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.

He’s On To Me

Little Brother has made some new friends. They are brothers who live down the street; one is a third-grader like Little Brother, and the younger one is in first grade.

I don’t know these kids very well yet, so my M.O. is to allow everyone to play here, where I can keep an eye on things.

One recent day the whole neighborhood gang (5 third-graders and one first-grader) were in here fighting over a video game. I loudly declared a time limit on the game and let them know that they could play with other toys inside after that time, or go outside to play. They had fair warning, and then a five-minute warning, but when the game was over they were disappointed. So First-Grader wheedled, “You can come to my house…Resident Eeeevil!”

I’m not one to keep up on video games. So I checked in with Big Brother, who’s proved to be a good judge of what games, movies and songs are appropriate for someone Little Brother’s age. He told me that the game is so violent, TheDad wouldn’t let him buy it at all. (Normally, the rule for our 18-year-old is: you can buy the game or movie, but you can’t use it when Little Brother is awake.) So this one’s got to be pretty bad.

I figured, at that point, that Little Brother won’t be at that house playing games. If they’re going to ride bikes and kick soccer balls outside, that’s fine. So today, First-Grader came up the street looking for Little Brother (who was still in his school uniform.) While Little Brother changed his clothes, I asked First-Grader what they planned to do. “We’re going to my house to play video games,” he replied, and before I could say any more, he continued, “my violent games are all for PlayStation, and that’s broken. But I have one game for my DS. It’s rated M. We can play my DS. All my other games are rated T.”

“Little Brother isn’t allowed to play games that are rated T or M,” I told him. “You guys are going to have to find something else to do.”

How scary–this child knows that he has violent video games. And he tried to play me by telling me that those aren’t available. Scarier still, he tried to get me to let Little Brother play at his house where the adults permit six-year-olds to play games rated M.

Like that’ll happen.

Meanest Mommy on the Block

Middle Sister and Little Brother are running around with the neighbor kids and water guns.

And I have not yet turned on the outdoor spigots.

Wasn’t it just last week that we were wearing winter coats?? And today it was 93 degrees!

Guess I should head down to the basement and turn on the water so the kids can more efficiently reload their weapons. Problem is, the second I turn on the backyard spigot, Boy Next Door hooks up the hose and floods the sandbox. Every. Single. Year.

Maybe they’ll just get to fill their guns out front this time.

Be Polite, Kids

It’s time for an Etiquette Lesson.

All my kids do this, so I shouldn’t single anyone out here. But Middle Sister was the guilty party today.

I was on the phone with my friend SFO Girl while preparing dinner. Middle Sister wandered into the kitchen and interrupted my conversation to find out what we were having.

And dummy me answered her! (Clearly, I am enabling my children to be rude. The first step is recognizing that you have a problem…)

“It’s Sloppy Joes,” I answered as I chopped peppers.


Almost worse, in my book, than rudely interrupting people is saying “EWWWWWWWWWWW” to a food before you eat it. Children who do this to me do not obtain my sympathy and an offer to cook them a whole separate dinner. I don’t play that game.

I informed Middle Sister that Sloppy Joes are practically just like tacos and that she can have hers in a tortilla.

And after we sit down at the table, we’re going to have to have a talk about manners.

Logical Consequences

Logical to me, anyway.

Since the child who typically occupies the “way back seat” in the van has the habit of leaving her clothing, jewelry, books, pencils, and other paraphernalia all over the seat and floor in her general area (not to mention a good deal of trash), and

Since said child insisted that she did not have any clothing in my van as recently as yesterday, and

Since I went out to the van this morning and removed one denim jacket, one hoodie sweatshirt and one pair of pajamas, all belonging to her,

MIDDLE SISTER gets to vacuum the van today!