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Are we neighbours from hell?

(106 Posts)
takethatno1fan Sun 09-Jun-13 23:08:20

Have posted this elsewhere but thought I would get some other views, and wonder if others have had similar experiences.

We are a family of four - mum, dad, two kids aged 5 and 7. We moved from the country to a 'middle-class' residential housing estate in a small town, in order that our children could see more of their friends outside of school. We are respectable, working people and our children are well mannered and polite. We keep our home and garden in good order. Our house is, along with all others in the estate, detached, and there are five neighbouring properties (three to the sides, and two directly behind). We are on reasonably good terms with the neighbours either side (our actual next door neighbours), the other three are actually on another street and we have little or nothing to do with us.

We very much enjoy living here, although there aren't too many other families with children (there are a few), and many of the houses are owned by older or retired people. In fact, all of those around our house are older or retired.

The weather here has been great this weekend. The kids asked to get the paddling pool out. So on Saturday we were out all morning, and arrived back early afternoon and got the pool filled and the kids played in it for a couple of hours having a great time. They also played on the trampoline.

Today, from just before lunchtime, the kids and two of their friends were having a ball in the paddling pool, laughing and shrieking.

Our neighbours from directly behind us came round to complain about the noise our kids were making. I guess they are in early-mid 60s. Their opening gambit was to tell me that most of the people in the estate are older/retired and want to live in peace and quiet. They told me that they feel they can no longer use their garden or conservatory because of the noise of the children. They had even observed that the kids had had some friends back last Friday afternoon and it was noisy. I should say at this point that last Friday we had four school friends back and they all played on the trampoline in the back garden between 3.30 and 6.00. The neighbours say that it always starts at around 3.30 in the afternoon (coincidentally the time the kids return from school!).

Staggered by this visit, I remained completely composed and polite. I told them that I appreciated their issue but that they may have to accept that when young children play on a summer day in a paddling pool or trampoline that they'll tend to laugh, shout and shriek with happiness and delight. I said to them that while I understood that they had become used to having older, childless neighbours over the past few years, there could be no guarantee this would always be the case. I also made the point that their being retired doesn't entitle them to any peace and quiet. They questioned how many children we had in the house, almost sneering at the bikes on the front lawn.

We have had no other complaints or comments, but they claim around five other people (or households) agree with them. During this surreal conversation my wife arrived back home, and deducing what was being discussed became quite upset that we had a) caused distress and b) that we were the topic of discussion in the adjoining street. However, I told them that while I would raise this issue with the children, I thought it would be impossible for them to play in a Dickenzian silence, and completely impractical to police.

The neighbours claim that it's happening all the time, but it really isn't. The kids are at school from 9am until around 3.20pm each weekday, and we're frequently away at weekends visiting friends, which they told us was 'a joy' for them. Every few weeks the kids get to invite some friends round on a Friday afternoon for a play and dinner. Usually until around 6.30pm. Regardless of all of this, the weather has only been good enough for outdoor play for the past few weeks! The neighbours said they'd prefer it if the kids could play out the front of the house and on the road instead of playing in the back garden!

Dutifully, after lunch, when the kids went back out to play, I tried to get them to play a bit more 'quietly', but it was just completely pointless. They jokingly whispered for a few seconds then splashed back into the cold paddling pool with shrieking and laughter! I ended up making more noise telling them to shoosh! It was absurd.

Our kids are as equally entitled to have fun and play in our own garden as the neighbours are to do whatever they like in theirs. They're not excessively noisy to my mind, they aren't shouting, fighting or swearing. They're not kicking balls around or playing loud music, but even if they were, I can't see why that would be inappropriate. The kids are in bed by 8pm on weeknights, and have rarely been out after 7pm since the clocks went forward, so neighbours would never be disturbed by noise late at night (we're not irresponsible parents). I don't want to fall out with these people, but if they're annoyed by the kids playing for a couple of hours in the late afternoon, they're going to really hate it during the summer holidays, and I fear that the situation will degenerate into complete acrimony very quickly.

One of the neighbours actually used the phrase 'live and let live' during our discussion, which was more than ironic given the nature of the discussion. I am assuming that the root of the problem is that they're so used to having literally no noise from this house, that to move to having a young family over the fence is total shock to them. None of us though, has the right to choose who buys neighbouring properties. I feel that in a way, they are victimising us because we are a family. While I don't want to charactarise them, or make assumptions, I have little doubt that if we had been an older couple who had been having friends round for a garden party until late at night that there would be no problem.

