I check the mailbox around the same time every day, but I wasn’t expecting to receive an anonymous letter from a neighbor saying my kids are too loud.
The letter reads as follows:
We are writing to ask you if it’s possible that when your kids are outside playing that you could ask them to not scream.
We know children get excited and being outside they play louder, but your kids are screaming and it is disturbing to the rest of us when we are trying to enjoy our time outside, as well.
There’s a difference between outside play voices and screaming outside voices. We know the screams are not out of terror or abuse, but they are screaming and yelling rather than talking and is very distracting to us.
Hopefully this can be easily resolved and we won’t have to make a formal complaint. We do value you as neighbors and hope there are no hard feelings.
You don’t have to scroll far on my Instagram page to know my children love the outdoors. Their screams are most often over simple discoveries in life: finding a strawberry in our berry patch, building a grass house for a cicada or splashing in an inflatable pool.
Policing our kids’ innocent joy – especially our Black kids — is unacceptable. Frankly, it’s dangerous.
The letter was sent and mailed anonymously, so my husband and I have no way of knowing whether our family was targeted because we look different than others on our street.
At best, the letter-writer doesn’t appreciate any kids being loud while having fun outside.
At worst, the letter-writer is perpetuating a dangerous stereotype that my Black kids are trouble-makers.
As a mother in a transracial family, my mind automatically assumes the latter; this is the reality of raising Black children.
A friend of mine who is committed to anti-racism shared a great perspective with me. She said: “I hope to hell my kids are loud. I hope they lose their damn voices because they’re so loud. I want my kids to continue learning that they don’t need to be silent… Because for too long, silence has equaled complacency and death.”
Some final thoughts to the letter-writer:
The anonymous letter-writer will be getting a response in the mail this week. Actually, all of our neighbors will with a set of complimentary ear plugs enclosed.
Our family’s response reads as follows:
We are responding to the letter we received last week.
In our family, we work to instill the following values with our young children:
-Use your “inside voices” inside and “outside voices” outside.
-Treat others the way you want to be treated.
-Talk about conflict and problems, and work together for a solution.
If you’re hoping to hear no noise while spending time outside, it may be worthwhile to consider a neighborhood not sandwiched between three elementary schools and multiple in-home daycares. On our entire street, there are 26 kids; most of them are under the age of 10. Our own 4 children are under the age of 7.
Our children love the outdoors. Their screams in our yard are usually over simple discoveries — finding a strawberry in our berry patch, building a grass house for a cicada or splashing in an inflatable pool.
Policing our kids’ innocent joy – especially our Black kids — is unacceptable.
Your threat to file a formal complaint on our beloved children for enjoying the outdoors is not okay, and further communication of this nature will be considered harassment.
In the interest of full disclosure, we’re getting ready to build a playset. (Hey, at least it’s not outdoor accordion lessons.) Enclosed are complimentary ear plugs should you find them helpful. If you need more, we’d be happy to leave some on our front porch for you.
Most importantly, however, if you feel our kids are ever being too loud, we welcome and appreciate a conversation.
This post was originally published here.