Mom Ordered to Clean Child’s Chalk Drawings off Ground :(

Hi Readers — Here’s a bit of a blog post by a mom from Ottawa. Read it and grrrr:

I’m still a bit mad about this so if I sound angry, just know I am. Yesterday my neighbours complained about my daughter’s chalk drawings on the ground. The agent from our condo’s property management company said she’d had a number of calls about it….They told me to clean it off.

I want [my daughter] to feel safe in a neighbourhood that is not known for its safety….Let her light up the street and show that there’s life here besides the litter and vomit that normally line our little yard. I angrily poured snow on it, and water, washing off the traces that a child lives here.  — Jamine

I don’t get why a happy chalk drawing would upset anyone, especially in a neighborhood that’s less than cheery to begin with. Not sure this is quite a Free-Range topic, but I’m on this mom’s side. And on the girl’s side, too. If you go to the post you’ll see her drawings, which look like they are on the sidewalk in front of  the building’s entrance. And which would be gone, in any case, with the next rain. Time for folks to lighten up! — Lenore

62 Responses

  1. Wow… yet another case where I don’t agree with Lenore. If this is community property, and the neighbors object, why would the Mom even think about questioning her neighbors’ concerns? For most of us parents, the last thing we want our children doing is giving offense in any way. Kids have no inherent right to take over a public space, any more than adults do.

    If I were a fellow resident, I don’t know that I would see this as worth a fight, but I certainly wouldn’t see it as a positive thing to leave these chalk doodles in place.

    I don’t really see “free range parenting” as meaning “let your kids do whatever they want, and insist that everyone else think it is cute, because they are kids, for goodness sake”.

  2. I had the SAME experience!!! My son and his 3 year old friend were using chalk in our alley and unknowingly sketched onto the blacktop driveway of one of our elderly neighbors. The next day, the neighbor had placed “No Trespassing” signs all over her driveway and then she came to me (when she saw me gardening) and told me to keep my kids off of her property. I TRIED to reason with her to no avail.

    I personally have had graffiti spray-pained on my garage; have had items stolen from my garage (bikes) and have had my car vandalized on numerous occasions. (I live in a suburb of Philadelphia where there are approximately 18,000 people living in 1 square mile so there is a LOT of foot traffic. Plus, it’s a college town AND the end-of-the-line for public transit from the city so we get lots of petty crime.)

    ANYWAY, I tried to explain to her that the children who did this were not being malicious. I said I could understand if they had written the F-word all over her driveway but these were kids who were not yet old enough to read! I also commented that it was CHALK, not something permanent like spray paint. But you could not reason with her.

    She said she didn’t want kids on her property NO MATTER WHAT. And keep in mind that we are talking about TODDLERS who are not allowed out in the alley unless a grown-up is there to supervise.

    So now we just avoid her driveway at all costs.

  3. It looks like one drawing covers the whole sidewalk in front of a common entrance. That is inappropriate. I should be able go home without getting chalk dust on my shoes and tracking it into common hallways and my appartment.

    The smaller drawing is fine. The big one in front of the stairs is wrong. Both sides need to be considerate of their neighbors.

  4. @david: i understand your point, and i do hate those parents who think their kids have a right to every public space, but i also feel for that mom because she is obviously not in a child-friendly place, and in trying to let her daughter just be a kid and make a little safe space for herself, she got slapped down. and that hurts. every parent, if they could, would live in a place where kids run free and safe, where everyone loves and protects them, but not everyone can live in places like that. there’s pain and maybe some guilt in that story, and as a single mom not living in mayberry either, i sympathize.

    and i disagree with you lenore, i think this IS a free range kids issue, because it shows me how far we really are from having a child-friendly, child-accepting culture. we say we are, but we’re not, really. we feel very free to openly dislike kids and everything that having kids around involves, and that makes me sad.

  5. I live in this area of Ottawa, and am shocked to see this. Drugs and prostitutes are real problems in this neighbourhood, and people are wasting their time complaining about chalk drawings? Wow.

  6. I feel like this should have been addressed with an “in future, please be mindful of common walkways” rather than the accusatory and reactionary approach they appear to have taken. There was no malicious intent, so treating it like a crime was just plain overreacting.

    @Rachel – sounds like your neighbor has forgotten what childhood is like. How sad for all of you.

  7. Reason #6743 while I’ll never live in a condo.

    I’d be just as mad that people wouldn’t talk to me before going to the condo association.