We're not behaving anti-socially, or breaking any laws. All we're doing is making reasonable use of our property, which for comparatively short periods involves the kids articulating themselves when having fun. We don't want our kids to be sitting inside watching TV and playing computer games, we want them outside, on bikes and trampolines, getting fresh air and exercise. While it no doubt sounds a little harsh, my inclination is that if the situation becomes that big a problem for them, they should move to a retirement community where they can be guaranteed no families would move in. I totally understand and appreciate how noise can cause great stress to some people, but equally, we can't tell our kids that they can no longer have friends round to play, or that they can't use the back garden any more. We feel totally gutted that we have such intolerant neighbours, but I accept the sad fact of the matter is that we now feel as harassed as I imagine they do!

Any thoughts would be useful if you are in a similar position (on whichever side of the fence).

ChaosTrulyReigns Mon 10-Jun-13 01:01:31

I think I'd just murmur "we'll try to kee it down" placations.

As an aside, I'd like to congratulate you on a most thorough scene-setting OP. I don't think I've seen one so exhaustive if background. Well played.


cupcake78 Mon 10-Jun-13 04:10:32

No your not but children can get very loud and back gardens can echo noises and make it sound worse.

I don't enjoy shrieking children. I love children playing and laughing and having fun but shrieking goes right through me and i don't think it's necessary. This applies to my own children as well as others.

We were always taught that playing noise is fine but not everyone wants to hear us so to be considerate of others. Its not a bad life lesson to learn. If we got too excited (loud) we were asked to keep it down. I now do the same with my dc unless we're in a park/playground away from residential areas thats what fields are for. Even then do they really need to shriek?

Your neighbours do seem a bit uptight. I think they are being unreasonable to live where they do and want silence however I also think there is no need for children to shriek and they must consider others. Laughing, playing splashing etc all lovely! Shrieking and screaming are not necessary in school aged children. Sorry

MyShoofly Mon 10-Jun-13 04:29:23

YANBU at all. You and your family have a right to play outside and enjoy your garden. As you's not a retirement community.

NapaCab Mon 10-Jun-13 04:32:21

What BoundandRebound said:

Make sure you say it with the caps lock on too, just to annoy them grin

Seriously, though we would all like to have our neighbours adhere to our specific guidelines regarding the use of their home but that's not possible. My childless neighbours have me thinking murderous thoughts when they decide to take their bins in noisily when I'm trying to get my son down for a nap. I'm sure my son screeching while playing outside with his water table drives them insane too.

If your neighbours want peace and quiet, they need to move to the countryside. It's not as if your children are out shrieking in the middle of the night, which was the case with my previous neighbours whose children had camping parties in their garden, shouting and hollering until 1am at times. Now THAT was annoying.

ChasedByBees Mon 10-Jun-13 04:46:02

They are bring unrealistic. I would also ignore them but I know it's hard when you can virtually sense waves of tutting coming over the fence.

prissyenglisharriviste Mon 10-Jun-13 04:56:36

I broadly agree with you (we have very quiet neighbours and two houses complained about the noise of my children after we moved in) but with one exception - I make my kids come inside or do something sitting down quietly during the time it would be reasonable to expect people to be sitting down to their evening meal/ relaxing for an hour when they get in from work. So, around 6 ish, it is our turn to be completely considerate for a short while and ban any noise.

I occasionally let them go outside for an hour after dinner, but there are no loud games at that point.

Weekends, fair game. They don't go out until ten at the earliest, and the other considerations for the evenings are the same.

I'm entirely happy that I'm upholding my end of the bargain. I don't think it's inappropriate to teach children that at times they are not the centre of the known universe and need to be respectful of other people's feelings. Hence the dinner hour rule. If they can't be quiet, they have to come inside.

And anyone that shrieks gets to come in. I can do laughing, shouting, hysteria even. No shrieking. <bah humbug>

differentnameforthis Mon 10-Jun-13 05:33:08

I hate other people's noise generally & I think that way too many people think we want to listen to their music as we go about our lives...but it is restricted to music! If I hear children laughing/playing I love it. Kids should be outside, having fun!

I have no idea how many kids are on my street, as I rarely, if ever hear childlike noises unless they are coming from my kids.

I agree that if they want perfect peace & quiet, they need to move to a retirement village set up!

alpinemeadow Mon 10-Jun-13 06:28:11

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Bunbaker Mon 10-Jun-13 06:44:21

It's the shrieking that annoys. There are loads of children in our village and I often hear other children playing out. Laughing, calling out to each other and even the occasional shouting is fine. Shrieking is NOT.

