DEAR AMY: My husband and I have three teenage boys. We have lived in our upper-middle-class suburban neighborhood for 20 years. Our neighbors moved in about eight years ago. They have three children, ages 10, 8 and 2. Over the years, we have found the mother in our garage, sitting on our driveway, and allowing her children to play in our garage -- which is not childproof. The kids have wandered into our home; one of the kids was found asleep on a neighbor's porch; the toddler wanders the neighborhood unattended. We live on a cul-de-sac, but the street is busy. The little guy is constantly out in the street, mostly without a parent. He also wanders into our yard with our two dogs. All of the kids throw sticks at our dogs and taunt them (we have an invisible fence). My problem is that the parents are inattentive. I have talked to the mother about the little one wandering, but nothing has changed. Amy, my three teenage boys are new drivers. There also are two other new teenage drivers in the cul-de-sac. What can we possibly do to get this family to understand they need to be more attentive? They are educated professionals. We cannot seem to get them to respect boundaries and take care of their kids.
DEAR CONCERNED: I agree that it is terrifying to think this toddler is out in a busy street with lots of inexperienced drivers.
Do everything possible to educate your young drivers about the very real hazards right in the driveway. They should walk around the entire car (including looking underneath the car) before pulling out and be extra attentive pulling in.
You may not be able to get these people to be better parents (the mother's behavior raises serious concerns). Some of this sounds extreme enough to discuss with a case worker at the department of children's and family services.
(Also, lock your garage.)