Last week, DS (10 YO) was out playing with his friend and some other neighborhood kids. Later in the day, I saw his friend pushing a bike tire down the street. This struck me as goofy, but I was more concerned that he would hit someone's car, so I told him to cut it out. He did.
Anyway, a couple of days ago I get a packet in the mail from the home owner's association. In it is a nasty letter about certain children who were creating a "nuisance" last week. Included were 23 (!) pictures of the children in question. My ds is in exactly 2 pictures. In one, he is trying to fix his bike chain. He is on a common area of the neighborhood, but very close to his friend's back yard. In another, he is walking away from the other children and drinking a soda.
So, the charges according to the letter, are that the children (5 in all) were doing horrible things such as:
Riding their bikes in the street.
Sitting on the sidewalk in front of someone's driveway. (Not on the person's property.)
Riding their bikes in other people's driveway.
Riding their bikes on people's lawns. (No damage, not muddy, no tracks, just actually doing it.)
Stepping on people's lawns. (OMG!)
Leaving a skateboard out overnight in the common area. (I know for a fact this was not ours.)
Tossing that bike tire down the street.
"Fighting." (According to my ds, 2 of the kids did get into some kind of altercation at the end of the day, but it was short-lived.)
Sitting on an electrical box, a big green metal thing. (No one was doing any damage to it, although in one of the pictures it appears a child is jumping off of it. It's like 3 feet high.)
Putting cans on the bike tires so that it would make more noise (kind of like how we used to put cards in our tire spokes.)
Anyway, the letter goes on to say that I need to talk to my "children" and that the neighbors are now "watching" them. Further problems will lead to a "fining hearing."
So, apparently, my ds and these 4 other children were doing such horrible things that a neighbor felt the need to take pictures (of children sitting on the sidewalk!) and complain to the homeowner's association, but NEVER came to me (or the other parents) and said, "Hey, your kid is pissing me off." Would that have been so difficult?
Only 1 other child in the pictures is a friend of his that I know, the other 3 children are not anyone he regularly plays with. The rest of the pictures (over 20!) feature these 3 other children doing these things. DS is only in 2 pictures, and his friend is in like 4 pictures.
So, I talked to DS, and although he admits to tossing the bike tire "a couple of times", it doesn't appear that he was doing any of the other things. I also know he did the "can in the tire" thing, and I had him take it out so he wouldn't damage the bike. (I had actually planned on giving him some cards for his spokes, but I guess I shouldn't now.) I have told him before he needs to stay out of anyone's driveway/yard if they are not the friend he is playing with. He says he did, unless he was riding his bike on the sidewalk and needed to ride around people or things on the sidewalk.
However, other than tossing a bike tire around (which is not only rude, but dangerous IMO), and even though he didn't do most of these other things, I feel like the HOA is kind of going overboard on the other kids. I mean, kids were sitting on the sidewalk. They were riding their bikes. There was no complaint about them not MOVING if there were people or cars coming. It's VERY common for kids in our neighborhood to play in the street (hockey, etc) and then move for cars. (There are not that many cars in this part of the neighborhood.)
My DS is not perfect at all, and I have no problem with someone coming to me if he's out of line. But, I really don't see that these things are really bad, they seem like stuff that kids do all the time. Please give me some perspective here, are these things really bad? I mean, I don't care if kids sit on the sidewalk in front of my house. And, how does one define "loitering" if we live here and pay our HOA fees? I mean, I pay HOA fees to enjoy the common areas of our neighborhood, so does this mean that my DS can't sit and talk to his friend?
My DH left a long message for the HOA rep who sent us the packet, but she didn't call back. I know what neighbor took the pictures, and I'm so tempted to go and talk to them and ask them why they didn't come to me. I got mail about it, so obviously they know where I live. Also, at least if you count the pictures as "evidence", my DS wasn't really doing anything egregious. All the pictures are of the other children. Although, frankly, at this point I'm kind of pissed off for them, too, and I don't even know them.
I'm really at a loss for what to do. I'm afraid to let my ds go out and play now, because I don't want people taking pictures of him if he does something they don't like and then I'll get FINED for it!
Opinions, please. Help!