Overheard, the Fashion Plate Edition

Little Brother (inspecting his T-shirt):  thats all you got“Do you think I can still wear this shirt today, even though I spilled Leaky Egg* on it?”

Me: “How about you get a wet paper towel and wipe it up and see how it looks when it dries?”

LB: “Well, I already licked it off, so…”

(*Translation:  a Leaky Egg is an egg over easy. Yes, I know all about salmonella danger. We live on the edge over here.)

The only saving grace here is that the egg seems to have spilled on the bright yellow letters…


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.

Boys vs. Girls

Little Brother is playing with Girl Next Door (she’s 8). Right now they are playing the organ. This is a classic case of What Boys Do and What Girls Do.

Girl Next Door is trying out the different stops, changing the tone of the organ and making some lovely-sounding combinations.

Little Brother is hanging off the side of the organ bench, yelling, “Help me! It’s a volcano! I’m falling into the lava! Can’t you see the lava?”

It Takes a Village

Just about every day, Adventure Boy visits our house and stays for hours. This child is on his own quite a lot for a 5-year-old. He just gets on his little scooter, crosses the street, and comes up the hill to our house. This morning when he got here, he had no shoes on.

I think that sometimes it does take a village to raise a child. I like the fact that I have some neighbors who will let me know if one of my kids is doing something unsafe or out of line. But a lot of the village wants nothing to do with Adventure Boy’s family, as I found out 8 years ago when his older brother spent hours here, playing with Big Brother.

The first couple of weeks, Little Brother and Adventure Boy were getting along fabulously. But for the past few days, they’ve been fighting like actual siblings. Their games of Pirates or Hess Trucks or Toy Trains are punctuated with, “FINE! I’m going home!” and the door banging behind an angry little boy. Before I can get to the door, he’s already heading across the street without looking for cars.

I had no sooner expressed my distress about this to my mom on the phone than I heard a knock on the door. It was Adventure Boy’s older brother. Apparently Adventure Boy was spotted by a neighbor farther down the street, riding his scooter into the middle of the road without looking. The neighbor called Adventure Boy’s grandmother–so she wanted the little guy home.

I’m relieved that I’m not the only one who’s been worrying about this kid or looking out for him. I don’t want to have to be the only one who lets his grandmother know what he’s up to when she’s not looking. I watch him and Little Brother like a hawk when they’re together, because I’m afraid that they will both just take off.

But I find myself worrying constantly over just how responsible I am for him. If we’re home, he’s here.

I think I’m going to have to lay this one at the feet of St. John Bosco. Anyone know any other good saints for boys, especially boys with a real lack of structure in their home lives?