Loving the Lost Boys

I grew up with the Lost Boys.

The boys who were somehow distanced from their own mom and dad. The boys who were mischievous, yet lovable. The boys who were almost always covered in dirt. The boys who had wronged others, but were wronged nonetheless.

Much like Thud Butt and Rufio, I knew my own set of Lost Boys. I called them family.

At the time my simple nuclear family moved to Boys Ranch Town in Edmond, Oklahoma I wasn’t even able to form a three-word sentence. My parents, older sister and I, four and two at the time, lived in an apartment attached to what was referred to as a “cottage.”

It had everything a normal house would have, with one difference: it was fit for a small football team. On each of the four corners of the cottage there sat a room fit for two boys. Vacancies were rare.

Whatever their circumstance, each boy wasn’t able to be with his parents. Each had his faults, but was also worth loving. Each had dirt in his past. Each had wronged others, but was wronged nonetheless.

Sharing my parents with eight teenage boys had its ups and downs. I didn’t understand that it was abnormal until I had gotten older and I began noticing that other families weren’t like my own. It was then that I selfishly began to think that whatever these boys had done to be without their parents shouldn’t justify them taking my own.

Then again, there were times that I couldn’t thank my parents more for the life I had. The boys had often grown up with their imaginations smothered. Sometimes it was by their own choosing, sometimes it was done by others. At our cottage, in the afternoons, when chores and homework were done, imagination could flourish.

From cities of LEGOs to discarded fence panels made into castles, we spent hours letting ingenuity run rampant.

As time went on, the age gap between my sister and I and the boys who came in and out of my parents’ care grew smaller and smaller. By the time we were in our teens I began to see how much of a sacrifice my parents had to make and how much of a toll taking care of 10 children took on them.

When I was 15, my parents decided it was time for a change. My dad was to take a job in Oklahoma City.

After 13 years of living in such abnormal circumstances, my sister and I had no clue as to what a “regular” life looked like.

It was nice to only cook for four. It was convenient to drive a four-door sedan to the store, as opposed to a 12-passenger van. But it was much too quiet. There wasn’t enough chaos around the house. In our hearts and minds, there were castles to be built and creativity to be explored, but it often seemed impossible without eight boys by our side.

Somehow, we learned how to adapt.

As time went on and I became use to “regular” life, I consistently swore I would never be a foster parent simply because I saw how arduous it was on my parents. I would never take care of kids that weren’t my own; I didn’t even want kids of my own for that matter. But life has a way of changing one’s perspectives.

Now, I have seen the statistics.

The statistics of how many children are in foster homes around the state. According to MetroFamily Magazine, there are nearly 9,500 children in foster care in Oklahoma alone.

These numbers don’t even account for how many kids are undiscovered, hurting and in dangerous circumstances.

I’ve heard the news stories of kids who have criminal records. I’ve seen how this often transfers into their adult lives.

Recently I had the opportunity to tour the county jail. As I saw the men in their cells or playing wall ball in the courtyard, I couldn’t help but see the eyes of the boys I built castles with. The boys I called family.

Hearing the stories and seeing the aftermath of people not intervening soon enough makes a question pound inside me:

“If not me, then who?”

I hear this question every time I listen to the high school marching band down the street. Every time I drive through a school zone. Every time I pass a park.

It makes me wonder if any boy or girl playing those instruments, in that school or in that park needs a set of parents to simply give them their time.

As I come to my senior year in college, I look at life ahead with curiosity. I wonder if one day I will have Lost Boys of my own to care for. I wonder if I will give mischievous boys a place for their imaginations, for building LEGO cities and fence panel castles. I wonder if I will give kids a home to dust off their dirt. I imagine that I could. I imagine that I would make a home for the lost like those who had wronged others but are wronged nonetheless. Maybe they won’t have a little boy in green tights as their caregiver. But maybe they will have me.