Part One helped us to understand ourselves as women, and a valid excuse for all the crazy things we do (LADIES’ DAYS: Making Those Embarrassing Moments Work For Us). Part two takes us outside of the personal sphere where we inadvertently embarrass our children. We find out that there is good news and there is bad news…
Embarrassing stories can be turned into moments that become memories to look back on, laugh at, and remember fondly together.
But not for a long, long, long, long time.
Early in my writing career, I wrote a story on the philosophy of comparing child rearing to a card game called, RAISING KIDS: WORTH THE GAMBLE (knowing when to hold, when to fold, when to walk away and when to run).
But let’s get real…while that is a great philosophy, I feel the need to add another one. Life doesn’t always turn out the way you plan it since “stuff” happens. The worst of these are embarrassing moments. There’s this law of nature in there somewhere for we mothers to embarrass our children whether we mean to or not. It kind of evens things out, seeing as the kids do it to us on purpose. So, it must happen occasionally to teach them composure, empathy, and how to cope. It also doesn’t hurt to remind them that turnabout is fair play – so tread carefully.
All I know is that if they can play to win, so can we. And I did, especially during the teen years. But that’s another chapter. Most kids aren’t embarrassed by us until they are teens. But not my kid. Kelly started being embarrassed by her mother at the ripe old age of six.
How Do I Embarrass Thee? Let Me Count The Ways _Kelly age 6
My youngest daughter, Kelly, is the literal child.
This is the child that when I said, “Watch your mouth!” pulled her bottom lip out and looked at it with crossed eyes.
I didn’t have to do anything TO her for her to be embarrassed BY me. On days I ate lunch with her at school, she pleaded with me at the door, “Please don’t embarrass me”.
And of course I replied, “Why would you even think that?”
Six year old Kelly looked at me, closed her eyes and paused for a minute as if to wish she could drop into a deep hole. After the dirty stare, I followed ten paces behind her as I had been instructed. Once we sat down to the table, waiting for her friends to join us, she began with a heavy sigh as she prepared to give me a “list” of things I was not allowed to do. She began…
- Don’t talk while you eat.
- Use your fork.
- I’ll introduce you, so you don’t have to talk and ask my friends silly questions.
- Are you really wearing that? Sigh.
- Don’t pick at your food or your teeth, and if you have to say anything, don’t say it loud.
“May I nod?” I suggested. “Can I buy a vowel?”
It’s hard to have a good time as a frozen statue, nodding at little people, but we did manage a lunch date at school. Needless to say, I minded my manners, and spoke in a low tone so as not to embarrass her. I didn’t pick my teeth nor did I blow my nose (yeah, she forgot one). I behaved, and she even thanked me for coming and suggested we do it again. What?! Oh sure, I’d love to come if I don’t have laundry to do. Geez!
My older daughter Morgan was the exact opposite. She introduced me to her friends, encouraging me to talk to them, asked if I enjoyed my food and said that she couldn’t wait until I came for another school lunch visit!
“This is MY mother!” she exclaimed proudly and enthusiastically to her friends.
Personally, looking back some twenty odd years later, after raising my own kids, I have this philosophy that what goes around really does come back around. The day truly comes when we will inadvertently embarrass our children and even the score. The unfortunate part of that is that innocent children get caught in the middle. Morgan really didn’t deserve this, but I was sure it was forever etched on Kelly’s mind.
I will never forget the day that I drove through the car rider line to pick up my children from school with…trash bags on top of my car.
Seems I was nine months pregnant with my son, and since pregnant ladies have to be careful lifting and carrying heavy loads, I would put the bags on top of my car and drive it up the long driveway, then place the bags at the end of the driveway (back then, we didn’t have large cans or curbs).
After the pregnant nap, I woke up to find it time to pick up the kids. It also happened to be sanitation day (which I had forgotten). So, I hoisted a couple of small bags up there, and by the time I got to the top of the driveway, with the kids on my mind, totally forgot about it and zoomed on down the road to pick them up from school.
Pregnant hormones – that’s what they do.
Needless to say, it was memorable. That’s all it was. Memorable. Well, shocking and memorable.
To this day, my oldest daughter Morgan, who is now thirty seven years old reminds me of that day when I mention picking up children from school. When I visited my friend Edie after not seeing her for about ten years, her daughter Wendy (Morgan’s childhood friend) who was visiting her mom, reminded me of it too after she finished laughing hysterically. Every time she sees me, she laughs before she talks.
After I wrote this, I called my daughter Kelly to ask her if that incident had indeed embarrassed her. She said,
“I only vaguely remember that.
Mother, I think I must have blocked all those memories out of my mind.”
Well, imagine that. There ain’t no karma after all. But at least my grown kids are still entertained after all these years, and still trying to research how those trash bags defied gravity to do it.
