Ladies and gentlemen, Growling J has made a comeback. Yes, that particular cause for parental consternation has returned, and not just at home. It is a source of teacher consternation, too.
HOW did this happen? I have a name for you, and you might think (but don’t judge me harshly, please) that I hyperbolize: TGG.
If we backtrack to a recent post, your memory will be refreshed: TGG is in love, has been lax in his studies, blah, blah, blah. Yes, I remember he’s 24, but I will also remind you -if you’ll kindly allow me to- that ours is the abode in which he currently sleeps five nights out of seven, ours are the refrigerator and pantry that provide the bulk of his meals, ours are the funds that paid for his classes and books, and ours the utilities that he freely partakes of on a regular basis. These things, of course, are not something we are obligated to provide since he is 24 and flies the flag of independence and autonomy at his convenience.
My father, in his most colorful and blunt way, often said “we each make a whistle of our asshole” to indicate that we can each view our situations and make our decisions as we choose. TGG may be hearing whistling…we are smelling otherwise.
Bear with me…I know you think I’m overreacting, and maybe (I will grant you that much) I am tapping into the deepest overbearing mother tradition to which I am connected by my status as a Hispanic woman. This is the thing: this past week, J saw TGG on Thursday night and didn’t see him again until Monday afternoon. Isolated incident you say? How about this is happening every weekend??? With nary a word, nary an explanation, nary an acknowledgement, TGG waltzes out, does his thing all weekend, and then returns Sunday night. On this particular Sunday, TGG didn’t get home until eleven and J was in bed and asleep.
I will tell you the same thing I told TGG yesterday: it’s not “don’t live your life,” but rather “don’t completely blow off your brother in the course of living your life.” For some reason (love????,) TGG has completely forgotten that his brother is a part of his life, and has been a part of his life for nearly 21 years.
Yes, my friends, we all do it. We fall in love and the yearning for the other person’s company is overwhelming. Why do homework when one can pine? Why clean the bathroom when one can ponder? Why sleep at home when one can potentially traumatize toddlers that don’t know if you’re daddy, a prowler, or some dude that mommy is sleeping with? (It is now clear to you all that I don’t understand my son’s generation.)
I don’t want TGG to take over the care and maintenance of the emotional machine that is his brother. I am responsible for J; Dada is responsible for J. As the legal guardians of J, we simply hope his older (and supposedly adult and mature) brother will understand that the acquisition of new affections doesn’t render null and void the ones previously existent. You also don’t disappear for a whole weekend (we don’t know where this girl lives, and he turns his cell phone off while he is there…rendering himself unreachable in case of an emergency, and us clueless in case the emergency is on his side,) and then come home and act totally excited about steak, pasta and vegetables for dinner.
After a moderate growling and SIB incident on Sunday evening (which had been building up since Friday evening when J hadn’t heard a word or caught a glimpse of his brother since the previous night,) I sat TGG down yesterday morning. I asked what the deal is, and when he is moving out.
Why did I ask that? Well, TGG has said that he and his girlfriend are looking for a bigger place to share with her children and her brother. TGG’s twin-size bed will be repurposed for the brother. The bookcases, oh, they will fit in with the pre-existing decor. Commuting won’t be an issue. Blah blah blah… Yesterday’s answer to my question? “I might have misunderstood what she was saying before.” I had been attempting “coolness,” and it turned into this:
In the wise words of my female ancestors, I told TGG to either comb his hair or put it in pin curls. This (o te peinas o te haces papelillos) is a familiar saying in Puerto Rico. It means “make up your mind.” I said it in Spanish. TGG knew I meant what I was saying. He interjected with “well, we’ve only been dating a month.” That tidbit prompted this:
And then I went into full-blown this:
I explained to my 24 year-old that having sex isn’t dating. I explained to him that commitment doesn’t hinge on whether your stuff matches the decor. I explained that making a life with someone is not as easy as it looks in movies, and that our family life is being deeply shaken by his lackadaisical approach to “acting like a grown-up.”
I explained that, no, J doesn’t need him around 24/7, but that not having done a thing with him in weeks shows a lack of understanding for his brother’s emotional needs. I reminded him that he has a son he hasn’t seen in a month, and NO, it’s not everyone else’s fault that he chooses to do things in such a self-centered way. He tried to blame it on work. He tried to blame it on school. He tried to blame it on his previous employers. He would’ve blamed it on Lee Harvey Oswald but the timelines didn’t match.
I reminded TGG that one of his complaints regarding his biological father is that he simply left. He forgot about his kids while still trying to keep a stranglehold on their affection, a guarantee of loyalty and identity in their minds. I explained that, to a lesser degree, he is repeating this pattern; when he’s here and he has a moment for J, he expects J to be responsive and grateful of the attention, but the rest of the time, he doesn’t give his brother’s feelings much thought.
J doesn’t want to be forgotten, or ignored. J doesn’t want to be treated like he doesn’t understand. J is very present, and he feels upset when things are not explained to him because his ability to process them is underestimated.
I don’t know how much of this sank in, but yesterday TGG came home from school directly, spent time with his brother, read him a story, and this morning he made a point of saying “good morning” and kissing him before he left for work. Maybe he understood me, or maybe it’s just that his girlfriend told him that since her brother and her mother will be living with her, there won’t be room at the inn for him. We’ll see…I am still skeptical about “coming to Jesus” and consulting us for everything during a 12-hour span.
I know TGG has to have a life of his own, but I wish he would opt for a certain quality of life, emotions, relationships, aspirations. I don’t mean I want him to own a McMansion with all the bells and whistles, or even marry Jennifer Lawrence (which would be nice…J would like that,) but that he sees a future that doesn’t involve patching up a lifeboat and throwing a tarp over it to say “at least it floats??? For now????”
And I want J to face all his transitions with as much grace as possible. And for those who are near and dear to him to be as kind and understanding as we can be of his needs and anxieties. Isn’t that what every mom wants????