Growing Pains: More Pain Than Growth

June 6, 2009 § 2 Comments

The sponsor my brother’s coach found for their traveling soccer team is Hooters [great choice, sir. I hate you]. They had a team dinner there after practice last week, which I loudly protested to my mother. Sure, the kids would all eat for free, and the chain had donated $500 to the team, but really? That really isn’t the wisest place to take a horde of 13-year-old boys, but maybe the partnership was deliberate.

My mother said that the decision to go would rest on Larry, and he appeared be in favor of eating with the rest of his team. Since my father was traveling that week, I decided to join them at Hooters so I wouldn’t have to eat at home by myself, and also to see what the restaurant was actually like. When my brother found out that I was going with them, however, he immediately voiced his opposition.

“Why are you coming with us?”
“Because I don’t want to eat dinner by myself…”
“I’m not going, then, if you’re coming.”

His swift change in attitude was inexplicable, and I ended up staying home. This was a good thing, I suppose, since I would have been wildly out of place. My mother later told me that the group separated into three tables — boys, mothers and fathers — and that the small table of women at which she sat consumed three large pitchers of beer, none of which was her contribution. Those soccer moms really know how to put it away…

“Our waitress was a pretty college student, and I think all the boys liked her. One of them even asked for her phone number,” she said. “The uniform wasn’t too bad; she wore a white tank top, like the ones you have, and orange shorts, like the gym shorts you wear.” Thanks, mom, for comparing me to a Hooters waitress. All I’m missing now are the tights and of course, the big breasts.

Last night, Larry’s soccer team [and their families] volunteered at the local Feed My Starving Children facility. I’m not sure why, but perhaps it was in atonement for indulging in a visit to Hooters. That’s my guess, anyway. My mother asked me if I wanted to join them, and my first thought was “Hell no!” Why would I spend my Friday night with a bunch of soccer brats? Who cares if it’s for a good cause?

Eventually I relented [if somewhat obligingly]. As I exited the house towards the car where my parents already sat, Larry, who was skateboarding in the garage, asked the question again.

“Why are you coming with us?”

This time I wasn’t surprised, and retorted, “Don’t think I want to, brat! Mom is making me go.”

“I’m not going if she’s coming with us,” he turned to my parents. I rolled my eyes and got in the car. “Hurry up and get in, we’re going to be late!” My mother was getting impatient with Larry, who stood in the driveway with his skateboard.

“Late for what?” He was enjoying watching mother’s growing fury.
“You know what! Get in the car!”
“Where are we going?”
“Larry! Just get in the car!”

Finally, after much more yelling and dawdling, my brother put his skateboard back in the garage and settled into the car. He neglected to put on his seat belt, however, a sign that he was still feeling rebellious. When we arrived at our destination, he promptly departed from our family to join the rest of his teammates. My mother related the story of Larry’s objection to my presence to the other Chinese mother from the team as we sat down in the orientation room.

“I don’t understand why he does this. It’s not like his sister is ugly or anything.” Thanks again, mom. I wonder what kind of marvelous things you say about me when I’m not within earshot.

I am curious, of course, in regards to my brother’s hostility. Do I embarrass him? I’m not incredibly weird or awkward [or ugly, as my mother so succinctly put it]. To be honest, I’m glad Larry isn’t one of those weird nerd kids either. I mean, I’m sad that he dropped out of P.A. [the gifted program], no longer gets straight A’s, renounced [and denounced] reading, and only hangs out with the dumb skater kids whose standards of intelligence are utterly inadequate, but at least he’s not…ugly [HA HA my mother and I are so alike it’s sad]. He’s mildly attractive, can dress himself, and is social, so at least he doesn’t fail in every aspect of life.

Anyway, my theory is that Larry lumps me in with my parents — it’s true that I judge him like they do, and am not afraid to call them out on being too lax sometimes — and doesn’t want a third parental figure imposing upon his territory, which is his soccer team. He was not pleased with my attendance at his two soccer games in the past weeks either. My mother has suffocated him a little bit [she’s a helicopter parent to an extent], and I understand his yearning for freedom.

Yet what can we do?

At one of his soccer games, my mom said, “Good luck, I love you,” as Larry exited the car. “Be quiet, mom,” he replied, walking away. I rolled my eyes in disgust. “Next time, you should just tell him ‘Get out of the car. If you don’t win, don’t come back,'” I advised, half in jest. Part of me thinks that it would be easier if we all gave him the treatment he clearly prefers, which would be total neglect. He deserves it. On the other hand, how much more of a messed up teenager would he grow up into if he didn’t know that his parents love him? He’s lucky — my mother never expressed her affections so openly to me at his age, or at any point in my life that I can remember. Then again, we were never as close: Larry still insists on being tucked in at night.

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