Apparently, my very presence embarrasses my 6-year-old son, Tall. I drove my younger son to preschool today (no bus, as we were running errands and simultaneously running out of time). By some inexplicable miracle of clocks and physics and the precise alignment of multiple moons of Jupiter, we arrived on time. Early, even.
Short and I pulled into the parking lot, which is adjacent to the playground shared by the preschool and the elementary school. As we got out of the car, I casually scanned the faces of the playground kids to see if I recognized anyone. I was somewhat surprised to notice Tall running around (as the reigning Queen-Of-Clueless-Parents, I have no idea what time my kids go to recess nor art nor lunch nor library nor anything else). Short and I did a quick detour and approached the gate. “Tall!” I waved at him enthusiastically, “Tall! Hi! How are you!”
One of Tall’s (soon-to-be-“former”) friends tapped him on the shoulder and pointed out the Nuisance that was mom and little brother. Tall finally glanced in our direction and immediately gave a look that can only be described as the look you would give if a garbage truck dumped a full load of smelly trash all over your front lawn, during a monsoon. The look was: disgust, mixed with inconvenience and dismay. But mostly disgust.
Tall sauntered over, laced his fingers through the chain-link fence and whispered (lest anyone hear us) through gritted teeth (lest anyone attempt to lip-read), “Do not embarrass me again, Mom. I am playing soccer with my friends.” Emphasis on friends, equivalent to I-can’t-talk-on-the-phone-with-you-now-because-my-boss-is-standing-right-here.
Wait, the friends were the boss now? I thought I was the boss. Since when had I been demoted?
And what’s with the “again”? How many times had I embarrassed him this week? Or were we just talking about today?
“Oh,” I stammered, with no hope of a better response springing to mind, “Uh, we, uh, we just wanted to say hi.”
I took Short’s hand (after enduring a lifetime of Tall’s withering attitude, he was somehow immune to his condescension). I started to think about my appearance. Was my shabby outfit the culprit for the “embarrassing” comment? I was wearing a mostly clean purple t-shirt, unwrinkled khaki pants (not too tight), and my new denim jacket with silver snaps. Huh. As far as I knew, that was acceptable. And for once, I had actually washed my hair, brushed it, and accessorized with a chic black barrette—no baseball cap here! Lipstick was even involved. The overall indisputable verdict: I looked fine, possibly even semi-attractive.
Later that day when Tall came home from school, I asked him what was going on. I decided to forgo the accusatory tone that I have perfected so well in the past six years. “Tall?” I began calmly, “Why didn’t you want us to say hi to you today? Why would that be embarrassing?”
“Huh? What are you talking about?” he said, distracted, as he threw his red fleece jacket and StarWars backpack in a heap.
“At the playground. When Short and I said hi.”
“Wait…. so you just wanted to say hi? That's it? You weren’t going to come on the playground and actually try to play with me?”
Why would he have that bizarre notion? Since when did I show up at school unannounced and join him for an impromptu game of tag on the playground? and certainly not ever in my new denim jacket that I did not want to get sand all over!
“No, Tall, we were not going to come in the gate….. I don’t think people are allowed to come in that way anyway without signing in at the office. We just wanted to say hi to you.”
“Oh,” he murmured, “I didn’t know that. Huh. I guess that would’ve been okay, you know, if you didn’t try to give me a hug or make a joke or meet all my friends or take a picture of us or anything……….” his voice trailed off as he considered all the other Potential Ways Mom Could Cause Embarrassment. “Saying hi is all right,” he finally determined after lengthy consideration, “just don’t do it again.”
(“Mores Of Vastness”)