When a Party Pooper Rained on our Chalk Parade

Living in the city, my kids don’t have access to some of the summertime activities their suburban peers enjoy.  We don’t have a backyard with a sprinkler or a neighborhood swimming pool or a corner lemonade stand.  However, we are steps to a beautiful beach and walking distance to several fun fountains and plenty of ice cream trucks keep our neighborhood company.  So far, its been a great summer.

One of the things my kids love to do to pass the time on a warm summer evening is draw with chalk.  Sometimes we’ll sketch out small streets for Mack to race his cars:

One day I came home and found this charming greeting on the sidewalk in front of our building:

Drawing with sidewalk chalk is a simple, shared activity that keeps them busy, happy and outdoors.

However, the other day I was given a most unpleasant message from the normally nice manager of our condo. She told me that my kids were no longer allowed to use chalk on the sidewalk in front of the building.  My response to her was rather curt, but I couldn’t help myself: “Geez, Happy Summer to you.”  She said that when the kids draw with chalk the building has to find a way to clean it up (apparently temporary images of ponies and flowers and sailboats are offensive to residents). She then encouraged me to take the kids (and the chalk) to a sidewalk on a different street.  Humpf!

But, the sidewalk is public property.  It belongs to the city of Chicago.  And, as far as I know no one in our building was complaining.  I’ve sat on the front stoop with my neighbors to watch Evie and Mack doodle.  Passerbys always smile and make a kind remark like “I remember doing that when I was a kid!” or “That looks like so much fun!” And, chalk doesn’t last forever; if a rainstorm doesn’t wash it away, then city breezes and hurried footsteps always seem to carry it off.

Drawing outside with chalk gave us an opportunity to become part of the neighborhood.  Summer nights are the time when people come out of hibernation and actually interact with each other.  We’re not racing from door to door like we do in the winter.  I want to be a kind and respectful neighbor (we stopped using chalk on the building’s roof deck when the same person asked to do so), but it makes me sad that people find the time and energy to legislate a simple summer pastime.  Can’t we all just chill out and enjoy life without being offended by every little thing?!

Turns out I’m not the only one dealing with a party pooper.  My grandfather forwarded me an article about a family in Denver also dealing with the chalk police.  Apparently the condo board there told the family that chalk was banned because  it “offends, disturbs or interferes with the peaceful enjoyment” of the condo’s shared spaces.  I beg to differ…

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Written by Maureen

More posts by: Maureen

9 Comments for this entry

  1. Rachael says:

    I would still allow my kids to draw on the sidewalk and then wash it away as part of the fun with a couple of cute watering cans! That way the “building” doesn’t have to figure out a way to wash it away. Happy Summer and Good Luck :)

  2. Virginia Napoli says:

    You have got to be kidding me. But yet I am not surprised. I had an issue with someone complaining about my stroller parked in MY parking space. I guess it was bothering someone. I won’t get into it as my blood pressure will begin to rise but it is no wonder there are very few families living in the city and even fewer with 3 kids. I get more looks walking my boys down the street. I think the city is more dog friendly then kid friendly. But that being said my favorite thing to do is have August draw a chalk outline of my body. If you have seen that along the river walk, that is us! I am sure my condo building loves that.

  3. chris says:

    Curmudgeons and philistines abound!

  4. katie says:

    That’s just ridiculous! I love the idea of having them wash it when they’re done though…

  5. Chrsitine says:

    I must say that I have never found the chalk to be disturbing or offensive. Some of the graffiti I have seen, but usually done with paint, can be offensive. Flowers and hearts and puppy faces make me forget about all the bad things around us.
    Evidently your landlord is a sad, miserable person. Maybe you should buy him a box of sidewalk chalk to play with.

  6. Meghan says:

    This infuriates me! Whoever instigated the ban is surely a miserable person.

  7. Heather says:

    Ridiculous! It is a public sidewalk so keep enjoying your wonderful children and summer – you should have the residents sign a paper letting him know they have no issues with the children drawing outside and where he can shove his unused chalk! Good luck

  8. OneMommy says:

    I am sorry to hear that your children are no longer allowed to have some quiet summer time fun in front of their own home. It’s disturbing how some people can make such a fuss about something so innocent.

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