The day I have been waiting for all of my life has finally arrived. No, the kids haven’t moved out, so maybe the second day I’ve been waiting for all of my life has finally arrived.
I have the Mooties—a wordsmith hybrid I made up myself—Mom-Cooties.
My two oldest kids are officially embarrassed by me. In public I mean. When we are behind the closed doors of our home the two leeches still won’t leave me alone (even in the bathroom), but venture out into the world with them and suddenly they were immaculately conceived and have no mother at all.
Under no circumstances am I to straighten their shirt, push their tag into their neckline, or tell them about that nose-booger in visible sight. I should not acknowledge them in any form. I am only to stand, unaffected, with my wallet hanging open, ready to hand them strips of green paper emblazoned with presidential faces. In no way and at no time should our hands or the tips of our fingers touch during these monetary transactions.
This scenario I was ready for. Expected even. And while I knew this moment was coming, I wasn’t quite ready for the way it arrived. I thought my children would be more subtle about it, perhaps they’d be worried about hurting my feelings—they’d give me some loving eyes and covertly squeeze my hand and that would be my signal they needed some space. This method I could have dealt with.
But my children lack emotional tack. My son started the ball rolling this past baseball season. I tried to be a good mother and attend all the games, but I was mediocre and attended almost all the games, and while I was there I cheered for my son and his team. It was the first season his team went to the finals and he accomplished a personal best record for hits, catches, and stops. I was not the mom that brought brownies during the last two games (ugh), but I did show my support for my son and congratulate him on games well played. Good moms are supportive, right?
So imagine my surprise one evening while I’m saying goodnight to him, and he leans over the side of this loft and says to me in the dark, “Mom? Could you please not cheer for me or the team unless other moms are cheering?”
“What?” I asked. “You don’t want me to cheer?”
“Well,” he says, your voice is so loud and there was this time during the game when all I could hear was you and some of the other kids were saying, ‘wow, whose mom is that,’ and I was just wondering if you could cheer only when other people are cheering.” Apparently, good moms are silent bleacher meat-pops.
Part of me was hurt. Part of me was surprised my cheering embarrassed him. Part of me thought, Wait till the next game when I dress in my fluorescent pink spandex and bring my bullhorn. Then you’ll have something to be embarrassed about.
But cheering? Seriously? Is that the worst he has to complain about? I’m way cooler than my parents were. My father used to go to the grocery store wearing shorts and black plastic flip-flops with socks. SOCKS! And he’d very often dance down the aisles if one of his songs (anything from the 60’s or 70’s) started playing over the Musak station. You do not want to see my father dance. He’d also push the cart down the pad and tampon aisle and while looking the other way, say to me, “If you need anything from this isle, just put it in the cart.”
Now those behaviors warrant embarrassment, perhaps even border on humiliation. I do not wear socks with flip-flops (unless I’m getting the mail). I do not dance in the grocery store isles (just in the car while driving). I think my son needs to realize how great he’s got it.
My self-esteem had barely rebounded when I chaperoned a field trip to the zoo with my daughter’s class. Our group hung around two other groups—my daughter’s other friends—and their mothers, whom I know on a friendly level. During lunch, the girls sat at their own table so they could talk and we chaperones sat at our own table so we could get a break. I’m having a good time with these ladies when my daughter walks over and says to me in front of everyone, “Mom, could you please not laugh so loud? I can hear you laughing all the way over at my table. No one else is laughing that loud.”
In those few seconds of stunned silence, I looked around for signs of park rangers or perhaps CPS informants, because I was 10 seconds away from throttling my daughter. The other moms turned their faces away trying not to visibly laugh, not so much at me, but because my daughter had the cojones to school me in front of other adults. But c’mon. I’m laughing too loudly now?
You’d think with the way my children balk at sound emanating from my mouth, that I’m like Fran Fine from The Nanny, squawking and clucking in too-tight clothing in pitches that would shatter glass. Can I get a little animated when I’m talking about something I’m passionate about, like germs, or gardening, or my latest organizational triumph? Sure. This much I admit. I also tend to talk with my hands a fair bit, which people have not-so-nicely pointed out before as well. But my children don’t even want me to cheer or laugh. Should I smile? Nod my head? Talk at all?
I feel a little robbed actually. I was looking forward to the Mootie days, when I too could get a little break from their previously needy nature. When I could (mentally) embrace their autonomy, celebrate their independence, relish in the fact that perhaps this one tiny bit of mothering I’ve done correctly—that I prepared them to become adults and gave them confidence to start heading out on their own without me.
I’ve mentioned before that I do not want them living with me when they are 20.
But the Mooties didn’t manifest the way I thought they would; my children are embarrassed not by my presence, but by my sound. Would they be less upset if I learned sign language? Gave them a buck every time sound came from my throat?
All I can say is, next season I’m signing up to sing the national anthem and volunteering to chaperone every single field trip my daughter attends.
But what about you? When did you know you had the Mooties? What do you do that embarrasses your children? I’d love to hear your stories about how you deal(t) with these growing pains!
Rachel Vidoni is a professional writer and blogger and former classroom teacher. She is a mediocre mother to three pretty neat kids. You can follow her humor and family blog at www.eastcoastmusings.blogspot.com. You might not be a better parent after reading her blog, but you will feel like one.