A BC woman has been fined over her noisy kids but where's the

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A B.C. woman has been fined over her noisy kids, but where’s the empathy?
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Dave McGinn

The Globe and Mail

Friday, Jan. 09 2015, 3:56 PM EST

Last updated
Monday, Jan. 12 2015, 11:07 AM EST


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Being a parent means always having to apologize for your children. I’ve never once taken my kids to a restaurant when I didn’t have to give other diners that enfeebled, forgiveness-begging smile that says, « I’m sorry. I promise we’ll leave as soon as we can. » Or, it seems every time we go, my kids run around the coffee shop and bump into someone who’s trying to read a book. I’ll make a show of scolding them just so everyone knows I get it. Sometimes I want to say, « This is what kids do. » But I know that’s not fair. It would be like getting bit by a dog and the owner saying it’s what dogs do. So instead I just feel bad and hope people will understand I’m trying.

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Kathryn Mackenzie has basically had to apologize for her kids. Her sons Gabriel, 2, and Jacob, 5, make noise in their Abbotsford, B.C. strata, a multi-level housing complex with shared areas, much like a condo. The couple who live below them in the wood framed complex frequently made it known they were none too happy with the noise. »Every time the boys fell down or dropped a toy, every time I opened a closet, she would start banging on her walls or the ceiling, » Mackenzie told the CBC. The complaints started over a year ago. The neighbours e-mailed Mackenzie to say the kids were « constantly running back and forth and…jumping and stomping all day long. » So far, she has received two $50 fines from the strata council for excessive noise, according to the CBC.Last month, Mackenzie received a final warning from her complex’s property management company saying that further complaints will result in fines « without warning. »After living in the « family friendly » complex for five years, Mackenzie told the CBC she and her husband now plan to sell and move out. « We can’t afford to pay a family noise fee just to live in our home, » she said.Parents with small kids clashing with neighbours over noise is a conflict we’ll see more of as more families opt to live in condos, says June Donaldson, a Calgary-based condo owner advocate. »For many young people, to have the home ownership experience, their first step is often condo living, » she says. But, she adds, « Condos can be absolute cesspools of conflict. »Close-quarters living amplifies grievances, especially when everything your neighbours do is audible to you. »You’re going to hear the neighbour’s cupboard doors probably open and close, and you’ll probably hear when they vacuum, » says Tony Gioventu, executive director of the Condominium Home Owners’ Association of B.C. « Sometimes you can hear when a toilet flushes or a washing machine is running. »Strata councils are often « inundated » with noise complaints, he says. « People end up getting in to hostile relationships with each other. They start out as good neighbours. Next thing you know they’re at war with each other, so every little bit of noise that they hear becomes a complaint they want investigated, » he says.Sometimes people can work out their problems amongst themselves. But not always. « Sometimes the disputes go to the point where people just can’t live together any more so one or the other moves, » Gioventu says.That’s where Mackenzie, her husband and their children have wound up with their neighbours.I don’t know how loud her boys are. Maybe they’re absolute terrors. I reached out to Mackenzie to talk but she hasn’t responded yet. But from what I do know about her situation, it’s hard not to sympathize. »I have a two-year-old. He does scream. He has tantrums… I know it’s really loud. He’s supposed to be loud. He’s two-years-old and there’s nothing I can do to stop that, » she told the CBC.I’d also love to talk to her neighbours. As a parent of two small kids myself, it’s hard to hear « couple complains about noisy kids » and not think they’re heartless. But then, everyone has the right to peace and quiet in their home, heartless or not. So I’m not going to choose sides. I’m not going to try to offer proof why either neighbour is right or wrong.All I want to offer is a lament. It’s one that has to do with something you become hyper-conscious of as a parent.A few years ago, I was talking to an urban planner in Toronto. He said the biggest issue facing cities isn’t transit or resources or any of the typical problems you hear about in urban planning. The big issue, he said, is figuring out how we can all get along with each other. The closer we get to each other, the more unavoidable we all become, the more we can get on each others’ nerves.Figuring out how to get along isn’t just about manners. Being polite is little more than going through the motions of what civil society requires. It’s more to do with empathy. It’s acknowledging that we’re all in this together.It’s telling that Mackenzie’s neighbours complained about noise in an e-mail to her. They didn’t knock on her door and talk to her face to face. Maybe if they had, they would have gotten to like those kids and come to know Mackenzie and her husband. And that way, maybe, they could work out their differences between themselves.No one gets to live alone in the world. We are all part of communities, whether we like it or not. That doesn’t mean we have to love everyone else’s kids all the time. But it does mean we should try to understand what other people are going through, and talk to each other as adults with mutual respect, kids or not.We need to bridge the gap between living side by side and being neighbours.Editor’s note: The couple that lives below Kathryn Mackenzie are not retired. Incorrect information appeared in the original version of this article.


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The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog
The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog
The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog
The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog
The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog

A B.C. woman has been fined over her noisy kids, but where's the …