DEAR ABBY: I have two children of my own, but some days I feel as though I have 10 or 12. There are many children in the neighborhood where I live. The following is some information for my neighbors. I call it the Common Rules of Parental Etiquette:
1. I am not the neighborhood baby sitter. Sending your children to my house for several hours does not absolve you of the responsibility of checking on your children on a regular basis.
2. Please do not allow your children to pick the flowers I took the time and money to plant. If your children come home with flowers plucked from someone else's garden, explain to them the dishonesty of their act, even though it seems like a sweet thing for them to have done. And, by the way, since I'm the only one with certain varieties of flowers in my garden, pleading ignorance as to where they came from won't work. Also, breaking down my bushes and plants with balls and bats is not acceptable.
3. Foisting your children off on me for several hours and then, later the same day, refusing to allow my child into your home to play because "my child already has a friend over" doesn't work for me. It also sets the wrong example for your child. The message it gives is: "You can use anyone you want and not give anything in return."
4. Memorial Day, Labor Day and Fourth of July mean picnics and parties for family and friends. If I'm having a party and your child wasn't invited, please keep him home! Last year, I spent the Fourth with three stray children who were eating food and drinking beverages my friends brought for OUR picnic.
5. If your child asks to eat at my home or go somewhere with me, please have the courtesy to check with me to be sure an invitation was extended. Yes, I heard your child yell across the street and ask if it was OK to eat at my house. And yes, I heard you say it was OK. However, I didn't hear you ask me if I had invited her. Well, guess what? I didn't. My child didn't either. So your child was sent home.
6. In my home, no one, child or adult, gets anything without a "please" and "thank you." That is, of course, common courtesy, but it doesn't seem to be an important lesson in some homes.
7. Your children are welcome to play in my yard if everyone gets along, if there is no bad language or name-calling, and if you take a turn having them play in YOUR yard. I have no grass in my yard now due to baseball games, and my flowerbeds are destroyed. And every child playing at my home has an excuse why they can't play at their own house.
8. Oh, yes -- don't forget those slightly older children. Parents, how about keeping an eye on them to make sure they aren't bullying the younger kids? Guess what, they are! They push them down, hit them, call them names and, by the way, their language is disgusting. So don't get angry and call me when your child is sent home. You'll get an earful you might not like.
Please don't get me wrong, Abby. I like children. I want my children to have friends over and enjoy themselves. And we have some wonderful neighbors for whom we'd do almost anything. I am, however, appalled at the lack of respect on the part of so many parents and children in our neighborhood.
Sorry this is so long, but I needed to address this issue since others have relayed the same kind of stories to me.
Oh, and by the way -- dog owners, just because I have a dog doesn't mean it's OK if yours soils my yard. But that's another letter ... NOT EVERYONE'S MOM IN HARRISBURG, PA.
DEAR NOT EVERYONE'S MOM: I have printed your letter in its entirety. It should be bronzed and placed on front doors in more neighborhoods that I can count, because the problems you have addressed have been voiced by countless parents. You are right on the money.
What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)
4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600