    @ Curtis, Chalk dust? Really you are worried about chalk dust?

  8. I agree with Lenore on this one. 30-40 years ago this was a no brainer. My friends and I regularly drew chalk drawings all over the neighborhood – on shared sidewalks, driveways, etc. It was seen as good, normal child behavior. But we’ve gotten so appearance conscious. Oh, what will the neighbors think? Oh, it’s not up to standard. It certainly doesn’t come from Better Homes and Gardens. That’s why it’s not good enough to have a home-made cake anymore – the cake has to look right, look perfect. Similarly, in some neighborhoods, people ARE NOT ALLOWED to hang laundry on line because it’s not part of the aesthetic.

    Kids in our neighborhood built a fort on a vacant lot, with the permission of the lot’s owner. Neighbors complained because – it didn’t fit the look of the neighborhood! Fortunately, the parents wouldn’t back down.

    If you haven’t, read Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. It’s totally meshes with the free range movement and touches on this whole idea. Kids need to be encouraged to be out in their neighborhoods, not fearful of drawing out of the lines and ruining the aesthetic.

  9. I don’t know if it’s particularly free-range but it sure is child-unfriendly. Yuck.

    A similar thing happened in Brooklyn a few years ago – 6 year old threatened with a $300 fine:
    http://brooklynpaper.com/stories/30/40/30_40graffitigirl.html

  10. Traditional sidewalk chalk is similar to colored antacids (Calcium carbonate) without the flavoring. Some chalk is now made of gypsum.
    Chalk drawings remind me of Bert the chimney sweep from Mary Poppins. The lyrics of Chim Chim Cherrie include some lines about class warfare: Now as the ladder of life has been strung, life as a sweeps on the bottomest rung, Though I spends me time in the ashes and smoke, in this whole wide world you’ld find no happier a bloke.

  11. dmd wrote “Kids need to be encouraged to be out in their neighborhoods, not fearful of drawing out of the lines and ruining the aesthetic.”

    To play devil’s advocate here… what is wrong with parents – and communities – teaching kids to have a sense of aesthetics and a feeling for the appropriateness of any activity to a place?

    Please don’t get me wrong – I actually love kids, mine and others’ – and all four of ours are highly creative and perhaps even quirky. But they also have a fairly keen sense of the contexts in which child-like behaviour is appropriate or even desirable and those in which it is unwelcome.

    Although it might occur to them to build that fort on a vacant lot, if I explained that doing so might hurt the resale value of homes on our block, they would be the first to discard that plan.

  12. How about free-range adults? Just because you think your kids are cute and should be given freedom doesn’t mean they can encroach on others’ freedom to object to having their property graffiti’d. Yes, graffiti is in the eye of the beholder, and that’s exactly my point: If it’s my property and I don’t want your kid on it, or want your kid drawing on it, that’s my right. One way to think about this is to ask at what age is it no longer okay to draw on someone else’s property? 5? 10? 18? The answer is that age doesn’t matter, *as long as the property owner is okay with it*. It would be good for kids to learn that there are rules that sometimes other people enforce, even if their parents would rather not.

  13. @ David. But why should a fort on a vacant lot hurt resale value. Are we all so limited that we can’t look past that? What about chalk drawings on my single family home? Does that hurt my neighbors resale value? Or are there more important things to think about like neighborhood safety, good schools, well-kept roads? Why didn’t chalk drawings hurt resale values 30 years ago? Have we gotten that superficial?

  14. Hurt resale value? Seriously? I think it’s really sad that we would ask children to plan their activities over what will or will not affect property values. Seeing a fort in a vacant lot would make me happy as a potential buyer – I would want my kids to live in a child-friendly neighborhood!

  15. @curtis,

    Really? Chalk dust? Whatever happened to taking joy at the whimsical creations of children?

    Going through life worrying about trivial things (seriously, chalk dust?) is horrible. Lighten up.

  16. I have to disagree with you Lenore. If the neighborhood isn’t good to begin with, this could just be one more annoyance the neighbors are sick of dealing with.

    As someone who lives in a condo complex (without kids yet), I wouldn’t mind kids leaving chalk drawings around for a couple days, but much longer and it starts feeling like true graffiti (an eyesore). Take your pictures, show your friends, but then be considerate of your neighbors. It is a common area so I would expect parents to clean up after their kids (at least after a couple days) just like I would expect any neighbor to clean up a mess in the common area.

