7QT: Summer of the Street Urchins


The 7 Quick Takes today are hosted at an alternate site while the usual hostess is on vacation, so THANK YOU to Kathryn at Team Whitaker for stepping in as a substitute!

Little Brother, age 12, has a pack of friends whom I have nicknamed The Street Urchins. Middle Sister thinks that’s mean, but I just call ’em like I see ’em. There are four Street Urchins on this block. Three of them live in divided households (one lives with his grandparents, so he splits things three ways). The fourth’s parents own a restaurant, so he seems to be left to his own devices as often as the others, who could be here for several hours, spanning two mealtimes, without any adult looking for them.

I don’t mind if the Street Urchins play at my house or swim in my pool, but I do insist on some house rules, and yesterday things got pretty rocky in that department, and I told them all to go outside or go home. I might have raised my voice. (Sorry, not sorry.)

I don’t put up with their nonsense because I don’t want these guys, in 4 years, to be the ones binge-drinking at someone’s house party and destroying property/mistreating others. Looking into those faces yesterday, I could see where this could happen. I’m not their parent, but if they’re at my house, they’re playing by my rules.

Without further ado, here are the 7 things I expect from visiting Street Urchins.


RESPECT THE ADULTS. Say hello when you arrive and goodbye when you leave. I deserve to know who is in my house/yard/pool. If I provided a snack or a meal, thank me for that. Don’t rant because the pizza isn’t from your preferred source.


RESPECT THE OTHER KIDS. You are too old to tattle-tale over nothing, and that’s not a nice way to treat your friends.


RESPECT MY HOME. Don’t throw things in the house. (That goes double for the pieces of the remote control that you tossed behind the couch.) Put away what you take out. My pantry is not your pantry.


RESPECT MY TIME. You live on this block. If you want to swim in my pool, bring your own towel. I am not your laundress.


RESPECT MY HOSPITALITY. If you want a snack, ask. If you have a snack, clean up your mess.


RESPECT YOUR OWN GROWNUPS. If they call here or show up here and tell you it’s time to leave, do not make them wait until you play one more round of a video game.


RESPECT MY POOL. Have fun but swim safely. Don’t climb on the sides. Check in with me before you swim and before you leave.

Sometimes it does take a village to raise a child, when that child’s own personal adults don’t take responsibility. These children are in my village, and when they play here, they’ll play by the same rules my own kids must follow.

If You Take a Street Urchin to the Diner

If you take a Street Urchin to the diner, it is not advisable to order the Mexican Omelet.  (It’s my favorite. Green peppers, onions and Monterey Jack cheese, so says the menu, although in real life it’s more likely to be Cheddar.  Either way, it’s all good.)

So we went to the diner with Little Brother and Adventure Boy. And I ordered the Mexican Omelet, not knowing any better, because it’s my favorite, and it’s never been a problem before.

Then again, we don’t usually take Street Urchins to the diner.

My omelet was delicious, as usual. And then Adventure Boy, Master of All That Is Tactful, looked at it, made a face and said, “EWWWWWWWWWWWWW! That looks like big green BOOGERS!”

Thanks for that.

Everybody: In the Pool!

I don’t know where the Street Urchins summer, but most of them haven’t been around here too much (with the exception of Adventure Boy.)  And despite sending my request for contact information home with each of them, I’d only wound up with home phone numbers for two of the four boys on the block.

One of the other boys showed up here today, when Little Brother and two friends were already in the pool.  I handed him a fresh contact sheet and told him to go get it filled out (and to get a towel), and then he could swim.  He told me that he’d lost the other one, but that his mom thought it was a good idea.  He went back home, but 5 minutes later there he was, jumping into my pool without handing me a paper.

I made him get out of the water and sent him home to get it.

I felt bad about that for about 5 seconds.  I have to protect these kids when they are here, and part of that is knowing how to reach their families in case of emergencies.

He came back with the paper filled out, and without a towel.  Adventure Boy doesn’t have a towel either.  (I told him to go home and change and get a towel, but he decided to just swim in his clothes.)  And while Mean Mom might provide a few chocolate-chip cookies apres-swim, they’re on their own when it comes to towels.

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.

