I met Charlie on his first day of Kindergarten, as he got on my school bus. He was an energetic little boy with a voice volume of loud or louder. He was also far more outgoing than many of the other kids on the first day of school. He told me his name, his favorite things to do, and that he lived alone with his mother. It became apparent that boundaries were not something that Charlie understood, nor seemed to care to learn. While most Kindergarten kids sat quietly on the bus in terror, Charlie climbed on top of the seats. He then proceeded to climb under the seats. He annoyed his classmates and was happy to get the negative attention for his actions. I quickly assigned him a seat in the front.
This behavior did not change for the better. In fact, with each day he would seem to add something new to his arsenal of tricks. I even got him a seatbelt that he would willingly climb into, until the bus started moving. Then when mom started following the bus and making excuses for his behavior, I knew we were in for some fun. For one thing, mom did not like the bus stop. She claimed it was too far from her house. The reality was that the bus stopped at the corner, which was one house further from her house. She followed the bus and called my boss with every stop I made to verify them. She also claimed that his behavior was my fault and I was not understanding enough of children.
It was no surprise, then, that Charlie soon received his third bus referral. The one that tipped the scales, so to speak, was when he got mad at another person on the bus and punched them in the face. It would appear that my lack of understanding pushed him over the edge. He was removed from the bus for a few weeks, leaving mom to now drive him to school.
One afternoon I sat at the elementary school waiting for the kids to be dismissed when I saw Charlie’s mom walk by. She gave me an icy glare and kept on walking. A few minutes later, in the midst of a sea of other kids, I spotted her again, this time with Charlie. Charlie saw me also and ran over to the bus to say hi. Much to mom’s displeasure, he got on the bus, told me about school and things he was doing. He even gave me a hug before leaving. Mom just stood outside and waited with an anxious demeanor.
A few weeks later he was back on the bus. This time he seemed to appreciate being there and I didn’t have anymore problems with him that year.
When I entered youth ministry, I met a number of kids like Charlie. These are kids who just want someone to pay attention to them. They might have a parent involved in some way in their life, but the parent is really not being as helpful as they could be. With Charlie, it was very clear to me who was in charge in that home. Yet, when boundaries were given, he responded. He just wanted someone to love him enough to show him what is right, acceptable behavior, and what is wrong.
Today there are many people with similar situations. Parents abandon their children, not in the sense we might think, but in the form of ongoing activity. The school is always sending things home with after school activities in order to help “fill the time” between school and when the parent gets off work. I am not faulting parents for working, but I do fault parents who still will not invest time in their children even after work. I know it is exhausting to spend quantity time with you children each day. I have four of my own children and a full-time job also. But, I also know that the investment we make now in the lives of or children will not only help them be successful adults, it will also provide a foundation for a society of people who know the difference between right and wrong. The world needs parents who are engaged in the lives of their children.