    I don’t know how “nice” the association rep was at first, but if the mom met a simple request to cleanup the drawings with disgust and entitlement, I’d be pretty pissed at the mom too. This is how friendly informal HOA policies turn into formal ones and we get overly restrictive crap in the bylaws.

  17. I cleaned it off right away because I want to live in community with my neighbours. I didn’t put up a fight at all even though my initial reaction was impatience. I agree it was a bold chalking! If you knew what people stepped over before they got to the chalk, you’d know that chalk dust is not the issue!

    It’s a power-thing, I get it. My daughter crossed the line, I agree. She’s still excited and proud of the Olympics, she’s happy it’s nice enough out to be outside and she did something edgy. And there were consequences! Not everybody loved it, and the work got taken down!

    My concern really for her is her self-expression – I want that left intact. And I wish that adults would remember how little it takes to have someone’s little heart be squashed.

    By the way, she rode her bike to school today by herself for the first time. Even though it’s against the law I told her to ride on the sidewalk for most of the way. If you knew where we lived and that King Edward is not a tiny street, you may understand…

  18. Really? People feel that their rights are being infringed upong from having to see CHALK? ::eye roll:: Some of you need to get a life! The entire point of chalk is that it comes right off.

  19. Rachel, you didn’t need to reason with her. She has the right to not have people on her property. Period. That’s not a free-range issue, that’s a matter of personal property.

    Oh, I know, there are “bigger things to worry about”. Well, she can’t fix them. She CAN fix the problem of a small child coming onto her property, though.

    My concern really for her is her self-expression – I want that left intact. And I wish that adults would remember how little it takes to have someone’s little heart be squashed.

    I don’t think it’ll traumatize her for life. Let’s not make mountains out of molehills here. Wash the chalk, tell her not to do it where people will get annoyed again (and you don’t know, maybe the same person or people who complained about the chalk also complain about all those other problems) and get her a paint set or something. Being told not to draw in a public area (where your drawing is just going to get destroyed by being walked on anyway) isn’t the end of the world. It’s hard to agree with you if you exaggerate the situation.

  20. About 3 years ago, some neighborhood kids (6, 8,& 10) got crosswise with me or my daughter and silly stringed our house and dumped dirt on our front porch. I followed the sloppy trail of silly string to their house and told the mother that they needed to come and clean it up. She was angry with me but sent them anyway. I made sure they did a good job and gave them popcicles when they were done.

    I did not call the police or any city agency or go through a 3rd party. I simply told the mother, “This is what happened. This is what needs to be done.” That should be the 1st response. Anything else is lillylivered.

  21. I agree, Uly, about Rachel. That was exactly what I thought when I read the post from Rachel. Jamine was at least on her property but Rachel’s kids went on to the neighbors driveway. Innocent as it was, that neighbor has the right to ask your kids to stay off her property.

    Tracking chalk dust in the house? Hahahhahahaha! My mom was a clean freak when I was growing up and even she let us draw with chalk on the sidewalk. Never any mention of chalk dust getting tracked in the house. I needed a good laugh, so thank you.

  22. David–I think the fact that the neighborhood has drug and prostitution problems will hurt home’s resale values a whole LOT more than sidewalk chalk that will go away with rain. Did you even see the pictures? They’re beautiful pictures. It wasn’t a bunch of random nonsense drawings. One of the pictures was of a Canadian flag. What better way to draw one’s eye away from everyday big city problems than a little bit of art.

  23. It’s chalk on a sidewalk. It’s CHALK on a sidewalk. CHALK. That’s it.

  24. Amanda – I didn’t actually mention resale value in direct relation to the chalk on the sidewalk, but rather in response to the idea of kids improvising a fort on a vacant lot.

    However, you are right that there is nothing at all permanently damaging about a chalk drawing. It can indeed easily be washed away. Which is why I fail to understand why the immediate reaction of the mom at the first hint of disapproval from any neighbor wasn’t to sincerely apologize and grab a hose (or better yet, have her daughter grab the hose). Actually, I would hope that she wouldn’t even wait for the disapproval from the neighbors but rather would anticipate it.

    Further, one person’s “beautiful” images (and I have no problem with these personally) are another person’s eyesore. And I don’t know about the rules in Canada, but if this were the US and an American flag, I would feel compelled to explain to my kid that some people might feel uncomfortable about being forced to trod on the national flag, no matter how well intentioned she may have been in placing it there. I don’t know if they are ever enforced or even still on the books, but there used to be actual laws about that sort of thing. Which seems extremely anal-retentive to me, personally. But it isn’t really about what I think – it is about what the neighbors think. We are not talking about this woman’s home, as I understand it, but rather a communal property.

