Even though our evenings are generally hectic and somewhat crazy around here--tyring to get everyone fed, bathed, played with and in bed at a decent time involves great stratergery--I like to get the kids (or at least Eric, as his bedtime is later) outside to play with the neighbors whenever we have a chance. There are several other kids on the block who are youngish, with Eric and Ella being the youngest two of the bunch. The next closest kid is only a couple months older than Eric, and they will be in kindergarten together next year (!). It's also nice to talk to my neighbors and find out all the juicy gossip on our block (and, oh boy, does our block have some juicy gossip!). I'm noticing, however, that I don't get to do much talking with the neighbors, due to my status as what I like to call "low mom on the totem pole." Basically, as the mom with the youngest children, it becomes my job to police the activities of all the other children who are being mean to or taking advantage of my child because he's the youngest, while all the other adults stand around drinking and shooting the shit, oblivious to the fact that their, say, six-year-old daughter is telling my four-year-old son that as a punishment for talking when she was trying to talk, he has to lick the sidewalk chalk off the sidewalk, and not to talk to her until he has done that. Then, when Eric politely tells her, no thanks, I do not care to lick the sidewalk, she looks to me for help in enforcing her punishment. Sorry, sister, ain't going to happen. This is not the first time I've noticed this phenomenon. In fact, I have a set of cousins whose children are close in age to mine, and gatherings at their houses always turn out like that as well. Many parents seem to think that as long as some adult is near their child, they are off-duty and free from the cares of parenthood. Except, when eight sets of parents do that simultaneously, and suddenly it's me and 14 kids between the ages of 2 and 7, I can only police so much. And I don't particularly care to tell other people's kids what to and what not to do. In any case, I'm ready to change status. To second-lowest-mom on the totem pole.