked me up from school, ballet class or kept me from being locked out of the house. Some neighbors became lifelong friends celebrating holidays and vacations together. As a child I learned a lot from these friendships but also from the friendships I saw my parents having with our neighbors.
When you are young you don’t always think of your parents as people with friends. Parents work, help with homework and play catch, but kids often forget that parents have social needs too and those needs include close friends.
Now that I am settled into my home in my neighborhood, it is very important for me to get to know my neighbors. And, I have to admit that I lucked out!
Our next door neighbors have two children very close in age to my two children and our driveways are right next to each other. As I write this article, the kids are riding their bikes up and down the driveway. I think to myself how lucky we are and only hope our neighbors feel the same way.
So, what is the problem? Knock on your neighbor’s door, introduce yourself and be friends. It’s easy, right? Well, maybe not.
Let’s face it, we’re a busy society and weeks can turn into months before we make an effort to say hello let alone get to know someone. Kids help break down that barrier, so use them to your advantage and use it as a learning experience. This is a great chance for a shyer child to practice their introduction on you and feel so great when they successfully make a new friend.
I still remember the day I met my next door neighbor. I was so shy and finally worked up the courage to say hello. That was 35 years ago and our families are still very close friends despite living hundreds of miles apart now.
When we moved into our house here in Lexington this past summer a little girl and her mother came to the door to give us a card the little girl had created. We made our introductions and can now count them among the neighbors we can count on. Another neighbor came over with a list of the immediate neighbors names in case, like her, I forgot them. That is a piece of paper I still reference.
Another great way to meet your neighbors is to do the time-honored, sure thing and host a house warming party. A lot of work, yes but you won’t soon be forgotten. And then there is the king of all neighborly gestures -- organizing a block party. This may come once you have been settled in for a bit, but I can say from experience that they are not only a lot of fun for adults and kids but they also seal the deal when it comes to good neighborly relations.
You know that old tree that is on your property line? Well, when it is dying and needs to come down don’t be surprised if your neighbor offers to cover half of the expenses. That’s just what good neighbors do. If you are new to the neighborhood and the town check out the local newcomers groups (www.lexington-newcomers.org).
Now that you have these neighbors' friendship how do you maintain them?
I started by showing mine that I trusted them and gave them a key to my house. Now, I grant you that this gesture is more for me than my neighbor, but it does show what kind of neighbor you will be. Hopefully the key exchange will be mutual and that usually leads to the courteous trash can retrieval, newspaper pick up and pet sitting. All of which your kids can participate in and learn how to be kind to friends.
Then there are the real life-saving benefits of knowing and trusting your neighbors, like watching your kids, watching the house when you are away and helping out in a crisis. I have already taught my children how to unlock the door and go next door and ask for help and when it is appropriate to do so if Mom or Dad can’t.
Now that you have great relations with your neighbors, it might be a good time to pass that along to your children. Let them know how much you appreciate and cherish their friendship. Show them that they are appreciated too by offering your help to them.
Kids love to help, so encourage them to assist you when you water their plants, walk their dog and bring in their newspaper. Maybe your kids will be the next generation of good neighbors.