The peace of our modest little neighborhood was rudely shattered about six months ago when the house next door to us was sold. The house was bought by a couple with four kids - three boys and a girl. (We’re still trying to sort out the exact relationships, but at least some of the kids aren’t the husband’s, and the couple may in fact not be married at all. We’re trying not to pry into it.)
The two older boys and the youngest, a girl, are very quiet and normal. In fact, if the bumper sticker on Mom’s car is to be believed, the oldest (about 19) is an Eagle Scout. The middle boy is also evidently in Scouting and seems to be pursuing a merit badge in recycling. He has standing permission from me to rifle through our trash for whatever he wants (possibly soon to be revoked). Also, the male head of household is a very quiet, Milquetoast type who is rarely around.
The youngest son (age 9) unfortunately is autistic, and the central problem is that the mother has absolutely zero capacity to deal with him. The kid (I’ll call him Jeffrey, because that’s his name) is actually pretty functional, and quite polite if you talk to him, but he has a tendency to wander around the neighborhood, climb into peoples’ cars, stuff like that. We lock our cars and garage now.
Jeffrey will on occasion (perhaps once a day or once every other day) have an episode in which he does not control himself. He does things like take his sister’s bike out and beat it against the sidewalk, or refuse to come inside when called. We try to keep an eye on him so he doesn’t get into trouble.
In the early morning, more often than not, Jeffrey gets out of control. I don’t know what he does, because this takes place inside their house, but his mother SCREAMS OBSCENITIES AT HIM for maybe half an hour. This makes Jeffrey shriek like a little girl. Now, our houses are small and closely spaced, and we like to keep the windows open to enjoy the fine Southern California weather, so when Jeffrey and his mom get into it, it can be heard for roughly a two-house radius in all directions. I have also seen the man of the house physically drag a screaming Jeffrey inside when he has refused to come on his own.
Our good friend, Mrs. X, who lives on the other side of Jeffrey, has been very concerned for several months. She has been thinking of calling the authorities. She hears more of the fighting than we do because of the orientation of the houses. I’ve discouraged Mrs. X from calling anyone, because as far as I can tell, mom does not actually hit or abuse Jeffrey, she’s just a monster to him. I know all the business about emotional abuse, and she probably is emotionally abusing him by any reasonable definition, but calling the authorities seems like it could only make things worse. I have encouraged Mrs. X to view it as a “no-win situation” and try to wait things out. Generally, I have civil relations with Jeffrey’s mom (in fact, I think she came on to me once shudder), except for a couple of times when I’ve yelled, “Quiet!” during one of their rows.
Yesterday we came back from a week’s vacation, and Mrs. X reported the following: Relations have continued to deteriorate between Jeffrey and his mom. Two days in a row, mom locked Jeffrey outside when he got into one of his moods. The whole neighborhood saw it, and someone (not Mrs. X) finally called the cops. The cops showed up, made their reports and whatnot, and when Mrs. X came home, Jeffrey’s mom stormed out onto the front lawn and threatened Mrs. X with physical violence in the clearest and coarsest possible terms. Apparently Mrs. X has had some words with Jeffrey’s mom, so when the cops showed up she assumed Mrs. X called them.
Then, another neighbor (possibly but not definitely Mrs. X) called Child Protective Services because of the fights and the locking out. Jeffrey’s mom had the two younger kids go around to all the houses in the vicinity to tell them that everything Mrs. X says is a lie (nice try - everyone can hear everything that goes on between Jeffrey and his mom).
That’s where things stand now. Mrs. X is considering seeking a restraining order on Jeffrey’s mom. Personally, I would have preferred not to get involved, but now that the authorities have been notified, it’s the whole neighborhood versus Jeffrey’s mom.
What can we do to improve this situation? I seek no harm or revenge against Jeffrey’s mom. I think she’s a loathsome human being, and I’d pay a couple of grand if she would move away, but we are neighbors, and the important thing is really Jeffrey’s welfare and neighborhood tranquility. What would you do…what would you do?
One interesting thing we discovered recently is that the family is Mormon. I know that the Mormon church is very big on family. What if we called someone of authority in their “stake” to let them know what’s been going on? Is it conceivable that the church could help them out?