At the Movies _ Morgan age 16
Before there were cell phones and social media, my kids had pagers. During the teen years, if they were out and I called to check on them, they had to find a pay phone to call home. My daughter Morgan, the compliant child who didn’t deserve any embarrassing payback from her mother, found herself innocently stepping in it one night at the movie theater.
She was out with friends at the newly built, brand spanking new 18 movie cinema. It was the most popular thing around and so were the automatic, motion sensor toilets and sinks. She excused herself to the bathroom, and upon standing up, noticed that it didn’t do anything automatic. So, she reached over and moved her hand back and forth over the sensor, excited to see this new phenomenon. Finally, it flushed, just as her pager fell into the toilet and got stuck.
Years later, she was talking with a friend and reminiscing about the dating days, and the story came up. Her friend said,
“So, you’re the one that got the bathrooms shut down at the movies!”
Yup. Poor, unfortunate Morgan. She is her mother’s child.
Whatcha Gonna Do When They Come For You? _Morgan age 16, Jacob age 10
Sometimes the kids got into trouble together (accidentally, of course). Morgan had just gotten her first car and was anxious to drive every chance she got. Her brother was at baseball practice and she volunteered to pick him up. It was dusk, and with her driving experiences limited, and upon retrospect, it probably wasn’t a wise idea to let her do it. But, as mothers of teens do, we give in because of their excitement to do something new, and she was trustworthy.
An hour and a half went by and they still weren’t home. Frantic I called everywhere she might have stopped by. Finally, I became hysterical, got in the car to go over the road that she would have to travel to get there and back.
When I got to the road that was closest to the field, I saw blue lights up ahead. Panic overtook me as I feared an accident. I arrived in time to see that the car was indeed hers, just as the two patrol cars were pulling away.
Here’s the story:
It was still daylight when she got there, but the sun was beginning to go down. Apparently, talking to her brother and driving at the same time, preoccupied, she turned right when she should have turned left. They traveled for close to forty five minutes before she realized they were going in the wrong direction. She turned around and headed back towards the field. The lights on the road were bright and she was behind a big truck with lights all over it. Unfortunately, the lights were so bright on the truck that she didn’t realize hers weren’t on.
That’s when she saw the patrol lights behind her. According to Morgan, the only thing she could think to do was what she had seen on T.V.
Show her hands.
So, she leans out the window with both hands in the air. When the Officer arrived at the window, her brother thought he’d help things along so they could get home faster. He said,
“Don’t worry Officer. She hasn’t been drinking.”
I’m thinking that’s when the SECOND patrol car was called. Obviously, her story was too crazy not to be true, so they let her go.
Needless to say, I was so glad to see them, that I simply thanked God and hugged them.
I also changed the T.V. line-up. No more cop dramas in our house.
A Very Red-Yellow-Blue-Green And Purple Hair Day _Jacob age 13
My son, Jacob, was strong-willed like his sister Kelly, and provided many good stories to add to our humor repertoire, especially since he’s a parent now ( ESPECIALLY, since he’s a parent now).
Jacob was in the eighth grade, big pants were in style and so was gel-spiked hair. But Jacob was the child that wasn’t content with the status quo in styles. He always had to take it a step higher. He and his friend across the street decided to color their hair with Kool-Aid. And not just one color, but a different color for each spike. As long as it wasn’t against school dress code, I didn’t care. Kool-aid would wash out. Or, so I thought.
Six O’clock rolled around and I called the friend’s house to let Jake know it was time to come home.
“Sure. Give me five minutes.”
Five minutes passed, then ten. I called again; and again, the same answer. The third time, I was really ticked and told him that if he didn’t get home NOW, that I was going to embarrass him by coming and getting him personally. He knew what that meant, so, headed home…right about time for the rain. Just as in the days of Noah, it rained, and rained and rained, and rained and rained. All the way home.
By the time he got home, apparently the Kool-aid had not had time to dry on his hair, because his whole face was the color of the rainbow or fruit striped gum, depending on which angle you looked at him.
The next day, he refused to go to school, but I made him. I worked at his school so I was his ride. He was so mad at me that he got on the bus instead. When I got to school, I felt the need to let his AP know what was going on so he wouldn’t get sent to her office to explain himself. She was one of those folks with a good sense of humor. To this day, I have no idea what she said to him when he got off the bus.
I’d like to say that from then on, he came home when I called but he didn’t. It wasn’t a matter of learning the hard way, but of learning to find a way to cope with his setbacks. His coping mechanisms being similar to mine, I found out later that he discovered a way to make his hair and face problem “cool”, causing his friends to hang out with him because he could make them laugh.
And, now, thinking back, it made a good story for my book, and a story to tell over and over to his daughter.
And I promise you, I have a lot more where these came from. There’s a saying going around: I smile because I’m your mother, I laugh because there’s nothing you can do about it. Sure there is. Carry on the tradition with the next generation.