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I love my neighbors
November 17, 2007 3:49 PM   Subscribe

My neighbor kids (10, 9, 6) found $100 in my driveway and returned it to me.

We have a relationship with the family that's close enough that they have a key to our back gate and the kids use our pool all summer, any time they want to. They aren't rich, and struggle financially. Their mother wouldn't let me reward them, but I would like to take them to see or do something fun that's not Disneyland. I checked out the Imax theater at the California Science center but the movies all seem to have a scary element to them. The 5 year old is very sensitive and wouldn't be able to handle that. We live in LA. These are smart, polite, wonderful kids. Got any ideas?
posted by generic230 to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (41 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
 
Zoo?
posted by greta simone at 3:57 PM on November 17, 2007


New pool toys. A floaty thingee for each child to use whenever they come over and a basket of rubber ducks. Something fun and wholesome for them to do during the winter too. Instead of one big reward, do little things for the kids all year, like baking cookies or babysitting for an evening 'movie night' of non-scary videos you pick out.
posted by Phalene at 4:04 PM on November 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


A game or puzzle that the whole family can enjoy? Cranium makes several games that would be fun for that age range, and for adults as well.
posted by padraigin at 4:05 PM on November 17, 2007


Pool toys that they could use at your house? Maybe including some great squirt guns?
posted by metahawk at 4:05 PM on November 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


ICE CREAM! Duh.
posted by sourwookie at 4:13 PM on November 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


The kids sound awesome. I'd write a fantastic letter to them, telling them how much you treasure them, how wonderful they are and what it means to you to have such incredible neighbors. The mother said no to a reward, so there's always the possibility that she might see any unusual gesture on your part as an attempt to skirt her wish, although of course you know her and how she might feel.
posted by iconomy at 4:17 PM on November 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


Take them to the El Capitan for a movie. This time of year there may be a "pre show" (Disney stage show) that is usually cool. Call to see first.
posted by 6:1 at 4:25 PM on November 17, 2007


Wait a while, then send a holiday gift. You can say it's unrelated to being a reward. You don't really want kids to learn they should return stuff just to get a reward (I think that's her thinking). But you could just delay the reward and make it a gift. Perhaps you one day get some passes to the science museum or something that would cost a fortune for a struggling family.
posted by acoutu at 4:27 PM on November 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


Are you sure you lost the $100? Could this be their attempt to pay you back for all your hospitality without directly doing so? Have you ever told them that you do not want a gift or any sort of thank you beyond a thank you? My first impression was they were trying to pay you for something they felt awkward doing. Is it possible you did drop a $100 in your driveway?

IF you did, then I would reward the kids with a book for each of them.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 4:29 PM on November 17, 2007


Book. Definitely. With letter. (Go crazy, these things can escalate in to something great.)
posted by humannaire at 4:37 PM on November 17, 2007


Books. Anything you can do to help them love reading will be a gift that they use for the rest of their life.
posted by Medieval Maven at 4:42 PM on November 17, 2007


How about inviting the whole family to a home-cooked dinner? That isn't too 'gifty' and it's a great way to show appreciation.
posted by mr. remy at 4:43 PM on November 17, 2007


Giving unsolicited books to someone else's kids can be seen as a bit presumptuous, and even preachy. Especially from a non-family member or great friend who does not know the kids' reading habits, extant library, and reading preferences. What if they don't like books? What if they don't like the books you choose for them? What if you get them a book they have already read?

I think respecting the parents' wishes and not buying the kids a gift, but providing them with an experience (and one that includes the mother who induced them to return your money) comes across as far more genuine. Your idea of taking them on a trip somewhere is fine, but be sure to include the parents -- if they'd like to come.
posted by mr. remy at 4:49 PM on November 17, 2007


maybe a game? something like apples to apples?
posted by rmd1023 at 5:08 PM on November 17, 2007


Christmas is coming. Buy them toys then?

The problem with the idea of pool toys is that they won't be able to enjoy them until next May. A reward (or punishment) for a kid should be as near to the act as possible.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 5:16 PM on November 17, 2007


I think I understand your neighbor lady's point of view. It's obvious that they're trying to raise their kids well, and more power to her.

Part of that is that she wants her kids to do the right thing in situations like that because it's right, not because they think they might be rewarded for it.

If you give them Christmas presents, and don't say "thanks for giving me my money back", then you can avoid teaching them the lesson their mother doesn't want them to learn, but still make them happy.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 5:19 PM on November 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


what about searching for something fun on this page?
posted by be11e at 5:25 PM on November 17, 2007


Steven C D B has a great point, and what he says may be best here.