Morgause Mon 10-Jun-13 06:47:11

On the whole I don't think you are being unreasonable but I agree with cupcake about the shrieking. I have sensitive ears and couldn't tolerate shrieking from my own children and their friends where they were playing and used to stop them for my own sake, let alone the neighbours'.

Our neighbours' children are growing up now and I live for the day that the trampoline goes into permanent storage. "Boing, shriek, boing, shriek!" Drills into my head and I can't sit outside while they and their friends are playing on it - the girls more so than the boys because little girls have a shriek that hurts my teeth.

I can't sit in the garden while the shrieking is going on and have to come inside and shut the windows and turn some music up. Fortunately their parents can't put up with it for longer than half an hour or so and tell them to get off the trampoline when it reaches skull-cracking point.

I have lovely neighbours and wouldn't dream of saying anything, though.

Morgause Mon 10-Jun-13 06:48:00

Cross-posting. Ditto what Bunbaker said.

Vickibee Mon 10-Jun-13 06:52:42

plant some trees or a tall fence between you and neighbour to keep noise in your garden? just a thought
I think it is ridiculous, have they not had children themselves?

WinkyWinkola Mon 10-Jun-13 06:55:48

Normal noise like laughter even yelling is okay.

Shrieking and screaming is horrible. My dcs were in the garden all weekend and my ds2 kept screaming. I brought him inside in the end as I don't think this is a noise to which anyone should be subjected.

The rest is normal noise. If people don't like it, they should live in the country.

We are moving to the country on a month and I expect our neighbours will be glad. grin

In short, I would ask your dcs not to scream or shriek is all. Otherwise, it's just normal noise.

You sound really upset like your good character has been questioned. I wouldn't be upset. It sounds like you're fine neighbours even if the rest of the street like you better in wintertime. wink

JakeBullet Mon 10-Jun-13 06:58:32

YANBU at all. This is normal and reasonable use of your property and garden. They are being totally unrealistic about this, it's summer (finally) for goodness sakes. What do they want you to do, keep your children cooped up indoors? Madness.

Agree with those who are saying the response "this is not a retirement community".

Even better, tell them to get n touch with environmental health who will laugh them out if their dozy little world.

lollylaughs Mon 10-Jun-13 06:59:39

When we moved into our current home our older neighbours invited us over for tea and cake. Lovely, we thought until we found out it was for interrogation purposes... to find out what ages the dc were and if we intended getting a dog. The conversation went something like this: "Oh, I see you have two children - we don't like noisy children, perhaps you could bear that in mind. Are you planning on getting a dog? We don't think you should get a dog as they bark all the time and its really annoying"

So the dc played outside, made a noise as kids do, and we have two big dogs grin. The wife has never spoken to me since.... Her husband passed away since, but I fondly remember the last time I saw him. A balcony of theirs looks onto our front garden, the dc were playing in the front and he was sat on the chair watching them play. He was smiling and I waved to him. He passed away that night sad. But his wife has still never greeted me even when I took flowers round!

You cannot be living according to their demands. It is your property and you are entitled to use it how you please (of course within reason). How can they be so unreasonable to complain about children enjoying the outdoors. Now each time they are outside you are going to be walking on eggshells. I would try to ignore them, you are hardly being unreasonable by letting the dc out till 6.30pm.

JakeBullet Mon 10-Jun-13 06:59:55

Yep, echoing the "plant some trees between you and them" idea. I hear Leylandii are very nice!

BranchingOut Mon 10-Jun-13 07:07:53

I think there is a bit of a middle way in all this.

But firstly, dress the kids in something cute and take round a home made card and a packet of biscuits or something to say sorry. They won't know where to look grin.

I do remember, as a little girl, having 'who can scream the loudest' contests, so it is reasonable to check with your children that there is nothing like that going on. Also, talk explicitly to your children about the need to be considerate, say that neighbours may need to 'rest' in their garden.

Also, maybe just try to alternate it a bit, so if they have had friends round on a Friday, take them out for the afternoon on Saturday.

Plus, consider putting in something plant-wise which has a lot of foliage and will break up the sound - bamboos grow quite quickly if you water them well, plus they look great.

saintlyjimjams Mon 10-Jun-13 07:10:16

If you make sure they're only outside at reasonable times (esp not too early in the morning) the neighbours can't really complain. If they carry on tell them to contact environmental health & see what they say about children's noise between 3.30 and 6.30 (they'll get laughed out the office).

We live next door to an unreasonable neighbour (to do with our cat). We offered some fair solutions, he said no he just wanted to shout at us. We said fine & he hasn't spoken to us since ( until his drains blocked when he had to). It hasn't been a problem really, he doesn't like us having cats but is aware there's not much he can do about it as we are behaving within what is seen as reasonable boundaries by society.

