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My children are disturbing the neighbours – did I screw up as a parent?

My kids are 3 and 5. They scream when they are happy, sad or mad. Because this is what small children do. They are disturbing our neighbours in Bali. Not the locals, the foreigners. Is this a reason for my neighbour to insult me or to even threaten me? Did I screw up as a parent?


One peaceful afternoon

Ubud, Bali, 24th May, 2018

We’ve been living at this place for 2 weeks now.

We arrive home, after a cosy lunch at a wonderful restaurant with outdoor playing area. It was a really nice place and the food was also very good, staff also very nice. I felt overly happy, that we found a place, where the kids could play a little, run a little. Bali doesn’t have playgrounds on all the corners.

It was almost perfect, we are in Bali, and we love it. The kids say they love it too. That’s good news, Hanga didn’t like Sri Lanka, our previous destination, at all. The only thing that wasn’t so perfect this afternoon is that I was fighting with Hanga all the way back because she couldn’t stand still for 2 minutes and she was playing with the switches of the scooter. Not the most secure things to do while riding.

Yes, I have a 3-year-old child

Dealing with Hanga is very difficult and challenging these days. To sum it up, she creams like crazy. All day. Every day. She keeps her brother under terror all day, wants everything for herself, wants to be the quickest and the first. Always.

She is 3. And a half, but that doesn’t matter much.

You cannot convince a 3-year-old child with rational ideas. Like please give back the toy to Karsa, he was playing with it first, and now he’s very sad and it is not nice at all to do something like this.

No chance. She is 3.

It is just not possible. There are 3-year-old kids who behave differently, there are even some children who seem to react in a way that looks like as if they would consider rational sentences of their parents. It looks like… and as if…


Like it or not. This is a fact.

OK, back to the story. We are arriving home from this lovely afternoon. Karsa wants to run on the pavement that leads from between the rice fields up to our garden, as usual. Hanga screams at him like crazy, that she wants to be first, as usual. We have to shout after them, as usual, so that they don’t toss each other off the pavement and into the rice field. I’m joking with András, telling him that soon the neighbours will identify Hanga’s voice from about 1 kms.

Enter neighbour

Somebody sits in the neighbouring garden, he is not local. As we get closer to our gate, he rises, looks like he has something to tell us. Instead of introducing himself – could have been an option, but I’m just playing with ideas – he starts a very unfriendly monologue about the fact that our children are screaming all day, and it’s the same since we moved in a few weeks ago, and that they cannot tolerate it any more. He thinks that we have absolutely no respect towards other people, otherwise we would do something to stop this screaming.

He tells us, that there are more people living next door, they are working here, but the others didn’t want to say anything, didn’t want to be impolite. He’s getting more mad by the fact that we are just listening and not responding. We are waiting for him to calm, so we can at least say sorry or something… to be polite, you know.

And then, at the hight of his performance, he starts screaming… my 5-year-old starts laughing. He’s even more angry now. By the way, Karsa doesn’t understand a word in English, but he – as all children do – understands meta communication, and I know his reactions pretty well, so I can tell you he is laughing because of fear and because he doesn’t understand what’s going on. The only thing he understands is that something is not right.

And it’s actually much better like this. At least he doesn’t have to understand the next sentence, where the neighbour – desperate that we don’t understand the seriousness of his situation – tells us, that we better move out of the house or do something with the kids to stop the screaming, BEFORE SOMEBODY ELSE WILL DO SOMETHING WITH THEM.

Keep calm and…

I’m just standing there, telling family to go away from the scene. No need for them to listen to this.

I’m standing there, struggling with my tears. Luckily the man is too far away to see it. I’m waiting for him to calm down a little so I can say sorry at least. I was brought up to always respect others, so I want to say sorry, as I feel that that’s the least I can do. He is right… in one thing… the kids are screaming all day and it is really almost impossible to tolerate it.

How do I know? Because me and my husband, we’re the ones who spend 24 hours a day with our kids and we’re not superhuman. I can feel his pain.

But I’m wondering. Does he have children? The answer is no. But he says it doesn’t matter. He’s been near other children a lot, but didn’t experience such madness ever.

I’m wondering. Does he know that every single child is different? Like every single person is different. Does he know that a child is a person, not an object that you put on the shelf and then it stays there?

Does he know that being a parent is one of the hardest jobs on this side of the universe?