Another Altar-Server Debut

Adventure Boy showed up at my house 2 hours before we leave for church (don’t panic–we go to noon Mass, so he wasn’t here at the crack of dawn…THIS time).  His hair was (mostly) combed.  He was, for him, formally dressed in a golf shirt and cargo pants and basketball sneakers–a step up from flip-flops.  And he announced that he was coming to church with us.

A couple of hours earlier, Little Brother had woken up, and he came downstairs announcing that he wasn’t going to be an altar server anymore.  Last time he served, it was VERY hot in church, and our altar robes are made of a fabric that’s closer to burlap than it is to seersucker.  It was his first day flying solo as a server, there was a baptism of twins during the Mass, and he passed out right before the Lamb of God.

I couldn’t even go over to help him out, since half our folk group was on vacation and I was leading the band.  But at least 5 others came to his rescue and got TheDad, who didn’t have Little Brother in his line of sight.  Once he was hydrated and out of that hot robe, he was fine.  (A Slurpee helped.)

Anyway, Little Brother was pretty nervous about getting back on the horse.  And apparently on the way to church, he and Adventure Boy cooked up a plan.

When I got to church (I leave earlier than the non-musicians in the family) Father asked me how Little Brother was.  I explained that he was fine, but nervous; I hoped that there would be a pre-Mass pep talk in the sacristy.  I saw Little Brother and Adventure Boy arrive, and both headed into the sacristy.  The next thing I knew, the two of them were wearing their robes and marching up to get the candles off the altar so they could carry them in the procession.

I’m not sure what Father was thinking, letting those two carry LIT candles.  There was some during-the-Mass coaching going on (Adventure Boy wasn’t holding the finger towel the right way, apparently) and quite a bit of fidgeting by the boys.  Little Brother noticed me watching him and would occasionally flash me a thumbs-up to let me know that he was feeling fine.

Two very proud altar servers carried LIT candles off the altar after Mass and (a little too quickly) led the procession out.  TheDad and I are very proud parents–and godparents.

And after Mass, Father asked TheDad (AKA The Cubmaster) to encourage the other Cub Scouts who are old enough to consider being altar servers.

In Case of Rapture, We’re Planning a Sleepover

Big Brother just finished telling Little Brother and Adventure Boy all about the Rapture that’s scheduled to happen just before 6 PM Eastern, according to Harold Camping of Family Radio. The boys considered the possibilities.

Little Brother (to Adventure Boy): Sleeping over tonight?

Adventure Boy: YEAH!…oh wait, there’s not gonna BE a tonight.

Little Brother: You can just stay here for the rest of your life.

This Kid Needs a Village

TheDad is not fond of the expression “it takes a village to raise a child.”  To him, it represents the invasion of government into a family’s life and structure.

But when it comes right down to it, TheDad exemplifies the expression when you think of it as meaning that friends and neighbors have an influence, even a vital role, in a child’s life and upbringing.

Adventure Boy has been having a rough time lately.  And while we don’t see as much of him now that he’s 9 and involved in sports–and there are other boys on the block now, so we’re not the only game in town–indications are still strong that he sees us as part of his family.

We’re his God-family.  TheDad and I are his godparents, and he calls Little Brother his God-brother.

In the past couple of days, we learned just how much it meant to him when TheDad used to bring Adventure Boy to church.  That pretty much fell off when our parish started holding CCD (oops, Faith Formation) on Sundays–including a Mass–so he hasn’t come to church with us for quite a while.  Apparently he misses it.

All 3 of our kids are busy during Mass.  The boys are with me in the Folk Group.  Middle Sister is an altar server.  So TheDad is in the pew by himself.

Today, though, he’ll have company.  Adventure Boy is coming to church with TheDad.

I know that I have resented this child’s ubiquitous presence more often than not.  But I have to remember to lose the selfish attitude and allow an emotionally needy little boy to share my family’s life.  We’re his village right now, and he needs us.


You just can’t make this stuff up.

Last night I drove Little Brother and Adventure Boy home from basketball practice. We were in TheDad’s car, and he had tossed an old copy of the Wall Street Journal in the back seat.

The boys picked up the newspaper.

“There’s no sports section in that one, guys,” I told them.

“Yes, there is!” Then they read the headline: “First Baseman Aubrey Huff Wears Glitter-Flecked Red Underwear for Luck.”

I did not need to know that. I imagine that within an hour or so, this story will be all over both boys’ school buses.