Embarrassment

When I was a kid my parents embarrassed me, constantly and on purpose. I grew up believing that it was the parents’ right, nay job, to embarrass their offspring. So now that I’m a parent, it’s my job too, right? Well, it turns out I’m still learning that life isn’t fair, because I’m still the one being embarrassed. This time by my offspring – my evil genius Luke.

He’s embarrassed me in so many ways. Opening public bathroom doors when I’m, well, not ready. Talking about indelicate topics in front of other people (“My nipples are small, and so are daddy’s, but mommy’s are big!”) Or, my favorite, throwing an epic tantrum at age 3 because I would not buy him a training bra. That’s right. A training bra.

Here’s the scene: Target, tween girl section. A huge display of training bras in a myriad of attractive pastels. Think: a wall of Easter eggs. But soft and silky, lightly padded (wtf?) and smooth. Luke heaven. He wanted one. Bad.

He walked up to the display wall as if in a trance. Arms outstretched. He touched every bra he could reach. “They’re so soft and pretty. Can I have one, Mommy? Pleeeeaaaaaase??” I hear some snickering from somewhere behind me. “No, Luke, I’m sorry, you can’t have one of those. Those are training bras and they’re for big girls, not 3-year-old boys.”

Fast forward about 8 seconds. Luke is now on the floor screaming and kicking everything in sight. This was not your average tantrum; this one was turned up to eleven. Between the shrieks and sobs he shouted the following things:

“I want a training bra!”

“I am a big girl!”

“I don’t like you, Mommy!”

“Training bra!”

“Training braaaaaaaaa!”

I now have the attention of all Target shoppers. Most think it’s pretty hilarious, and really, I do too. I certainly would have enjoyed myself if this were someone else’s kid. But he was mine and I was expected to take him back home with me.

It’s OK though. I have a plan. I will win this one in the end. With just a little patience, I will have the last laugh. See, I’m storing this memory for future use. It’s a weapon. My embarrassment at the time will be nothing compared to his when I feel the time is right to retell this story. To a group of his friends? To his girlfriend? His future in-laws? All the guests at his wedding? Time will tell when it will come back out. It all depends on how well Luke treats me from here on out.

At last! I will have the last laugh! Revenge will be mine! Bwahahahahahahahahaha!

 

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When Photos Lie

A blustery and cold November Sunday stretches before us. My mental to-do list includes things like: stay in pajamas, drink tea, watch a movie, maybe clean up the playroom. My husband decides we need to go fly kites. I can’t muster enthusiasm for the idea, but it is happening, so I just keep my mouth shut and dress in layers.

We head out. The wind buffets our car on the drive to the playground. “We’re the only ones here!” the kids exclaim as we park. “Of course we are,” I can’t help but say.

As I take photos of my family, the disconnect between reality and the images is readily apparent. The images paint a picture of an ideal family outing, of happy children enjoying a windy day in maybe the most classically sweet way. Father Son Fly Kite

We look like a catalogue family.Family Outing Kite Flying

I see a potential Facebook spread, the kind my newsfeed is full of. And it’s tempting. If I upload them right away, my friends would know that while they’ve hunkered down in their houses, I have been out in the weather, with my intrepid family doing fun, active, wholesome stuff.

Paired with just the right status update – maybe “Perfect day to fly a kite!” – my photos would imply that I am winning, that I am the better mom, and that I have the better family. People would see my husband and children, faces flushed and smiling, while their own husband naps and their own children bicker or complain of boredom. Comparisons would be made, and my family would win.Girl Flying Kite

When we post our selective moments of familial happiness and togetherness we send a message: This is our life. We are happy, active, and spend time together as a family. We vacation and go to pumpkin patches; we have ice cream cones and visit the aquarium; we spend windy Autumn days flying kites.

Boy Flying Kite

No one’s life is just pumpkin patches and happy outings, but there’s no mention of the mediocrity- the exasperated expression we give our spouse when we’re stressed and tired and he forgot to do the one thing we asked of him, the countless children’s fights broken up, complaints whined, the orders shouted. We don’t post status updates about our kids’ failures or struggles, only trophies and achievements. We don’t post about the times we don’t get to the gym, don’t prepare a Pinterest-worthy dinner, don’t feel up for a family outing.

We fail to mention that we snapped at the kids in the pumpkin patch because all we wanted was one good picture and that shouldn’t be too much to ask for; that we spent most of the time at the aquarium in a desperate search for a bathroom, first for one kid and then the other because she didn’t think she had to go when we were just in there; or that shortly before we went out for ice cream cones our kids asked if we are getting divorced because they overheard us arguing.

I’m not suggesting that we all must either stop posting happy photos or start posting about some of our lesser moments. Of course we want to share the cute apple picking shots and our trip to Disney. But, as we rely more and more on platforms like Facebook to maintain our friendships, and less and less on phone calls and actual get-togethers, we are only seeing a narrow view of our friends’ lives. Without ever seeing the full picture, soon we wonder: everyone else is so happy all the time, why aren’t I? What am I doing wrong?

Posting my photos to Facebook with a caption like “Perfect day to fly a kite!” would be lying. Not only was it definitely not a perfect day to fly a kite, but the pictures do not capture anything like the real story.