BUT a good experience that a lot of kids may not have is live children's theater. I see that you're near/in/something Los Angeles. I think that live theater for kids might be exactly right, provided you can find the right show. Christmas is coming. Here in the NC triangle, there's an annual production of "Cinderella" that sounds quite fun.

I thought of this because I was with a friend and her 7-year-old daughter at the daughter's first play. It was awesome; she was so rapt!
posted by amtho at 5:35 PM on November 17, 2007


I'm not so sure about getting the kids special holiday gifts -- the problem with that "unrelated" gift is that it might imply a need to reciprocate -- which sounds like it could be an issue given their finances. Of course, if you traditionally do a gift exchange with the family, then it's fine.

I do like the idea of an event -- "we were going to X, and we would love for your kids to join us" -- or even having the whole family over for a nice dinner, with or without a holiday tie-in.
posted by rdn at 5:44 PM on November 17, 2007


I don't think giving gifts to people's kids has the same implication that the gift should be reciprocated. I know my neighbors and my parents' friends who did not have kids would give us gifts - sometimes very nice ones.

You could also just have them over and feed them some cookies. Or invite them to help you decorate sugar cookies with fancy icing and sprinkles. Or give them small stocking-stuffer gifts like movie passes. I think books would be nice if you know what they like to read, but I also got a lot of books I didn't like as a kid.
posted by mai at 6:11 PM on November 17, 2007


you need to have a bbq with that family at your pool.
tell the kids to bring their friends.

nothing is greater for a kid than being cool in kindergarten/school because they took someone along.
posted by krautland at 6:14 PM on November 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


I second ice cream. It's fun, it's sweet (no pun intended), it's low key. The idea is, hey kids, good job! You did the right thing, but it's not wildly extravagant. Everybody wins.

Also, ice cream is delicious. And it's LA! Always warm enough!
posted by pazazygeek at 6:31 PM on November 17, 2007


krautland OTM
posted by mr. remy at 6:53 PM on November 17, 2007


If you get them some books, you should consider including this one for one of boys.
posted by Dasein at 6:57 PM on November 17, 2007


OTM?
posted by krautland at 7:44 PM on November 17, 2007


On the money, probably.
posted by iconomy at 8:07 PM on November 17, 2007


Put it in a 40 year bond that they can split when it matures?
posted by Salamandrous at 8:26 PM on November 17, 2007


My girlfriend's purse was stolen once and 4 kids found it in a bush a couple miles away a few weeks later. As a reward, my girlfriend gave them tickets to a children's matinee at a local indi-cinema. This entailed a bunch of short films and a kids feature, altogether it was about 3 hours of entertainment. Maybe there is something similar in your area?
posted by chillmost at 8:33 PM on November 17, 2007


How about the Bob Baker Marionette Theater?
posted by brujita at 9:17 PM on November 17, 2007 [3 favorites]


Hmm. I would write the kids a thank you card or letter, telling them that they are smart, polite, wonderful neighbours and that you are glad you live next door to them. In fact, maybe one note for each, and mail it - because getting mail is cool when you are 9. Plus having adults who think you're fab is a really great feeling when you are short.

Then perhaps ask their mother if taking them somewhere around the holidays would be OK with her, and do ice cream and a movie. Tickets for three kids plus movie stuff isn't cheap, so she'd probably appreciate that.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:29 AM on November 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


I bet kids from a struggling family like that don't get to see snow much. You could always organize a snow-day - tell the family you are driving over to the mountains for the day to play in the snow. I'm not sure what the snowfall in Cali is so far this year but I think that would be an awesome day - throw a couple cheap sleds from Home Depot in the back, bring along some coal / carrot for Mr. Snowman, and an empty cooler they can pack with snowballs to bring back and throw around at home...
posted by allkindsoftime at 4:14 AM on November 18, 2007


Oh...and please do report back and let us know what you go with. Threads like these are what makes this site great.
posted by allkindsoftime at 4:15 AM on November 18, 2007


Buying unprecedented gifts for kids from a family that is "financially struggling" is a tricky thing. Different people interpret gifts in different ways. Giving someone else's kids a book or tickets to a museum can be seen by some people like giving soap to a coworker: an ambiguous semi-subtle hint that they're doing something wrong.

I would definitely send the kids each a hand-written card. I would also tell the mom that I won some gift certificates from an office raffle, and that I'd like to take the kids to the movies. If she agreed, I'd go buy some gift certificates, and if not then I'd just let it drop.
posted by 23skidoo at 6:48 AM on November 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


A card to thank them would be nice if the mom doesn't want them to get a tangible reward. Maybe mention that they're welcome over anytime for swimming, etc., even though they already know this.