  25. MaryMargaret, THANK YOU for addressing the very person to address in that situation. Why are people so afraid to take their issues to someone directly, instead of going around them to the neighborhood association or even the police?

    And seriously, people. Somekindofmuffin got it exactly right. It’s CHALK.

  26. Just to clarify, the children were drawing in the alley and ACCIDENTALLY crossed over onto my neighbor’s driveway. About 6-12 inches onto her driveway (which is probably 15 feet long). As soon as I noticed, I had them move. They did NOT use her driveway as a canvas, it was stray chalk marks made by preschoolers. I would not want them to mistreat someone’s property but an innocent scribble that is washable is something that should be understood and not something she needed to go posting signs and getting angry about.

  27. As a mom with a pair of chalk loving kids, I have to agree that chalk drawings really shouldn’t be a problem on a sidewalk. They’ll go away on their own, and to me it’s a great indicator that kids are having fun in that neighborhood. That’s a big plus to me.

    That said, David I do like your point about how people could feel about walking on an image of their flag. That’s the kind of thing you can easily explain to kids.

  28. This happened to me, too. My son and his friend (both 2) made drawings outside the door of my apartment. They made me wash them off, said it was graffiti.

  29. Not to worry about the flag – Canada is a free country. We do not have those sort of pseudo-patriotic draconian laws.

    Incidentally, have any of you flag-wavers seen how badly the US flag is bastardized on, for example, clothing? In particular, the clothing of US athletes?

    e.g. here where the flag is completely stretched, misshapen, and hacked to pieces. That’s OK, how? As long as someone is making millions of bucks off it or what? But a kid drawing one on a sidewalk is evil?

    Wow.

  30. What I find sad is that we are living in a society where children are more and more compartmentalised (for want of a better word). They are expected to remain in ‘designated’ areas, such as playgrounds, but evidence of them in the broader community – like chalk drawings on pavements – is frowned upon. I see it even in homes where children live. I visit the homes of my six year old’s friends and wonder how, and where, the children live in these sterile environments. Their toys are hidden in their bedrooms. Apart from groomed and posed photographs, there are no pictures of or by the children. In our home the presence of children in inescapable. From the grubby hand prints on walls (because I am a dreadful housekeeper), to toys and pictures everywhere, to chalk drawings on the concrete outside. To me it feels joyful. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  31. Bushidoka — as far as I know, there are no “Draconian laws” concerning flag etiquette in the US, which is why you see all the stuff on clothing and so forth.

    But it is considered disrespectful and discourteous to wrongly display the flag — which is not the same thing as saying it doesn’t happen. Is Canada different in this respect, that there are no forms of etiquette relating to display and treatment of the flag?

  32. And, BTW, those swimming uniforms are not “the flag,” they are the colors of the flag. US flag etiquette has never been understood to mean that you can’t show red, white, and blue stars or stripes in any form other than a properly displayed flag. It means you shouldn’t take a flag, or an actual image of a US flag, and misuse it.

    But I don’t mean that a sidewalk chalk drawing is a problem either. It’s just that I think you don’t entirely get what American flag etiquette is, and isn’t.

  33. @ Nicky – My mom always told me a home should be messy enough to be happy and clean enough to be healthy. I’ve been in homes that are sterile and homes that are so lived in… well, they were just gross. Grubby handprints, great! critters under the beds, in the beds (not talking pets!) not so great… I hope I’ve found a balance!🙂

    @ Bushidoka – I love your point!! I suspect the same parents who preach patriotism at our Little League games are the same who think nothing of buying an American flag bathing suit because it’s “patriotic.” Maybe I should move to Canada.

    It’s interesting to hear the discussion between all of you. I like the philosophy behind free range parenting but I must admit I struggle with what’s expected from society. Maybe I just need a bigger field, but with a fence.

  34. Eh… it’s a chalk drawing. It’ll wash away. Making a big deal about a chalk drawing is silly. It isn’t a safety hazard, any chalk dust will be OFF of your shoes by the time you get up those steps. My guess is someone is trying to sell their condo and didn’t think the chalk kept up with the community “aesthetic”.

    They need to save their energy to complain about actual graffiti.