I’m trying my best to stay very calm and be very polite with him in spite of him being pretty rude at some point of his performance. I’m asking him. Would he believe if I would say that I’m really sorry? He calms down a bit. He tells me that he would believe it, but it doesn’t help the situation.

I want him to know that this has nothing to do with the lack of respect.

Really, honestly nothing. In the last month we were holding back the kids on most of the days from being real kids because we want to respect the people living around us. Why? Because we were raised like this. To respect others.

Because except the sound of traffic on the main roads, everything is silent. Because the local people are calm and silent. The local children are a mystery for me at this point. I didn’t hear a single child crying or screaming in one month, except my own.

We realised pretty quickly that the majority of the tourists and also the expats are here for yoga, meditation, healthy living, art (like drawing, writing, etc.), doesn’t matter where we are in Ubud. I can see foreign people with children every day, but that number is nothing compared to the number of foreign people without kids. I’m talking about visitors, tourists, expats.

So we were holding back the kids every day from being real kids because it seems that Bali is a pretty silent place, so let’s respect the local conditions. Seems like it wasn’t enough.

I think I have to tell him – because this is a general misbelief regarding parents – that this is no fun for me either. Me and my husband, we don’t just sit there all day and enjoy this screaming. We try our best to keep things in control. In the last few weeks it’s been very hard.

I’m wondering if I should start to explain him all the different aspects of our life that possibly lead to the kids being more nervous at the moment. Or all the other general aspects of kids’ life that make them scream. Or the interesting fact that kids are resonating with their parents, so when the parents are stressed the kids are stressed too.

Or that – even if there were no other factors – children like to scream. They like to scream when they are sad or mad or… happy… Question. At the age of 3 to 5, how many of you didn’t scream while running and playing around with other kids?

But he is right, this is too much. The kids (especially the small one) are screaming like crazy almost all day, and to make it even worse, we are screaming sometimes too. I know it is not good, not right. Why do I do it? Because I lost all my nerves for that session, that’s why.

By the way… Why did this man scream when he was telling us not to scream?

This is what my son asked me afterwards. He is 5. He cannot control his emotions and screaming, but has more logic than an adult. Or does this adult have logic too, maybe he just couldn’t control his emotions at that moment? Here you go…

I’m standing there, still trying to hold back my tears. He is calmer now. I decided not to bore him with the details of our everyday life… with our problems, stresses and fears that we project unintentionally onto the children. Or with the fact that our children do not fit in the “average” in many ways.

I’m telling him that we are very sorry. That we are going to do our best to solve this. No idea why, but I’m also telling him that it’s not that easy for the kids right now.

He could calm down so much, that he was even friendly at the end of our conversation. I really think he just had to pour it out on us. I know this. I’ve been through this many-many times. My husband has been through this many-many times.

Om shanti

But… wait a minute… did he really tell me in the beginning to do something with the kids to stop the screaming, before someone else does something with them… DID HE REALLY TELL THIS?!

Yes, he did. And this is FREAKING UNACCEPTABLE. With all respect… who the hell has the right to say something like that?

Was he really complaining about us not respecting them, their life and privacy and then telling us to stop the screaming before someone does something with our kids???!!! With all respect… WHAT. THE. FUCK. ???!!!

I’m telling him that we are going to do our best to solve this.

I leave him with his work, I can hardly hold back my tears now. And then I cannot hold it back anymore.

All the things he said, the way he said it was very hurting and pretty much lacking any kind of respect. Summing up what he said we are idiots, the worst of people that scream all day with absolutely no respect to others and we screwed up as parents.

We had hard times with the kids in the last few weeks. In hard times like these, I – and many other parents – sometimes get to the point where I feel I screwed up totally as a parent.

When you think it just can’t get any worse, someone comes and basically tells you what you are already struggling with, that you screwed up as a parent. That was the last thing I needed.

I was up all night, writing this post until 4:30 am. I was writing and thinking a lot about what happened. You know what?

I didn’t screw up as a parent.

This is all for today, not a typical post, I don’t care about SEO, no affiliate links in this… I just had to write this down.

Om shanti, by the way

Szilvia x

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Oh man, this is the nightmare coming to life! As sorry as I feel for the man whose neighbors seem to be screaming constantly (I’ve had those, I know what that’s like), I am a parent to a 2.5 and a 5-year-old and I know that when they are screaming no adult in the room feels as terrible as I do. So sorry you had this experience. Hope things settle down for all of you soon!