Hello good people! I’m fed up with school and decided catch up here instead. Ah…there’s so much to tell but I was thinking about things that have happened recently that I particularly wanted to journal for posterity and I realized that I had not yet recorded the story of Finny Vs The Hecklers. It is a heartwarming tale of a boy defending his mama and arising victorious. An older brother’s pride for his younger brother, and good triumphing over evil. You will laugh, you will cry. (We are currently in talks with Disney and Hallmark.)
So last Saturday (like the one before the one that just passed, I never know if that is last Saturday or this Saturday or what…I’m always wrong though, it’s stuff like this that will always make me feel like a foreigner wherever I am, wait where were we? ) Finny had a game and Benj happened to be the referee for it. Unfortunately, this coincided with Gabe’s first game of the season and Aaron and I felt that we should be out in force to support him for it, so we sent Finny and Benj on their way.
Throughout the game I got texts from my awesome friend, Carolyn. Our team was up! But boy, the other team was dirty! And oh my word…their parents..out of control! Oh no! Our team was down! Still down. Shoot. Still down and time rapidly running out.
It seemed inevitable that we were going to lose to Mean Team. Sad trombone. Oh well. I turned my attention to Gabe’s team, things were getting exciting as they were in a tie. It ended that way. Oh well. Better than a loss!
Suddenly I get a text from Carolyn! They won! They won! Stunning comeback. Amazing! Benj is going to need a police escort out of here. Story to come.
We were done earlier than anticipated so we drove over to the field to pick them up. Benjamin darted into the car looking furtively around. “What are you doing here? I was supposed to get a ride with someone else! Nobody can see that I’m related to Finny!” Suddenly the car was surrounded by a bevy of red-faced sweaty,excited little friends and big brothers who had been watching, they were all clamoring to tell me the story. “Finny won the game! He scored 2 goals in the last 30 seconds!” “It was so awesome! “ “The other team was so dirty!” “Oh man they are so mad!” Carolyn told me, “I have NEVER seen a kid so determined to win a game, he was crazy, he was on fire! You need to get Benj out of here though.” Benjamin continues to slouch down into his seat, as Finny approaches. Finny looks mildly gratified by the praise and glory being directed his way but distracted, and certainly not as animated as I would expect. He seems a bit grim in fact. He asks if he can ride with his friends as they go for celebratory ice cream and so we leave with just Benj, the Pariah/Exquisitely Fair Referee (depending on which team you are on) in the car.
As we drive away Benj says, “that was the most exciting soccer game I have ever seen”. He seems quite sincere. Then he says, “I had no idea Finny’s team was so phenomenal! And wow, Finny-he’s really, really good!” Aaron and I look at each other and smile. Benj is an understated kid, not given to superlatives or gushing. And honestly, he’s not that easily impressed by amateur soccer antics. He spends a lot of time watching professional soccer. Certainly, I have not heard him lavish praise on his younger brother’s soccer skills like this before. It is all very endearing.
Then he launches into the tale of how Finny’s team was down by one point when the other team took down one of our players in the box. So Benj had to call a PK for our team. (Benj is an extremely fair ref, who for the record, called out Finny on his fouls too, but given all accounts of the conduct of the other team, I don’t think he was crying inside about having to call a PK.) The other team was of course, outraged. Players, coach, parents. There was much, much outcry.
Benj described some of the enraged yelling the coach was directing at him and adds casually, “And then finally I had to say, Coach, that’s enough.” He added thoughtfully, “come to think of it I had to tell a lot of people ‘that’s enough’ during that game.”
I don’t know, maybe you have to have a 15 year old boy but it is so fascinating and amusing to see/imagine them in the role of unruffled disciplinarian. Then he adds, “and so Finny got ready to take the shot, and I have NEVER seen an opposing team heckle a player like he was heckled. It was really bad. But Finny ignored them, took the kick and landed it so solidly. Then he calmly walked up to the kid who had really been heckling him and does this (miming him jerking his face close to the kids’ face in an aggressive sort of way). Then he walked away, immediately got the ball back, and made the SICKEST goal (the winning goal), with his left foot..and didn’t even react..didn’t celebrate..just jogged away! Man he is going to be SO good. I loved Finny so much today”
He continued to regale me of tales of Finny’s soccer prowess for the next hour, repeating the tale as I ironed his clothes for Homecoming that night, and I realized that although I had been crushed to have missed seeing them both perform in this epic battle, it was so much better to hear my distinctly ungushy son’s admiring account of his little brother. My heart grew three sizes. It will probably always be in my stash of fondest memories.