  35. Sidewalk? Heck, we used the street! My fiends and I were WWII buffs and to get the idea of the size of tanks we would draw 1:1 arial views out in the street. We alos filled our driveway and sidewalks. My kids do the same now too – sidewalk and street. In fact, we often draw ‘roads’ for the kids to ride thier bikes in. That has turned out to be the quickest way to draw kids into our court./street. I have NO problem and no one in the court does either.

  36. I hope I’m never so bitter and have such a lack of perspective as to be compelled to take time to pick up a phone and lodge an official complaint about a child’s chalk drawing. I find that to be incredibly sad. (Maybe, just MAYBE, if you had an issue with it, you could tell the mom directly, wow, great artistry, but next time can you move it away from this central area?)

    And I’m very aware of being courteous and not bothering other people. When my daughter gets loud and screamy, I could not be quicker to remove her from a restaurant. That’s a given. But this is on a different level. Some folks are ALWAYS going to find something to be upset about and I am not going to stop living a full life, or keep my kids in a cage, just to appease them. Furthermore, the day I stop my child from building a fort in a VACANT LOT for fear of impact on property values is the day my soul dies. Really. Because actually living and having adventures and experiences and creativity might inconvenience someone slightly.

    This type of response is nothing new and it’s not limited to kids and parenting. People complain, but they really and truly ENJOY finding things to be offended by these days. And we’re all really good at it. I think this SF Gate column summed it up nicely:

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2010/01/29/notes012910.DTL

    Maybe if more people had more adventures and freedom as kids, they wouldn’t grow up to be the kind whose lives are so small as to need to complain about stuff like this.

    Introduce that kid to guerilla art! Let this fuel passion and creativity, rather than extinguish it. The mom sounds very cool and reasonable and I have no doubt that she’s handling it all well.

  37. Chalk drawings, to me, cause an INCREASE in property values. If I’m looking to buy a place, and I see chalk drawings on the ground, it’s a sign to me that that neighborhood isn’t beholden to an unnecessarily strict homeowners association. Overbearing HOAs are near the top of my list of cons when looking for a place to live.

    Fun viewing is a 1995 made-for-tv movie featuring a very intrusive HOA, “The Colony”. Not a great movie by a long shot, but some great moments.

  38. Rachel, I’m sorry, I misunderstood you. I had thought from your comment that they were, you know, in her driveway.

    With the context, she still has a right to not want them there, but yeah, she made things bigger than they were.

  39. I think she might have got off easy. When I lived in an apartment my neighbor let her kids draw some chalk drawings right in front of her own door. (Not common entrance).

    My upstairs neighbor, a complete bore*, threw an unholy fit. Thing was with this Mom – she washed the side walk off when they went inside each time.

    Also, she picked up her 2 nephews after school with her daughter each day. They were at the apartment for 30 min – 1 hour, before going home – a couple doors down. They claimed she was running a day care. They used that and the “vandalism” to not renew her lease.

    The day I moved into my 1 bedroom apartment he filed a complaint against me. He asked in the ugliest tone if I had kids. I told him 22 kids 10 – 11 year old. He told management this – they told him Ah she is a teacher.

    He also filed a complaint against me – because I “called the cops on him”. The lady around the corner was robbed in a push in robbery. The next night I heard him screaming at someone to get out and the sounds of something being knocked over. I called 911. Turns out he was fighting with his adult son.

  40. sometimes when I read people’s comments on this blog I wonder why they are here. Lenore does us a great service in trying to show us how to not become hysterical over protective parents. When the world is so crazy with people who promote fear and hysteria and we need to fight this growing trend. Parents who are not fearful all the time thus “Free Range” need to support each other and not be so critical of Lenore and each other. The world around us does enough of this already. So be kind and always remember the Golden Rule, my mother taught me when I was growing up. Do unto others what you would want them to do to you. Thanks all for listening to me vent a bit….Enjoy your time with your kids because they grow up and stop listening to us all too soon.

  41. Somewhat off-topic, but related: Some years ago there was a news item about a father in one of these “planned development” communities here in Southern California who installed a basketball backboard and hoop over the garage door. Something right out of a Norman Rockwell painting, right? Well, you would have thought he was setting up a lard-rendering plant! Why that thing detracts from the whole neighborhood! Children will be playing, and having fun. What a ghastly thought! They might even shout and holler! I’d like to tell these killjoys–move next to a cemetery. Full of people who are very quiet.

