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Reality Check: Neighborhood Kid Haven

Q. Our backyard is the neighborhood kid magnet  -- sometimes even when ours aren't there! Are we mean to discourage drop-in visitors?

Nope. Of course, plenty of moms aspire to live in a neighborhood where kids can come and go and run from yard to yard. And some actually have the swing set, pool, or shady climbing tree that draws children to their house, giving them an exclusive peek into their own kids' world (and the ability to keep an eye on them).

But having the most popular house can also be a trial: You're forced to be the mommy/cook/referee/entertainer/safety guide for everyone else's children. And while you can't undo whatever mysterious kid vibe your yard gives off, you're not obligated to run the neighborhood daycare center, either. You have every right to send uninvited guests packing if you're not up to the challenge.

The only catch is that you could come off like a scrooge if you start shooing kids away. You want to seem reasonable, not inhospitable. Speak to the parents. Be direct, but take the angle that you're worried about the children's safety: "We love that all the kids like to play in our yard  -- but we can't make sure they're all safe. So when your child wants to drop by, please come with her" or some such.Chances are, most moms are too busy for a daily dally at your house  -- and that should cut down on visitors.