TheRealFellatio Mon 10-Jun-13 07:20:23

takethat I really feel for you. I think they are being unreasonable and selfish and with the summer holidays coming up they must expect this from a house with small children. However, I do think some children to make a bigger deal out of screaming and shouting in the name of having fun than is strictly necessary, so maybe just keep an eye on yours to make sure they are not going completely OTT and shrieking their heads off beyond a 'normal' level.

I used to live in a road similar to the one you described and the fallout between various neighbours over children being noisy, trampolines invading people's privacy, footballs hitting cars, bikes blocking driveways etc, was unbelievable. I mostly managed to stay out of it as my children were a bit younger and so not really involved, but all the bickering and back biting and the fishwife yelling, and the complete pig-headed intransigence of all involved made me so depressed I moved in the end.

I think you have handled it really well so far, and you should just try to remain calm and keep saying what you are saying. Unfortunately some older people do become terribly intolerant, and have very short memories of what it's like to have a young family.

It's not as if they have to put up with this for 12 months of the year is it? And they still have until 3.30 every school day, even when the weather is warm. And your children are little so they are hardly going to be yelling until 11 at night! They are lucky you are being so reasonable - I know plenty of people who would have told them to Fuck Right Off.

Jaynebxl Mon 10-Jun-13 07:24:06

I'm afraid I wouldn't be taking anything round to apologise because this makes it look like you agree with them and are going to try and make the children play in silence in the future. I would leave it, and if they come again I would explain politely that it is only for a couple of hours on odd days and you're sure they must remember what it was like when they had kids / were kids, and how much nicer it is than teenagers down the bottom of the garden blaring out loud music on their transistors (note use of appropriate audience related language there grin. I'd then try and engage them in conversation about other things to smooth it all over and connect on the subject of something else.

TheRealFellatio Mon 10-Jun-13 07:24:38

Maybe you could do what prissy says, where you set a time limit and make sure they get a couple of hours peace and quiet, perhaps when your children have their dinner, and then immediately afterwards. but then at 5 and 7, with the dinner, school reading and bath routine I am sure that happens anyway, and when the evenings are light and long they can probably sit in the garden long after your children are in bed anyway!

BellaVita Mon 10-Jun-13 07:30:49

Tell them to go live in the middle of a field. Do not apologise.

EleanorFarjeon Mon 10-Jun-13 07:37:05

I'm sure you're not neighbours from hell. And your neighbours have to accept a degree of noise from children playing.

However, if there was shrieking or shouting from our children in the garden, I'd always tell them to stop out of courtesy to neighbours. I have a friend who has a very shrieky daughter. She lets out a high pitched scream when playing. I always tell her to stop. My friend said, 'but that's what kids do..'

Not if you tell them not to.

WynkenBlynkenandNod Mon 10-Jun-13 07:42:03

As long as you make sure they don't do that screaming shrieking thing I would totally ignore and carry on as you have been, the times are totally reasonable. Our children were the only ones round here for ages and all our neighbours were lovely about the noise, they said they liked hearing them play.

Mine now are a bit older and aren't out there as much but a couple of families have now moved in. I could hear them the other day and was thinking it was love,y to hear them and thank goodness I no longer have to deal with toddler tantrums (just teenage ones).

If they say anything again the it's not a retirement village is a good one to use . Start it with I'm sorry you feel that way and finish up with they are welcome to contact environmental health if they feel you are being unreasonable , all said in a calm, reasonable way.

LumpInTheCustard Mon 10-Jun-13 07:45:39

I agree with many other posters - your neighbours are being utterly daft expecting you to keep your children silent and you should just ignore them. Really, the only thing I think it is fair of them to pick you up on is the full on shrieking. Which I must admit I find unacceptable too.

One of my next door neighbors has three children under the age of 9 - so on warm afternoons and weekends I fully expect to hear them having fun in their garden. I can happily sit out on my patio, drink my wine and tune out their laughing, chatter and even their shouting. But when they get over-excited and go in for high-pitched squeals and shrieks it really sets my teeth on edge, and spoils my enjoyment of my garden.

And why should their enjoyment be more important than my enjoyment?

I am fortunate though. My neighbour doesn't particularly like to hear it either. One shriek gets a warning not to do that. And a couple of shrieks in quick succession means she marches the offender indoors and has them fold laundry, tidy their room or do something else not-fun for 10-15 minutes or so.

She hardly ever has to employ this tactic though, because her kids seem to have learned that horrible high pitched noises just aren't necessary.

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