(Here’s my big kid all ready for Homecoming that night.)
But it gets even better. Later that night when Finny returned home, he was giving due credit to all the other amazing players on his team for the assists that made it possible for him to score, and praising their awesome defensive playing, but I noticed he wasn’t talking much about his goals. I said, “you know Finny, Benj thought you were amazing in your game tonight. “
(I was still wondering why he seemed so uncharacteristically understated about the whole thing, and even a little bit down still. I just couldn’t figure it out, given the jubilation of everyone else who watched it, and the contrast in his usual enthusiasm in giving me play-by-plays.)
I recounted Benj’s retelling of the story to him, including Benj miming Finny’s post-goal head jerk at the other kid. Finny flushed, looked a bit sheepish, and said, “Benj said I did that?…well…actually.. I did something worse…” then he bursts out, “MOMMY THEY WERE BEING SO, SO, SO MEAN!” A little alarmed now I said, “Finny! What did you do?” He says, “well when I was getting ready to take the penalty kick, they were all clapping their hands, and saying “miss it, miss it, oh! oh! oh! you’ll never get it” and all that stuff, and that was annoying but it was ok… but then this one kid who had been trash talking me all game comes up to me and says,
“How is your FAT LITTLE MOMMY going to feel when you miss it?”
His voice catches with rage, “MOMMY I was just SOOO MAD! (I observe his clenched fists in the mere remembrance of it)… I was like OHHHH NO HE DIDN’T and I kicked that ball so hard into the goal and then I ran over to him and did this (mimes shaking a fist). I know that was wrong..but he just can’t say that about my MOM! MOMMY I WAS JUST. SO. MAD!”
At this point I am (shamefully, yes I know) doubled over with laughter. I’m sorry, I just couldn’t help it. I’m never going to be Appropriate Wise Mother who manages to conceal her emotions until the kids aren’t watching. The idea of these little 9 year olds trash-talking is so funny to me, and the idea that my kid was actually getting heckled with a “yo-mama” was so ridiculously, fantastically, wonderfully, old-school classic. And “your fat little mommy”? It undid me. Something in the phrasing, or the way he retold it..I don’t know, it was just so hilarious to me.
But the idea that he was so incredibly outraged about it was, I am slightly ashamed to admit, completely heartwarming. Even though he really shouldn’t have made the aggressive gesture, I couldn’t bring myself to lecture him for very long about it. He knew it was wrong and I think that given what he had been through all game long, he actually behaved with remarkable restraint. (Undoubtedly more than I would have). The best part to me was the vision of him, grimly and decisively taking that game back, or die trying, to avenge his mother. My heart grew 3 more sizes.
I pointed out to him that this kid had not ever seen me so he didn’t know whether I was fat and little, or tall and thin or somewhere in between, so it really was just the silliest thing and he shouldn’t let that stuff get to him, but his little face set in hard lines again. “No mommy, he just can’t talk about my mom. He just can’t do that. “
And then I realized that there is a reason “yo mama” has endured all these years. There is something primal that is triggered within a boy when you disrespect even his theoretical mama.
I think it’s the same thing that is triggered within a big sister when you diss her little brother. Or within a mom when you mess with her kids. It’s just…well, primal. That rush of adrenaline that could move a mountain, the surge of outrage which leaves you weak and shaky in its aftermath.
And when I think about it, it was probably divine intervention that I was not there to witness the abuse and triumph of my two boys that day, because I would probably have ended up in jail. Instead, I got to bask in the glow of reflected glory and hilarity of the retelling, and to stash this sweet memory away for the next time an older brother is acting like an immature jerk, or a little boy is getting on his mom’s last nerve. These guys are alright.