  42. Drawing pictures onto public places is a privilige, not a right. Some people seem to think it is a right, and spraypaint graffity wherever they can.
    Wether or not people like children or are killjoys is not the issue. It’s public space. If the people who live there object to it being scribbled on by your children, then remove it. Whining about how its ‘just children expressing themselves’ just marks you as an obnoxious moomy who refuses to teach her kids social graces. Teach your kids about being a good citizen.

    Heh. This reminds me about a story I heard. It’s one of those urban myths, but to good to miss.
    At the checkout of a supermarket a child is being very disruptive, pulling other people’s groceries out of their cart, throwing things on the ground, etc., but when the frazzled checkout girl tells the mom to keep her monkey, uh, darling child in check, mom loudly exclaims that her darling is a chiiiillld, and that she is a modern parent who will not bind his creativity with restrictive boundaries.
    Next in line is a young man, who has been standing in line quietly and patiently, but who now grabs a quart of yogurt from his cart and empties it on the head of the disruptive little darling, rubbing it firmly in kid’s hair for good measure.
    Mom goes ballistic. “What are you DOING?! Are you insane?!!”, she cries.
    “Oh”, the young man replies, “I’m just being creative. My parents were modern parents, and they didn’t bind my creativity with restrictive boundaries.” To which the whole line applauds.

    It’s a matter of manners, really. If your kids chalk up the public pavement, and the neighbours complain, have the good manners to clean it up, or better yet, let the kids clean it up. They have to clean up their rooms after they played as well, so why not the pavement?

  43. Jane from Maine – Since I started following this blog, it has struck me that there seem to be two distinct groups of people who have been attracted by Lenore’s ideas:

    1) parents with a traditionally liberal outlook in every sense, mostly hailing from urban settings, who tend to think communally, be particularly concerned about environmental issues, like to make a political statement when they feel their cause is just, and who are particularly drawn to the idea of getting “free range kids” out of the house (or likely apartment) to connect with their communities rather than being “compartmentalized”

    2) parents with a modern libertarian mindset, mostly from suburban and rural settings around the country, who tend to embrace the idea of “freedom” for parents to raise their children as they see best relying largely on traditional cool-headed common sense, and who rail against attempts to restrict liberties that we enjoyed as children, but who are not necessarily at all attracted by appeals to think communally

    To me, it is a healthy thing to have people of different backgrounds and political philosophies participating in this movement – to which we are drawn by the common ground we share – and it is to be expected that we will disagree, perhaps vociferously, in those areas where we are naturally on opposite sides.

    For those of us a more libertarian mindsight, contrary to what some might assume, we do not always blindly espouse individual freedom at any cost, because a basic tenet of most libertarian thinking as it applies to a society is that any competent individual should be free to do absolutely whatever they want without interference from others, AS LONG AS in so doing they do not interfere with the rights of any other member of the society. And we tend to take that non-interference pretty seriously – as you say, “do unto others…” If we want others to respect our property rights absolutely, for example, we must respect others’ property rights absolutely even when they seem to be making a mountain out of a molehill.

    As politicians are constantly reminded, it is not easy to put together a 50% +1 majority of people who think exactly alike on every issue. I think that is healthy.

  44. While I think that the neighbors are complete killjoys who must be bitterly miserable with their life to care about non-offensive chalk drawings that will be gone in the next rain, or sooner in this high traffic area, it is their home too. If they want the drawings gone, they need to be gone.

    I do think that this is a symptom of the marginalizing children to certain places. And I think that the demise of free range childhood is responsible for a good part of this marginalization. We now only expect to see children in certain places and then always with adult supervision who should interfere at the slightest childish action on behalf of their offspring. And we don’t take children anywhere that may be populated by adults where a negative influence may fall upon our precious little fragile children.

    My city is fairly free range. The neighborhoods that are occupied by a lot of kids (sadly mine is not) always seem to have a lot of kids playing outside. Much more than I ever see in the suburban neighborhoods the next county over. Trick or treating is quite the event in a few of these neighborhoods with grandly decorated houses (and good candy). My town is also extremely kid friendly. With the exception of a few 21 and over bars and nice restaurants, kids are welcome just about anywhere. Every event – major or minor – has a kid zone of some sort. Bars occasionally host kids concerts and dance parties on Sundays. The local brewery has a family night. One local club even used to sell baby headphones for concerts (I don’t know if they still do). I believe we were one of the first places to host an indie film festival for kids. (Sadly, the schools also suck so all but the most hardy, or those who can afford to send their kids to private schools, eventually head to that suburban area in the next county to become shut ins.) I’m not sure which comes first – free range parenting or kid-friendly environment – but they do seem to be tied.