The truth: It was too windy for the kids’ crappy kites. In fact, 3 kites broke. The kids were easily frustrated and too cold for patience. Since I never wanted to go in the first place, I just hung back with my camera (and bad attitude) and let my husband deal with all the kite/kid problems. With the exception of about 5 minutes of one kite’s success, kite flying was a complete bust.Monkey Bars Playground ClimbingSo we moved onto the playground. In this photo, it looks like Sally is happily climbing, but she was already starting to cry and I had to “rescue” her off of the climbing structure moments after taking it. As I selfishly trained my camera on her, determined to capture a moment that simply didn’t exist, she began shrieking that her hands hurt, and refused to move from that spot.

The constant, whipping wind made my ears ache so I hid in the relative shelter behind a climbing wall, completely checked out from my family outing, until I eventually decided to sit in the warm car instead. My husband and the kids did have some genuine fun as he ran around chasing them for a while. When it was time to go Luke threw a fit and told us that he hates us. Perfect ending.

Oh well, we at least tried, right? Certain that we had killed a large portion of the freezing, miserable day, we weren’t at all happy to see that it was only 10:45 AM as we drove home from the park. So.much.more.day.ahead.of.us.

I did post my pictures to Facebook, but not with the implied message of superiority. I described the actual outing. And I’m posting it here. Just doing my part to let you know that it’s not all sunshine and rainbows or beaches and birthdays in anyone’s household. And if you ever get that nagging feeling that it is, and that you’re somehow missing out, call your friend instead of checking in online. Over the phone you’ll hear her tired voice, her toddler screaming, and her story about how her husband is on yet another business trip leaving her to deal with the homefront alone.

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but no one said anything about those words being true.



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Mommy Dating

This is an updated version of a post originally published in May 2010.

We moved to a new town the spring my son was 15-months-old. So began my adventures in mommy-dating. I hated mommy-dating, but without a job to go to I had no other way of meeting new people. If you’ve never had to mommy-date, consider yourself lucky.

Mommy-dating is just like real-dating, except the scene unfolds at the playground, (or supermarket, library, museum, etc,) instead of a bar. I paid a little more attention to my appearance, and Luke’s, making sure we were both at least mostly clean. Ever on the hunt, I’d scan my surroundings for “attractive” moms.

What makes a potential mom-friend attractive? First, her kid’s age – no matter how cool a mom of a 6-month-old seems, there’s no way she wants to hang out with my wild toddler. Next, she needs to look kind of like me (effort-wise) – I’m not going to be bffs with a fancy mom. Finally, the hover test – if she lets her child roam more than two steps away from her, game on. So, with my sights set on new mom friends, I hit the “singles” scene.

Just like real-dating, I had to put myself out there: I made eye contact; I was approachable; I was friendly; I visited the same places again and again, so I could see the same moms again and again; I made idle conversation with everyone; I introduced myself; I asked for phone numbers. All of this was entirely against my inherently unfriendly nature and I found it exhausting. Worst part: I had an unreliable wing-man. Luke could be completely disarming, or he could throw sand in your kid’s eyes. I never knew which Luke I’d get until it was too late.

In many ways, I think real-dating is less awkward than mommy-dating. With real-dating, the whole pick-up process is expected and normal. Between moms at the playground it’s odd. It’s weird to go from chatting idly about the kids in the sandbox to, “Sooo, maybe I can get your number and we can do this again sometime…?” Truly awful. I’d come home from the park depressed because I hadn’t plucked up the courage to get cool mom’s number, and she hadn’t ask for mine. I’d go weeks hoping to run into her again.

That first summer I was able to set up a number of second dates. You know, a time to see if there is any real chemistry. I was unsure how to navigate these second dates, and several of them were pretty uncomfortable. At what point in a potential new relationship do you show your real self, not the charming version who picked-up this mom? How do you release your real personality? All at once? Or slowly, over time?



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I decided to ease it out. I quickly found that these new moms fell into one of two camps: those who thought I was funny, and those who thought I was horrible.

Through this process of dating and personality slow release, I was able to build a new circle of friends. My mom friends. And then I moved. Now with two kids, aged 7 and 4, I find myself in the lonely trenches as a “single mom” once again. Dating as an older mom is completely different from back when I had just one toddler in tow.

Gone are days filled with library story times and baby swings. Instead, my potential mom friends and I have busy schedules filled with school commitments, sports, and homework. The kids of my potential friends have friends of their own, whose moms I imagine always hanging out together. Before, I worried that a new friend’s child matched mine developmentally, so she wouldn’t be shocked by my kid’s 2-ishness. But now the kids have to actually connect and like one another. I have to date the entire family!

It’s a slow process, made slower by the fact that I’m not nearly as desperate as I was a few years ago as a lonely mom of a toddler. I don’t cruise the pick-up scene like I used to. I wouldn’t even know where to find it. But, if I meet you and like you, and your kids are of approximate age and sex as my kids, and our kids show any interest in playing together, you’d better believe that I’ll be asking for your digits and that I’ll be overly excited next time I run into you at Target!

Mommy Dating