Front Yard Living

At the beginning of the summer, during our daily Quiet Rest Hour, the energy in our house changed. I looked up from my book and felt that it had gone from Quiet Rest “Quiet” to eerily and suspiciously “Quiet.” I closed my book and walked upstairs where I found my oldest daughter obediently and happily reading in her room. My three-year-old was not in her room or in the playroom – our two designated Quiet Rest spots.

I looked into our garage and, sure enough, found the door open and a tricycle missing. Barefoot, I walked out to the front, crossed the street, and headed toward the most likely of our neighbors. There I found my daughter and her friend playing sweetly in the driveway. I waved to our neighbor who told me that, when asked, my daughter confirmed I knew exactly where she was.

Welcome to our neighborhood. Of the eight houses in our cul-de-sac, seven know my kids and take an interest in our daily lives. Three have an open-door policy, meaning if I can’t find my kids, I’m fairly certain where to look. But really, I know exactly where my girls are: out in the street, biking, playing, imagining, building forts, and exploring with the neighborhood kids and grandkids.

This community didn’t happen overnight. When we moved into our house in the suburbs four years ago, it was December so we didn’t have much of an idea about our neighbors. We had a good feeling – right away, people stopped to introduce themselves and I often found our driveway and sidewalk miraculously shoveled after a snowstorm. As winter merged into spring, we found ourselves outside more and more often.

Garage doors stayed open, front porches were filled in with comfortable chairs and hanging plants, and I discovered we had moved into a neighborhood of front yard people.

I responded by moving our water table to the front yard, stocking our freezer with Otter Pops, and learning the value of shifting from the backyard to the front yard. Often, my inclination is to go out back, where I can read quietly in our hammock, where my preschooler can run through the sprinklers naked, and where we have a sweet haven from the busyness of life.

Our backyard still functions as that but it has become so much more. When we intentionally decided to shift to living out front, we invited our neighbors into our lives. We met the little girl across the street, who is nearly the same age as our oldest. We met the grandparents whose grandkids often bike with our girls. We sat on front lawns and learned the stresses and joys of each other’s lives.

There’s a cost to living out front. We’ve had to navigate boundaries and space when it comes to kids trooping in and out of our side gate. On stressful days, I just want to close the door and hunker down and that’s not always possible.

Choosing community can often be messy. And yet, I wouldn’t give up that intention for the world. Now, as our kids grow and our activities have changed, we’re not just hanging out in front as often. Already I feel pangs of nostalgia as our kids get busier. I’m thankful for the newborn down the street, knowing that front yard living will continue for a few years more.

I think back to that relatively simple act of moving the water table out front and marvel at all that unfolded from there. Even as summer comes to an end and we look toward more structured days, I think about small ways I can keep my focus on our neighbors – from bringing a book or my computer out front to wave as others walk by to date nights after bedtime on the front porch rather in the backyard, I want to continue the spirit of loving my neighbors well by being present in my neighborhood.

What is one small shift you can make to live in your front yard more often? Perhaps sidewalk chalk or bubbles in the front yard will help you meet new neighbors? I am amazed at the ways the simplest acts bring about community.

Originally posted on The MOPS Blog: https://blog.mops.org/backyard-front-yard-living/

8 thoughts on “Front Yard Living

  1. It sounds so kind and appealing
    the front-yard kind of life,
    that cozy warm community feeling
    with a dog, two kids, a wife.
    But this never was, and cannot be,
    no matter what its charms,
    for this house is not a nursery
    and I’m always bearing arms.
    I wonder how it might have been
    had I not adopted every lonely pooch
    that came my way; might I have seen
    a house and not a hootch?
    But sure, come in, we’ll chat an hour;
    just mind the Pit Bull in the shower.

  2. Even at our age we find ourselves in more of a front yard community. Our neighbor directly across the street is most responsible for that as his quiet friendliness to lend others a hand or tools or mow their grass has developed a sweet neighborliness on our end of things. I have to confess that Henry got carried away with his weed pulling one day and found himself more in the neighbors part of the front yard than ours which prompted their grown son to tell him his mom didn’t want Henry in their yard. It became the talk of the street with others saying they’d welcome Henry pulling their weeds. We laugh about it and all is well with the neighbors. 🙂

  3. When my boys were young, we lived on a military base . Everyone’s front yard belonged to all. I moved into this house when the boys were 9 and 13. Our front yard had the basketball hoop, street hockey equipment, baseballs and bats, and whatever you could find in the garage. I was the only mom who didn’t work full-time . We also had/have an inground pool (with much different rules). This was the gathering place for kids but sadly not parents. I knew the parents but they came home from work and stayed inside. I know my neighbors (most have changed since those children days) and we chat over fences . not the same but it’s still relationship building.

    1. I think this is tricky, too… We have neighbors whose kids are often over here but I rarely interact with the parents. It makes boundaries and relationships harder, for sure!

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