Now I don’t want to come off like some kind of jerk here, but just between you and me – I don’t really like kids.

Well, I guess that’s not entirely true – it’s not all kids in general that push my buttons.  I’m sure some miniature people are perfectly cool – you know, the ones that are nice and quiet and generally keep to themselves, but those aren’t the kind of kids that I’m talking about here! I’m a strong believer in the philosophy that children should be seen and not heard … and in the best case scenario, preferably neither … but these days my chances of encountering a group of young’uns the equivalent of the good-natured, quiet kid that I grew up as are about as slim as the possibility of my morning newspaper actually getting delivered to any of the numerous dry spots in front of my house instead of right in the epicenter of where every sprinkler in the front yard seems to go off…

And for those of you rearing up to send me an e-mail about karma right about now – please hold your judgement until this column comes to a complete stop and I turn off the “Just shut up and hear me out!” sign.

For what it’s worth, I like to think that I at least somewhat try to make a vague attempt at tolerating the rambunctious boys and girls of our little, suburban neighborhood, but let me tell you, those little bastards – and I say that generously with all of the love in my heart – sure don’t make it easy!  Between the screaming bloody murder at random intervals to running across my yard in the dead of night to balls of every shape, size, and color bouncing off the side of the house during the day, I’ve got to say that I can definitely sympathize with the stereotypical mantras of “Get off my lawn!” and “Next time I’m keeping it!” that our most elderly curmudgeons have become known for, that’s for sure!

Frankly, I think it’s the lack of respect that burns my britches the most, and it’s not that I expect twelve year-olds to be shining examples of honor and dignity – they can’t all be Citizens of the Month (or can they???) – but it’s the little stuff, like not leaving shit in my yard that isn’t mine. Now mind you it’s been a while, but I’m pretty sure they start teaching kids about the concept of picking up their toys in kindergarten … and yet it’s not at all uncommon for me to look out in my backyard and see footballs and soccer balls and beach balls and tennis balls just scattered at random – seriously, it looks like a goddamned Chuck E Cheese’s in my backyard!  And yet I probably haven’t played catch since I was seven, so they’re clearly not mine…

The other day was even more bizarre – I pulled in my driveway and noticed that there was a kid’s shoe just sitting there, stuck in our front bushes.  Not a pair of shoes (as if that would somehow be more reasonable), but a single shoe. Somewhere in our neighborhood, there’s a kid running around wearing only one shoe, or at the very least, running around barefoot while his mother yells, “Where the hell is your other shoe?!” Nonetheless, I have no idea what the kid was doing in our bushes in the first place or how he was exerting so much effort that he actually lost a portion of his footwear, or better yet, how – after losing said footwear – he didn’t turn around to pick it up before departing from our bushes and proceeding on his merry way, but you know what?  I really don’t care – my only concern was that some random kid’s dirty, nasty shoe was in our bushes and the only folks who seemed the least bit concerned about this were the owners of said bushes!

Really, I’m not trying to be that guy who sits on his front porch with a doberman by his side, occasionally springing up to chase kids off his property with a rake – I don’t even own a rake! I just don’t like running around in the scathing, Florida heat to pick up my own stuff, let alone somebody else’s because they couldn’t be bothered to both enter and leave my yard without taking their matching footwear of choice along with them!  And even though I technically didn’t even invite them to gallivant around my yard while I’m trying to enjoy a warm cup of tea as I watch my stories in the living room, I’d even be willing to concede that bitterness if only to incline them to leave with the same number of items that they threw, kicked, or wore over in the first place.  Is that really too much to ask?!

Seriously, so when does school start back up again???