He was kinda loud, but I mostly attributed that to being a 9 year old boy. He also never stayed long. I felt weird not knowing his family at all, but I had often seen him wandering the neighborhood, so I figured he had more freedoms than my kids. I asked him a few times if he wanted to stay for dinner and he always told me he had already eaten. Even if I asked at 4:30 in the afternoon.
Sometime around October, he told me he was moving. I wasn't sure how to respond because I wasn't quite sure why he was telling me. Then he mentioned that he would still get to stay at our school. I asked him where he was moving and he said, "A hotel." That made me sad. I knew already that he lived in public housing, but moving to a hotel sounds pretty bad. I didn't press him for more information, mostly because it wasn't my business, but also because I had the distinct impression he would lie to me about it and I didn't want to put him in that position.
He was gone for a while, but then he started coming by again. I asked him if he was visiting his grandmother (who lives in our neighborhood) for the weekend. He said that they had moved back in with her. So now that's two moves within a four month period.
I asked Frances if she played with him at school and her response really shocked me
"Not really. He's kinda mean to me at school. He makes fun of me and he tells other people I pick my nose."
I shared with Frances that she doesn't have to play with him if she doesn't want to. I would gladly send him away if she didn't want him to come over. But I also told her to pray for him. I didn't want to spill too much about him to her. Partly because I wasn't sure all my assumptions were true and partly because she doesn't always recognize the line between privacy and spilling the beans. I told her that it sounded like he might have a rough life at home. I explained that sometimes people are mean to others because they are really sad inside.
I've seen this kid get in trouble at school. I've heard stories of how he acts for their teacher. I've seen him get in trouble at the after school program they go to. From what I can tell he doesn't have a lot of positive or consistent influences in his life. However, he came over once and knocked on the door. I opened the door and said, "I'm sorry Frances and Henry aren't here. All I've got to offer you is a two year old who just got up from his nap." I meant it as a joke, but he said, "Can Benjamin play then?" And he looked so lonely, that I let him in and he played Batman with Benjamin for about 45 minutes.
Turns out they were making fun of Frances because she still has training wheels on her bike. That made me pretty mad, but I did remember that I was an adult. I did however, look at him and say, "I'm not going to have you over to our house, feed you lunch and let you play with my kids all day only to have you turn around and make fun of her. That's not okay. It's rude." And the kids and I all headed home. (I would like to take a moment to be grateful that Henry did not throw even a tiny hissy fit about going home-I think he recognized the gravity of the situation.)
I heard all three kids yelling apologies as we walked home, but Benjamin's bike is so loud, I felt like I could ignore it and keep walking. I asked her again when we got home about why she still chooses to play with him.
"Mommy, he's nicer here."
So my sweet girl has a very tender, loving heart. She has grown a lot this year and last. She's learned to stand up to bullies. But she still lets this kid come over to play. Is he a friend? An enemy? Is this my battle or hers. I don't want to see her get hurt, but I also don't want to make her give up on something if she sees something redeeming there. This is the part of mothering I really hate. What would you do?