Recently there was a gaggle of girls at my house. As it often happens, a dance-off ensued. Never one to shy away from getting my groove on, I jumped in with my signature move: The Running Man. Of course, I have my own take on it, but I think I killed it.
My nine-year old didn’t agree so much. In fact, her exact words were: “Oh my Gosh Mom, you are embarrassing me!”
This was a crushing blow. These words have never come out of my children’s mouths. I almost turned to go back to unloading the dishwasher, but about 45 second later I did what I had to do: a little MC Hammer “u can’t touch this” shuffle and even some moves I learned from one Vanilla Ice. I am one bad mutha on the dance floor. Luckily there was no more “embarrassment” comments, and I even got a few cheers. I ended on a high note.
Later that day I talked to a few other moms about how I finally got the embarrassing comment, and we lamented about how we were entering that difficult time with our girls. Surprisingly, one mom said that she did scale back on how she interacted with her teenage daughters. Her goal was to be more aloof and cool so her girls would talk to her more, since she had always thought her own parents were ‘lame’.
All I could think of the entire time she was speaking was did this mom not learn anything from watching the movie Mean Girls? Didn’t she see how ridiculous Amy Poehler played the “cool mom”, and subsequently how the girls disrespected her (because of course, Mean Girls is just like real life in my head.)
But in all honesty, when did we get so scared of our kids and what they think of us (I address this a bit in my article Does Your Kid Bully You?) And why do we care?
I think growing up with parents that embarrass the heck out of you truly makes you a stronger person. My dad was a lunatic. He would blast show tunes while I was hanging out with my friends in the pool growing up. He would do the moves to cheers when I was on the sidelines in high school. When I brought my very Italian boyfriend home in college, he asked if he could kiss his ring and call him “Godfather.”
It was mortifying. And hilarious.
I also was embarrassed at times by the rules my parents enforced. Curfews earlier than my friends, calling to make sure I was where I said I was, staying up until I walked through the door…how did I endure this behavior????
But even with all that embarrassment, I learned early on that people loved my parents. My dad was the entertainment and my mom would always feed them. Sure, there were times I wish they would dial it back a bit, but it taught me early on that anyone worth having as a friend thought my parents were cool, even when they embarrassed me. I still do.
And when I look at my friend-set, we’ve all shared the embarrassing parental unit stories. One of my besties told me about how her parents and her neighbors used to ride behind her school bus on mopeds. All the way to school. How awesome is that?
Or another friend talked about her parents who were overly affectionate to each other. Not in a gross inappropriate way like they needed to go to their bedroom, but in a way that I now realize is endearing. It used to drive her nuts, but now we admire it.
Now, I am not saying that I will purposely do things to embarrass my kids. I won’t show up to their school wearing my bunny slippers or chaperone a school dance wearing my old prom dress (well, probably not), but I’m not going to change who I am — or what I believe in — just to ensure they are not embarrassed.
Because where does it end? There is a limitless list of things kids can be embarrassed about: not arriving to school in the right car, not having the right shoes, mothers who don’t wear make up, too curly hair, having to wear glasses, a dad who dresses funny, and yes, even a mom who does the running man extremely well.
And I know that sometimes they will get embarrassed by what I don’t let them do: like wear make up just because the other girls are or go to a party where I know there is no supervision. Because I only get one shot with my kids, and I plan on making the most of it.
I remember growing up in elementary school and a friend telling me how embarrassing it was because her mom wouldn’t let her eat any processed foods while the rest of us stuffed our faces with twinkies and ho ho’s. That mom didn’t care that her kid was embarrassed….she was true to herself and her beliefs. And look at how smart she looks now.
I often think about that mom when I try to explain to my own kids why I don’t want them to drink soda or eat Lunchables. I’m sure they are a little embarrassed by my rules, but I hope one day they’ll get it.
It is a delicate balance when raising older children. I’m pretty sure that at some point in the near future just the mere fact that I exist will embarrass them. But I’ve already lived through those painful teenage years of trying to fit in, and I just don’t feel like doing it again as a parent. Being “cool” was never my forte, but I was always stellar at having a good time, and I like to think being kind is my version of “cool.”
My job as a parent is more about showing my kids how to enjoy life and be a responsible, productive member of society than being their friend. And if they learn a few super-cool dance moves along the way, then that’s just a bonus.
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