One of the great joys of living where we live is the fence with our neighbours. It’s nothing to look at. It’s an artifact from the 1970’s, like myself. A plain dilapidated wooden picket fence 3ft tall offering a clear view through the tangle of my neglected verge to our neighbours well manicured english garden. Unlike many fences in the neighbourhood this fence does not prevent contact all together but in fact offers my kids access to all the beauty of boundaries and the power of relationships.
Since my children have been babies the fence in our yard has been a source of great excitement and anticipation. All summer long they run to it and call out to our neighbour to see if she is home. She usually dutifully comes down and proceeds to have long and elabourate conversations with the children. I cannot discern the content because I respect their right to have a private relationship with an adult. But through the cadence, the lilting and the excited chatter I am certain they speak of adventures about dragon slaying, backyard camping, lego designs and fairy chasing. Our neighbour happily rejoinders with dedicated interest and empathetic laughter.
Sometimes she brings them gifts, toys from her long grown adult children - my kids squeal with delight. Who knew an old faded firetruck, a plastic piece of fruit or an melamine plate set could generate such unbridled joy?
A couple of years ago my spouse suggested we build a new fence because that one was truly rotting. A practical suggestion surely yet I explained to him that no, we do not need a new fence because why would we take away one of the best things about living here? The relationship our children have with the neighbour is something they will have their entire lives. The richness of this relationship, the power of respecting boundaries and the joy of trust - and because of this, my kids know the world is a good place one conversation over the fence at a time. So I told my spouse it is better to mend fences than build walls.