Wednesday I was on a school bus filled with sixth-graders. We were headed to the Field Museum in Chicago and I’m pretty sure that at one point every single one of them was shouting the words to Taylor Swift’s hit song, “We are never, ever, ever, getting back together!”
Good times. The only way to survive a moment like that is, really, to sing along. So, I did.
I may have embarrassed my daughter, but it wasn’t the first time. No, I took care of that earlier, before we even left the building. I’d encouraged the girls in the little group I was chaperoning to let me know when they needed a potty break and volunteered, “No worries, I’m always game.”
“Ok that’s enough,” Holly announced, wincing, as she put her hand on my shoulder. Seems I embarrass my kids when I’m not even trying.
I’m not alone, apparently.
The other day a friend confessed to me that she thinks her kids are embarrassed by her. Like mine, her children are at those ages when they’re hyper-aware of others’ potential impressions of them. And that extends to their impressions of their parents, apparently. While I understand and even “get it,” this little fact of life does hurt sometimes. You know, like a dagger in the heart. I think these moments pain us so much because we’re so open to our children in the first place.
Our connections with them can be so strong, for so many years, that when it naturally comes time for our kids to separate a little from us so they can connect more with their peers, those instances when they volunteer even subtle criticisms of us can really sting.
Like the time my daughter confessed that she wished I would stop talking with my hands. And another, when suddenly she decided that my hair needed fixing.
“I embarrass you?” I asked. “But this is my good look,” I quipped, hiding my disappointment that she was apparently beginning to recover from that lovely, childish delusion that her mom is awesome and magical and beautiful.
“You should have seen me when I was pregnant with you,” I said. “Better, yet, when I was in labor. Yeah, that was a really good look.”
No, I’m not proud.
So, maybe I’m flirting with peri-menopause, which can’t be helping matters, but whatever. This whole embarrass- them-without-even-trying thing is getting old.
Take the other day, for example. Noah talked me into swinging through the Taco-Bell drive-thru after school, because, apparently, they were promoting their new Doritos Locos Tacos. They were giving them away, one per customer.
“But since you’re with me we can get two, and I’ll get to eat them both. Ok Mom?” he suggested. Sure thing, kid. I had to laugh at his ingenuity. “But I get a bite. It’s my commission for taking this detour,” I said.
As it turned out, a bite is all I needed. The Dorito shell is this crazy, unnaturally orange color, and, well, that can’t be good for you, can it? But I digress.
After we picked up our tacos I drove past the window and realized that half the high school had the same idea. Dozens of kids sat inside, eating their free tacos.
“Go Mom go!” Noah stammered, so I did.
“Wait, why are we driving so fast?” I finally said, as I negotiated the corners of the Taco-Bell drive-thru at top speed. I felt like I was leaving the scene of a crime. Like a bank robber.
“Because I know them,” Noah hissed as he ducked.
He knows them. So what?
“And we’re in the ‘sticker-mobile.” Ah, yes, the sticker-mobile. I drive an old Subaru. I have a few bumper-stickers. Like, three. Maybe four. My political persuasions are no mystery, as it happens, which I suppose could be dicey for him the week before an election.
But Noah must have survived the drive-thru debacle because two days later it seemed that half of the freshman boys’ soccer team showed up with him at our house. They’d had a half-day of school and had planned to head to one of the boy’s houses for an afternoon of Xbox, pizza and laser-tag, but impulsively decided to stop at our place first to kick the soccer ball around the yard.
I’m not sure who was more startled – me, because the boys needed food and I wasn’t prepared (in fact, I was cleaning out the fridge), or the first kid through the door, because I wasn’t wearing a bra – but I’m glad they showed up. Embarrassing? Maybe.
• Jennifer DuBose lives in Batavia with her husband, Todd, and their two children, Noah and Holly. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.