  45. Mom should check around and find a place where kid’s chalk drawings are allowed. Surely there is some place other than the common entryway to draw. But it’s sad that they made her wash it off if it’s going to get rained on anyway. Personally I’d just ask that the child not do it again in that area, and suggest an alternative area for it.

    I agree that some parents forget – your child isn’t as cute to everyone else as she is to you. I took my kids (age 3) into a pet store once and they were holding hands, giggling, and spinning around together. Not touching anything, not yelling, not running, not blocking the aisle or scaring the animals. There were a couple women in there who obviously planned to have small animals fill the gap (if any) left by the choice to be childless. I actually think my kids’ glee and laughter spoiled their evening. Oh well, it takes all kinds to make a world. Personally I would smile if a little girl prettied up the common entryway with chalk, but I can’t impose my standard on everyone.

  46. I just remembered, my next-door-neighbors’ kids/relatives chalk up the sidewalk and their driveway (in color) several times a year. My kids and I must go over that every day as we take our daily walk through the neighborhood. I can’t think of a single problem with it (and I’m kind of a biddy about inconsiderate kids/parents). But again, that’s just my personal standard.

  47. it’s only chalk. It washes away with the next rain. The evidence of children playing is a good thing. There are important things in this world to fret about. Temporary chalk drawings are not one of them.

  48. “Not to worry about the flag – Canada is a free country. We do not have those sort of pseudo-patriotic draconian laws.”

    Nor does the U.S. We do have *customs* (not laws) about how to display, dispose of, and treat actual flags, however, as I imagine most nations do. Yet this was not an actual flag. It was a chalk drawing of a flag. I can’t imagine anyone getting upset about the idea of walking on it. You wouldn’t use an actual flag as a doormat, of course, unless you were trying to make the point that you hate your country. But the etiquette applies to the actual flag, not to children’s innocent chalk drawings of it.

    Public space is public space and all the condo owners have a right to it, and decisions about what can be done or displayed there are up to the condo board. This is why I am glad to have a single family home. In my mom’s condo, they were told they couldn’t display wreaths on their own doors at Christimas time. It apparently offended some people, since they are visible from the hallway. Imagine. It’s annoying, but it’s reality, and there are always people like this it seems in virtually every condo association.
    .
    My children draw with chalk all the time on our long driveway that is shared by several other houses. If someone complained, I’d tell them not to do it again and hose it off, as a good chunk of the driveway they use as their canvass is shared property. But, fortunately, no one has complained. More often than not I get, “It’s nice to see kids out playing in the neighbourhood” even from the older retired people whose kids are grown and gone.

  49. Goodness me, I’m on the mum’s side too! Why would so many people prefer children to be invisible?

  50. The topic speaks loudly to the dynamic (or lack of ) in a neighbourhood. On the specific, a chalk drawing that can come off is an excellent medium for outdoor art. Imagine if adults in the neighbourhood felt they could join in appreciation and a little art themselves, with the child. Imagine they thought it was a bit of an eyesore when they finished. Imagine they consultated as rational equals with the child about how they felt about the ‘eyesore’ in the spirit of beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Imagine they might come to an arrangement such as: Let’s leave all work on for a day; if we (even if only the child does the art, collective decision-making means that it is our art) like it we can leave it on a while; and when we get really good, maybe we can leave it on until our shoes have rubbed it away.
    As to the other issues: Being upset, even angry is okay, but always important to be respectful – who knows it might help break down barriers.

  51. I’m not the type to get up in arms about protecting the precious little children and their imagination and freedom and let them do whatever they want – but come on, complaining about chalk? CHALK? Seriously?

  52. For the sake of accuracy in response to other comments here, and not because I think these laws are sensible, I have confirmed that – in the US – laws protecting even an IMAGE of a flag are still very much in force. Once again, I personally think this is very silly, just as I think taking offense at any four letter word or any other overblown sensitivity is silly, and >I believe everyone should maintain a sense of humor about everything – religion, politics, whatever. But those who have said that these flag reuglations are conventions and not laws are simply wrong. I quote from South Carolina law here (which is fairly unique in protecting the Confederate and state flags just as strongly), but a very similar federal law (most definitely sans Confederate flag) is in force in the District of Columbia, for example:

    Per SC Code 16-17-210-230:

    Penalty: Imprisonment for up 30 days and a fine up to $100.

