Advice on Living Next to a Dysfunctional Family with a Shared Wall

If you have ever lived in a downstairs apartment than you know how thin the floorboards are. At first it was the daily screaming matches with their teenaged daughter that was our entertainment. It would leave us with our ears pressed to the windows open, trying to hear every last work of the drama that was occurring. It was the highlight of our day. As I look back, I cant believe how tame it began.

Combine this with the mother who bragged about sleeping in the same bed with her fourteen year old son and a bag of popcorn and you were practically watching the movie of the week. This movie of the week was ongoing; it was twenty four hours per day.

During our first coffee date in their living room between the two couples is when it was first mentioned that the teenage boy not only slept with the parents but having wet dreams and waking up with an erection. This was disturbing, it was even more disturbing when the mother compared the anatomy on the boy to that of the father with the hint of "It's bigger, he had better stop growing!"

Returning the favor of the visit and in good neighbor spirit we reciprocated with an invite to a dinner of salmon, risotto and asparagus. I can't say that I was surprised to hear that the children had not tasted fresh vegetables before. They were openly shocked to hear that they did not come from a can.

There came a point within the dinner when I was honestly surprised. It came after dinner, and before dessert and came with a bang. Like a strike of lightning the teenage girl shot up from the table looking startled and ran to our bathroom, which was adjacent to the dining area. The surprised look on my face must have conveyed more than any words could have because there was an instant explanation from the parents. "She is bulimic" is what came out as they glanced nonchalantly towards the washroom. My first thought was the twenty dollar meal that was going straight into the toilet. It was a complete waste of money and frankly I was quite irritated. I was angry enough to want to take the dessert plate out from the front of her, but – being the good host that I am I plastered that fake smile back on my face and vowed never to invite to dinner them again.

A few moments later she returned as if nothing had happened. Still, I was startled as to what had just occurred. I didn't know what I was more irritated about – the fact that she just wasted the meal or the fact that her behavior was so accepted by the parents. This was a normal event in their home; they enabled her to do this up to three times daily. How could a parent allow this and not become frustrated or aware?

It wasn't long until we were seen as part of the family. My fiancée became good friends with the father of the household and therefore I had inherited a new friend. A couple of friends actually – I was not happy about the situation and wanted to leave as soon as possible.

Being part of the family now we were granted close access to their day to day lives and not a day went by that I was not disgusted with the behavior. It had gotten worse the closer we had gotten to the couple. They were not afraid to exhibit their strange behaviors.

There daughter was not only bulimic but was highly medicated. She self mutilated and was openly disrespectful to the parents alone, but in front of guests. She had a complete disregard for authority and stole property from our residence and vandalized our belongings. This was all without repercussion from her parents. The son was highly medicated, and the whole family was taking advantage of the government and claimed monthly disability cheques.

Eventually, we grew bored of the drama that ensued. It was time to move on. Some friendships fall within your lap and you inherit them with no way of leaving the friendship with certain situations. It was unfortunate that we could not leave the situation sooner but it was a life lesson that had taught me so much about parenting.

What we have witnessed started off so hilarious and dramatic to us, but once you have a glance inside the lives of your neighbors you realize the despair that grows there. The despair of parents who no longer know what to do with their children and the despair of children who feel hatred for their parents. It causes you to assess your life to learn from the situation and to avoid any actions that could push you into that situation.

Here are some of the lessons that I learned while living in the basement of a dysfunctional household:

  1. Don't overmedicate your children with unnecessary medication
    Communicate through talking with your children, not screaming – if you must scream close the windows
    It is important to get an education
    Boundaries are important for children – children need boundaries!
    Don't allow your child to eat sugar filled cereal for each meal
    If your child exhibits a behavior that is not desirable – do not allow that behavior to continue
    Teach your children respect and the value of an education
    Teach your children to appreciate their education

Lastly, I appreciate table manners and etiquette in children to a new extent.