Maybe offer to the parents to take the kids out to do something if they (the parent(s)) need a break for an afternoon.

It's also possible that the parents might be a bit embarrassed or sad that they can't afford to get their kids cool stuff as much as they'd like to and having the neighbor get it for them could make them feel worse.
posted by fructose at 7:33 AM on November 18, 2007


Wait - Christmas is coming. Hell, if you want to be sneaky about if, wrap a few presents and have them delivered - from Santa.

Excellent kids! They do deserve something for doing the right thing - it helps reinforce things later. When I was about 8, I found a bag near a junkyard containing a bunch of things - including a pair of binoculars and a handgun (yes - with ammo) - I went home, we called the police and they collected it. Several monthes later, when no one claimed it - they gave me the binoculars. (Of course - at the time, I was mad that I didn't get the gun ;-) )
posted by jkaczor at 9:34 PM on November 18, 2007


If their mom specified "no reward" then you should honor that. In the same situation I'd want to give them something, but you need to respect the parents' choices. With 3 good kids, the parents are obviously doing something right.

That said, you could spend some extra time with these children when the opportunity arises. Be the cool adult who really listens. Kids need adults who aren't their parents.

Giving these kids some extra time reinforces what the Mom is trying to teach. By returning the found money, they earned your respect. You should demonstrate that. Children appreciate having adults who respect them.
posted by 26.2 at 1:43 AM on November 20, 2007


Lost of great ideas here. First, a thank you letter. That would be cool for a kid to get a grown up thank you leter, so I plan on doing that. Next, ice cream seems like a good one. There is a great old fashioned Ice Cream Parlor in South Pasadena where I live. Also, that means I have to eat ice cream too, so I like that one. Bob Baker Marionette Theater sound like the BEST THING EVER. And they are doing "The Nutcracker" right now. Lastly, we are a 40 minute drive to snow, and there's also a completely unknown, hidden rustic cabin restaurant up there. We could play in the snow, then we could get hot chocolate and chilli at the diner. I'll figure out which I'm going to do and give an update when we've had our fun. Thanks mefites!
posted by generic230 at 6:23 PM on November 23, 2007


UPDATE: I'm not sure where to post this, it's been so long since I asked, but we took the kids to Bob Baker's Marionettes last week! Then to an old fashioned soda fountain for ice cream. And, OMG, they were so friggin' adorable!! First of all, only kids would be thrilled by the idea of sitting on the floor. And the place looked like some kind of magical secret hideaway. Their eyes could not soak it up enough. The little girl turned to her dad and said, "Only kids who give back 100 dollar bills get to come here." I have never experienced doing something a kid would love with a kid, and, let me tell you, it's pretty awesome. Even though you can obviously SEE that there are people operating the puppets, the kids would look right in the eyes of the puppets and make some sort of weird connection. Magic, man. Pure magic. One of the best days of my life. And I thought this was THEIR reward.
posted by generic230 at 8:07 PM on January 29, 2008 [182 favorites]


I'm so glad my suggestion was a hit!
posted by brujita at 12:30 AM on February 6, 2008


An even further update: Since the puppet show, we have grown extremely close with these neighbors. They are devout orthodox Armenians. We are lesbians. The growth of this extraordinary friendship between this couple and their three children and myself and my partner has been one of the best things to happen to me in my long, liberal, feminist, lesbian life. We do things together all the time. They have 24 hour access to our swimming pool, that's how close we've become. There is much love and respect between us. The best part of all this is: I have moved my entire life. I was shuttled from base to base as a military kid. I have never felt "settled", but, I now see my life in Pasadena unfolding over the next 30-40 years, with these special people as my neighbors and I feel such a deep sense of happiness. I know they feel the same way, because I overheard the husband say to his wife one day, "They are family."

Here's the thing about this, why I bothered to post this. Because I believe that this experience is the truest picture of what America really is. People, in my life, have always been open to friendship no matter what my political or personal beliefs are. Maybe because I'm gay I get to see this part of people more than most, but I have seldom had ANYONE, no matter how deeply religious or conservative they are, reject my earnest efforts at friendship. And I think this is why I have faith in people. Because I am gay, I get see people make loving choices in my direction all the time.
posted by generic230 at 1:57 AM on August 1, 2008 [186 favorites]


generic230, thanks for this lovely update.
posted by lalex at 7:49 PM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


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