We've had some horrendous neighbours over the years, from the woman who built a brick wall on my land blocking access to my parking when we were selling the house (it was empty, we'd already moved) and the drug dealer over the road with domestic abuse, police raids and parking a bus in the cul de sac, to the half way housing over the road from us with fights and late night parties to the inconsiderate drunk and his mates breaking a door down at 2am in a communal block of flats where we own an apartment we bought when we were visiting the UK.
I'm sure with 5 kids we've caused upset to the neighbours with shouting, fights and kicking footballs and I know we've upset our neighbours with two sets of 'tenants from hell' over the past 10 years while we were living abroad.
But this post is about recent events with our daughters neighbours.
Our eldest child is 32, she is profoundly disabled and lives in a group home in Gloucester. She's been there 12 years, living with another resident and a 3rd on and off. It's a bungalow on a street, just like anywhere else and for the purposes of this, it's in a large cul de sac and the garden backs onto the M5.
We've had words with a neighbour opposite in the past about parking in front of their drive. Their definition of 'in front of their drive is opposite and half on the road, half on our daughters drive. They have a large, gated drive, for which they can turn around in, one car and we rarely see visitors when we go there. The road is more than wide enough to allow cars past if one is parked on the street.
But recently a 3rd resident has moved in, so more staff, more family visits, more cars. But the neighbours have decided to have a go over recent months and it's not been pleasant.
The staff and management informed us they've received letters through the door, neighbours calling round to complain about taxi's making the street look untidy and the noise from 2 of the residents, squealing and spoiling their ability to sit peacefully in their gardens. I'll remind you again that the gardens back onto the M5, you can hear the noise of the motorway through closed windows most days.
Life is hard enough with a disabled child. It's also NOT an easy decision to find 24/7 care for your disabled relative.
'how can you put a child in care?'
'just giving your child away'
'I'd never do that if it was mine'
Well until you walk in our shoes, you shouldn't judge and mostly these comments have come from people who actually have a disabled relative. We don't judge their reasons for keeping their adult child at home, often at the expense of other family members, for going a full nights sleep for the past 30 years, or holidays, or days out, or spending a day without being hit, or having curtains still hanging over the windows. Add to that physical age of parents of an adult child, the personal care needed. Even getting in and out of a car is a struggle for me alone and I know for a fact I would not be able to get her in the bath unaided.
We go to the supermarket, she spits, she grabs at others, she yells out, she will pull hair if you're too close, she'll try and sit on your lap if she's tired. We take her out together or with a friend or one of the other adult kids. We do our very best to minimise any disruption to other people. We avoid busy cafes, pubs, shops, tourist areas. We stick to supermarkets with level floors, good lighting, large cafes, decent toilets, we avoid getting in and out the car. We don't stop in the middle of the aisle to piss you off, we don't yell out for no reason.
As parents we have to try and work out what the problem is, she could be in pain, hungry, need her pad changing, just randomly happy. The floor colour could've changed and we've failed to notice and for her it could be a small step or a 1000ft drop. We just don't know.
We've had people tut loudly, ask us to 'do something about it' and once had a woman ram her with a trolley to try and shake her off holding on while I was unloading at the till.
In general though people are pleasant and helpful when asked, cafe staff will bring trays of food to us as queuing for her is difficult and she will grab at the food in a the blink of an eye. People will hold doors, help with steps if she's in her wheelchair. Kids will come over and ask questions and we tell the parents it's ok to ask. Occasionally someone will tell us, in a nice way that their neighbour/friend/family has one like this at home and they understand and tell us not to worry about the noise (we don't worry)
Mostly we get asked 'did we know before she was born?' my response is always whilst I'm not her birth mother, I've been 'mum' for 21 years and known her since she was 8, I often wonder if what people mean is 'if it was known she'd be like this, do you think she'd be here now?' I think I'll ask that in return next time.
Anyway, like I said 'life is hard enough' without the current situation at her home.
I firmly informed the neighbour who had a go about parking that she lacked compassion and was a throughly unpleasant woman and I hoped she never found herself in this situation with people like her as neighbours and if she wanted to complain further, I strongly suggest she complains to the council about the disabled people living in her street, who make a bit of noise now and then when they're enjoying their own garden that also backs onto the M5 on the few weeks the sun shines and whose staff members (on the minimum wage) use a taxi rather than walking home at 9.30pm as suggested by another neighbour or at least get their taxi ordered to the next street, so theirs doesn't look untidy.
I don't think this will be the end of it, another neighbour who was weeding by his front door, blatantly came out the front and was half heartedly weeding the drive when we arrived back and the neighbour opposite had enlisted support from someone else and they'd set up table and chairs in their driveway to stare at us on our return.
Have you ever experienced something like this? I'd love to hear from you if you have.