HOAs vs. ‘kid noise’
Reno Gazette-Journal
12 February 2016

As many of my readers know, my husband and I are raising a blended family (his, mine and ours). We have seven children ranging in age from 19 years old to 7 months old, and our home is lively and fun.

When you have this many children, stability and structure are key, as well as making sure that the kids get outside and exercise and run around so that they can find peace in each day.

We have never allowed an overabundance of electronic time for them and they really don’t seem to mind. They can be seen at any given time running around outside, riding bikes, playing whiffle ball and shooting baskets.

This should all sound simple and it is very similar to the life that I was able to enjoy in our neighborhood growing up; however, the times have changed and people aren’t used to seeing or hearing children outside much anymore.

moved two different times

We have moved two different times to be able to accommodate our children’s desire to be able to play basketball. It sounds crazy that this could occur but it truly has.

Many neighborhoods now have strict homeowner’s association laws and basketball hoops seem to be the biggest problem a neighbor could face. The first time we had to move, we continued to be in violation of rules as we would leave our movable hoop upright so that the kids could play basketball when they returned from school.

It was too heavy for them to lift back up if we laid it on the ground, so the choices were leave it up or don’t play at all. We lived on a cul-de-sac with 22 children and I never could decide who was reporting the hoop standing by our garages at the beginning of a very long driveway.

It wasn’t an eyesore, and other than the occasional bouncing ball and the sound of a swish followed by kids cheering, I could never figure out the problem.

Ultimately, the choice was made to move so that we could make sure our children had the freedom to play outside.

we were following all of the rules

Our next move, which was recent, was prompted by basketball once again. We never had any complaints about the temporary hoop but after several incidences of the wind blowing it over into our car and once right in the path of my stepdaughter, we decided to do something more permanent in our backyard.

We read all of the regulations and believed we had done everything right. The hoop couldn’t be seen from the street. We confirmed with a former HOA board member that we were following all of the rules and constructed a patio/basketball court using pavers. We wanted it to look nice as one of our neighbors would be able to see it from their deck.

That is when the letters started to arrive.

The HOA wanted permission from one of our next-door neighbors and we easily got it (this was the neighbor that could actually see it). She said how happy it made her to actually see kids playing outside again. It had been years since she had heard the laughter in the cul-de-sac and had to retrieve an occasional ball from her yard.

We sent the letter in and then received another request to get permission from the other neighbor. That is when we started realizing that someone had once again filed a complaint.

We tried to get permission from that neighbor but she indicated that she didn’t like to be bothered by “kid noise” and many other neighbors felt the same way.

I worry about many things going on in our country right now but if we can’t even have neighborhoods where kids are allowed to play freely, what do we expect for this generation of young children? Is the goal to park them inside eating boxed foods and playing video games? Will that keep all of the neighbors happy?

We have now moved to where there are no HOA laws, and moving a family of nine is no small task.

There is already a permanent hoop in our backyard so the kids know they are allowed to laugh and enjoy their own yard without worrying about letters from neighbors.

If we are really going to stand by and allow small committees to determine the health and goals of our children, we are not going to succeed as a society. A child who has been at school all day needs to play outside as much as possible.

In the summer, they should be playing until the sun goes down. They should be making up games and playing hide and seek and running around until they can barely stand. When they finally come in, instead of playing video games for hours, they should be so exhausted that they fall asleep right when their head hits the pillow only to wake up and do it all over again.

This keeps our children healthy mentally and physically, and teaches them how to play well with siblings and friends.

I will always be bothered by these two neighborhoods that were both very close to an elementary school but filled with people who didn’t want kids playing outside.

We should all be supporting every giggle and noise we hear from kids that are outside. We should be relieved that they are doing something to better themselves and stay healthy.

Dealing with constant complaints about kid noise is a death sentence for families with children. They can expect that their children will be inside most of the time, which can lead to things like obesity and depression.

Their children will be constantly tied to technology and begin to develop unhealthy habits for life.

We should be cheering on the kid noise. When we hear it, it should put a smile on our faces and in our hearts whether we have kids or not.

Katie Coombs is the host of the radio show "Uncommon Sense with Katie Coombs."

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