    The state criminalizes “desecration or mutilation” of the American, state, and Confederate flags and doesn’t allow anyone to “publicly mutilate, deface, defile, defy, jeer at, TRAMPLE UPON or cast contempt, either by word or act.”

    A “flag” includes “any flag, standard, color or ensign or any picture or representation made of any substance or represented on any substance and of any size, evidently purporting to be of the flag, standard, color or ensign of the United States, the Confederate States of America or this State, OR A PICTURE OR REPRESENTATION upon which shall be shown the colors, the stars and the stripes, in any number or either thereof or by which the person seeing such picture or representation without deliberation may believe it to represent the flag, colors, standard or ensign of the United States, the Confederate States of America or this State.”

  53. After reading this in the news, I was wondering what kind of bitter person would actually call up the condo association after seeing kids drawing with chalk. Looks like there’s plenty, and they’re all in this comment page.

  54. I cannot believe there are people (parents!) that think a chalk drawing should be cleaned up.
    I agree that 20 years ago no one would have even thought of complaining about a chalk drawing.

  55. I agree that 20 years ago no one would have even thought of complaining about a chalk drawing.

    There’s no way that’s true. When my mother was young (well more than 20 years ago, as I’m 27 now) the old biddies complained if she sat at the side of the building and read a book. They complained if she passed them with an errand and forgot to say “hi”. They complained if she walked on the grass.

    When I was young (20 years ago) our downstairs neighbor complained if I sniffed her flowers – I might pick them, after all! She complained if I left a toy outside while I ran in to go to the bathroom.

    On the block I live now (and have lived now most of my life, since I was almost 10) I know just about everybody. We had a neighbor when I was 10 who complained if I left my house before 7 in the morning to play quietly in my own backyard. (When playing by myself, I was mostly *silent*, so quiet means just that.)

    I guarantee you, any of these people would have complained about chalk drawings if they were in a bad enough mood. The biddy brigade is nothing new.

  56. I agree. Sometimes I feel like people say, “IF I let that ‘crazy wild’ child write on the driveway with chalk, what”s next? THE NEIGHBORHOOD?
    It’s ridiculous. Doesn’t anyone remember being a child themselves? The ironic thing is, the children are THE Neighborhood! Or at least, they use to be.

  57. Chalk graffitti = happy kids = safe neighborhood = good resale values. Even better when the kids are standing by the sidewalk making the adults walking along comply with the clearly marked “skipping zone” and “no skipping zone” areas. Wish I had a video of the postman skipping down the sidewalk with his mail bag bouncing up and down as the kids cheered. (Of course, this is the same mailman who carries dog biscuits instead of a can of pepper spray, so he is obviously out of touch with the realities of this incredibly dangerous world.)

  58. Ugh, I actually used to have a neighbor how complained about my chalk drawings when I was younger. I don’t get it either, but if people want to be grouches there’s probably little we can do about it.

    -adrienne
    http://wearegoodkin.com

  59. When I was a kid, part of drawing on the sidewalk was always rinsing it off afterwards, just like putting toys away when we were done playing. My sister and I actually loved washing off the chalk, because it made cool designs as it washed away. I understand the upset, but I also think the neighbors have a right to want communal property kept up to a certain standard as much as in their power, so, in the spirit of neighborlyness, why not turn it into a positive?
    End the game with “your drawing is beautiful. Let’s take a picture, and then see how cool it looks when the colors run as we wash it away”.

  60. PS, that was 20 years ago and yes, the neighbors did complain the first couple of times, before we started cleaning it off.

    When we were told we would have to wash it off afterwards, this made perfect sense to us since we had to clean everything else up, too.

  61. As long as the rules and regulations don’t forbid using sidewalk chalk on common area walkways/driveways, then I say let the kid have at it. But remember, it is common area that is shared by everyone in the complex. When your kid is finished with his/her artwork, take a picture of it then wash it away so that other homeowners don’t have to step over it, or in this case, walk across it and track chalk dust inside.

    Jamine is on the board of her homeowners association and should be familiar with what her association’s rules and regulations allow.

  62. It’s chalk on a sidewalk. It’s CHALK on a sidewalk. CHALK. That’s it.

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