It has been said that success as a parent isn’t fully realized unless and until you’ve become an embarrassment to your children. Apparently, my husband and I have been making remarkable progress toward that end—inadvertent though our efforts might have been. We sing in the car. We make snapdragons talk. We hurl wadded socks at one another. We scream at the TV during tennis matches. And we impersonate Jeff Dunham’s puppet people far too often. All of which, evidently, our brood finds fairly disturbing—especially when friends come to call.
I saw flashes of it a few years ago, when Thing One and Thing Two entered the second grade. It was subtle at first—the rumblings of their discontent barely audible amidst the tumult of motherhood. At the time, their muted protests against the many and varied ways we caused them unspeakable embarrassment seemed trivial and unfounded. So I dismissed them, perhaps wrongly. Over time, however, their grumblings have become progressively louder and more insistent, swiftly sliding into the realm of that-which-is-difficult-to-ignore.
“Mom, stop sticking NOTES inside my lunch box. People will SEE them, you know. We talked about this last year, didn’t we? Oh, and don’t pack any more open-faced, peanut butter and chocolate chip sandwiches. So-and-so gets grossed out whenever I take a bite and then THE WHOLE TABLE looks at my stupid sandwich. It’s entirely horrible.”
That said, I’m starting to empathize with the smallish beings in question—who, for whatever reason of late, have adopted the survivalist mentality of Greg Heffley, the middle-schooler of Diary of a Wimpy Kid fame. Translation: DON’T raise your hand. DON’T use the bathroom. DON’T call attention to yourself in any way, shape or form. And most importantly, DON’T let your mother become the primary source of your embarrassment. Needless to say, there are clearly defined parameters within which I must operate so that I might be viewed as something other than the bane of someone’s existence.
Evidently, the rules apply at the bus stop, too, where (Gasp!) veritable throngs of kids might actually witness the unthinkable: handholding, goodbye kisses, a neatly folded Kleenex being stuffed inside someone’s pocket, a Band-Aid being hurriedly applied (with or without a dab of Neosporin), a sock monkey and/or a certain stuffed armadillo being relinquished—lest they become inadvertent stowaways for the duration of the school day.
Apparently, I’m not allowed to wave anymore either—although I’ve recently appealed that decision and my suggestion of “waving with a little less enthusiasm” is somewhat promising. For that, I suppose I should be thankful, and perhaps more understanding.
After all, I remember being completely mortified as a teenager when my dad would—almost inconceivably—traipse around in his underwear while my date and I sat on the couch in stunned silence. Shortly thereafter, he’d emerge from the kitchen with leftovers in hand and a Cheshire cat smile upon his face. Of course, he’d then amble, unabashed, down the hallway from whence he came while I very seriously considered the merits of dissolving into nothingness. It’s entirely likely I make my daughters feel much the same way, although I have yet to traipse anywhere in my underwear.
I have, however, been known to read books aloud at the aforementioned bus stop, the practice of which has been met with a fair degree of resistance even though it’s an ideal time and place to do so. Okay, it’s been met with unequivocal refusals to listen and ardent demands that I cease and desist. “Mom, we’re not babies anymore. Everyone on the bus will make fun of us if they see that book in your hand because they’ll KNOW you’ve been reading it to us. It’s embarrassing, you know.” Woe is me.
It’s not just any old book either. Otherwise I wouldn’t be so miserable. The book in question happens to be The BFG, a drool-worthy classic by Roald Dahl—a gift from a perfectly wonderful third grade teacher who knew I’d find it practically irresistible as a read aloud. Only it won’t be happening at our bus stop—the place where sulkiness periodically rears its ugly head. Nope. Perish the thought.
But lo and behold, I recently learned that another perfectly wonderful individual at that very same school will soon be reading aloud that very same book to my kids in the library—a place where reading of practically every sort is celebrated. As it should be, methinks. With any luck, Thing One and Thing Two will forget themselves and drink in every delicious syllable.
Planet Mom: It’s where I live (embarrassing my children on a regular basis).
Copyright 2010 Melinda L. Wentzel