Tuesday, June 05, 2012

The Lost Boys

What IS it with the kids on this block?

There are four boys on my street who are the same age as Little Brother.  I call them the Street Urchins.  They wind up here a lot, perhaps because I'm the one who lets them in.

They know that if they play at my house, they've got to play by my rules.  Street Urchins who drop the f-bomb in my family room get sent home.  That's me, the Mean Mommy.

This morning, I mentioned to TheDad that last night one of the boys' moms had come here looking for him about an hour after his sisters picked him up.  That's when he told me that he'd heard there were marital problems in that household, and this boy might be moving soon.

One of the other boys lives with his mom and older siblings.  His parents have been on-and-off separated for several years now.  His dad, though, stays involved and is a Cub Scout leader.

I don't really know much about the new kid on the block, other than the fact that his parents just opened their second pizzeria.  He seems to be on his own quite a bit.

And then there's Adventure Boy, who (like his 3 older siblings) is being raised by his grandparents though his mom lives across town.  Sometimes he goes there.  Sometimes he spends a few hours with his dad, and his grandmother reports that the custody issues aren't pretty.  He's been left to his own devices since he was a preschooler.

A week or so ago, two of these boys knocked on my door at 8:20 on a school night, looking to play with Little Brother.  Ten minutes.  That's all I gave them.  Who lets their kids out at 8:20 on a school night?  Who lets their kids disappear after school, never looking for them until they have a baseball game or soccer practice?  Who doesn't call their kids home until after 8 (if then)--kids who have been out since 4 or earlier, who haven't been fed dinner, who haven't been nagged about homework?

Sometimes I think I should stop calling them the Street Urchins and refer to them as the Lost Boys.

I've ranted about these kids again and again and again.  I resent being Mommy to the whole block.  This isn't what I signed up for.

After yesterday's Cheese Ball Debacle, in which two of the Street Urchins thought it would be fun to toss Utz cheese balls into each other's mouths, and then pulverized the ones that missed--all over my back porch--I was more than a little bit hot under the collar.  They come here, make a mess, help themselves to snacks and drinks, make a mess, kick soccer balls at my pool filter and front door, make a mess, and (apparently) never have to go home.  And I resent that.  A lot.

I plan to come down hard on the Street Urchins next time they show up, about the cheese balls.  That is disrespectful to me and to my home, and wasteful of food.  If I'd found the mess before they left, they would have been the ones out on the porch with the ShopVac.  Instead, it was Little Brother.

But after TheDad mentioned that yet another Street Urchin is dealing with problems at home, my heart melted just a little bit.  These kids need what they're not getting at home, I realized.  None of them is in a situation of his own making.

I was wondering, the other day, if refusing to buy Johnson's Baby Shampoo and Starbucks lattes really does any good.  I'm not convinced that it does.  And while I'm happy to be able to afford the big box of diapers every month that I donate to a local crisis-pregnancy center (and I will continue to do so), that effort is a drop in the bucket.

What I need to do is give where it really counts, and that means giving until it hurts.  That means putting up with the Street Urchins and continuing to remind them that baseballs are not Pool Toys and sending them home when the streetlights go on.  It means welcoming them, but setting (and sticking to) limits.  It means praying for them.  It means doing the right thing even when I don't feel like it; even when I'm cranky and resentful and feeling put-upon.  Maybe especially then.

Honestly, this may be the most pro-life thing I can do right now.

In your charity today, please offer a prayer (or several) for the Lost Boys.


Sara said...

I'll admit to wondering yesterday if one of the Street Urchins was yours, and you just called him that when he was acting like one. :-)

I've been tolerating a couple of kids in my neighborhood for the past few years because their mother abandoned them. I figure it's safe here; there are some rules; they're not being ignored or abused (in a normal sibling way) by big brothers. It's not easy, but I think you're right---it's pro-life. Maybe you're the only opportunity for them to see a woman modeling the Marian ideal. They might grow up to remember you as the kind of mom they want their kids to have.

Barbara said...

Mother Teresa: "Let us make that one point - that no child will be unwanted, unloved, uncared for, or killed and thrown away. And give until it hurts - with a smile."

Every once in a while, I read this speech Mother Teresa gave on abortion -- you got the idea. It is tremendously pro-life just to care for one another.


God will bless you.

Bean said...

Barb you are possibly the only person who will be a witness of Christ's love to these children. Keep up the good work :)And who knows, the seeds you are planting now may blossom and bloom in these kids.

nicole said...

Yes, this! I tried to write about similar things but you have done it so much better. None of our neighbor kids are in those kinds of situations, but we are definitely the only large, Catholic family around. I figure it is a good thing for across-the-street neighbor boy to have to see how my boys live with their younger siblings and learn to share and tolerate their presence. Loving who is right in front of us is the first, and perhaps most impactful, thing we can do to proclaim Christ's love to the world.

(I would flip my lid at the cheese balls.)

Jeanne said...

Barb, you are so right. It is hard to balance feeling annoyed with the kids and sharing charity with them. They have no parents to guide them, or missing and absent parents. I have a feeling they crave a mom's presence and thus are coming to you. You have a gift in the making here and the ability to show these children what a family is really like with mother, father, healthy boundaries and more.

Michelle said...

We had a similar problem with the girl across the street at our last address. My mom had to deal with this when I was a kid. One has to hope that your good influence will outshine the rest of their world's bad influences. It's a tough burden, barb. I'll be praying for you and for them.

Diane's blog said...

Barb as annoying as it is and you to have a right to be annoyed I am so glad you came to the conclusions you ended with. Thank the lord there are moms like you around to pick up the slack for the moms who aren't there tor their kids for whatever reasons. And being tough on them is all part of it how else will they learn. Thanks tor being one of those moms who get it!

Aimee said...

I think you are absolutely spot-on about being pro-life in watching over The Lost Boys. Don't take their disrespect or anything, but they are definitely lacking something at home that they find with you. As an introvert, I see it as heroic on your part. :)

Barb Szyszkiewicz said...

Let's get one thing straight. I am not a hero, a Marian ideal, or anything like that.

I am the brother who first said "no" when his father asked him to work in the fields, and later changed his mind.

Aimee mentioned being an introvert--I am as well, and maybe that's part of why this is tough for me. I crave quiet, and I don't like my boundaries being invaded when it's not on my terms. These kids have no boundaries, and when they're around and it's quiet--there's trouble.

I'm also a "rule-follower" so I resent the adults in these kids' lives who aren't pulling their weight.

No hero here, but Herculean effort is often required, sometimes just to keep my temper in check. Sometimes I fail. These kids have all heard me yell. They're a little afraid of me, but they keep knocking on the door.

Nancy said...

I've got a family of urchins right here in my own neighborhood. They are here ALL THE TIME! Sometimes, I'm very resentful of the fact that my kids are not allowed in their house (because it's disgusting mess...child protective services has been there a number of times)...even though I don't want my kids in there anyway. Still, they tell me they don't eat dinner until 10 or 11 pm (????) so they get upset when we send them home at 5pm when our family eats. Sometimes, they don't go home...they just lurk outside the front door....knocking about every 3 minutes asking "are they done yet"? They drive me nuts!
Thank you, for this post...to help remind me that I need to show more charity and that their situations are NOT their fault. Off to confession I go!

Barb Szyszkiewicz said...

Nancy, some of my urchins have been known to lurk during meals too. I have invited them on occasions where I have enough extra, but that's not always the case. Mealtime lurking makes me CRAZY!

noreen said...

Those boys are lucky to have you Barb! They are probably lost and struggling which is hard to bear but there can still be rules, boundaries and limitations. Joining you in prayer.