by Dee Ernst
A friend of mine has a bumper sticker that reads ‘Embarrassing my children is a full-time job.’
Ain’t it the truth.
We don’t mean to do it. At least, I don’t. But it seems that the very act of parenting requires us to say something or do something that completely humiliates our children. The kiss good-bye. Buttoning the coat when it’s 15 degrees. Going up to the front door instead of texting, ‘I’m here’.
And then there are the endless questions that, when our child is alone, are harmless, but when asked in front of another human being, bring the world crashing down – Where are you going? When will you be home? Are the parents going to be there? Are you really wearing that?
Now, in the age of Facebook, there are even more opportunities. How many of us have been tempted to post that adorable baby picture, you know, the one naked in the sprinkler? The only thing holding us back is the inevitable aftermath. What killjoys these kids can be.
My oldest daughter, Ashley, recently turned thirty. You cannot believe how hard it is for me to say that. When she was fifteen, I did something that completely swept away all previous moments of embarrassment. This outshone every bad haircut, the uncool sneakers, even the pink sweater with the kitten face on it. I got pregnant. I didn’t do it on purpose. Really. But apparently, this was big deal. None of her friends had forty-year-old pregnant mothers. Poor kid. Not only did she have to face the raised eyebrows of her peers, but she had to endure the endless stream of joy and happiness – not to mention TWO baby showers – that required a fixed smile on her face and her participation in 1,276 conversations about baby names.
And then I added insult to injury by actually giving birth. For months she refused to go anywhere with her little sister Carrie because, as she explained several times, “People will think she’s MINE”.
I’d like to think that the years have softened her memory of that time. It was stressful for all of us, for several reasons. True, she lives on the opposite side of the country. And she has changed her name. But we still talk all the time, and a few times she has mentioned that she thought I was a pretty good mother, so I’m good with it.
But now, I have another fifteen-year-old to deal with. She has lots of friends, all lovely happy young women, who, I think, like me, but when they visit they remain sequestered in her bedroom, only emerging to feed, and she hurries them out before I can talk to any of them. I’m not sure what she’s afraid I’ll say, but the message is pretty clear. So, I try to play by the rules. I let her listen to her music even though I’m driving and it’s my car, I don’t question her within fifty feet of another human being, and only text when necessary. But I just did something that may give Carrie an edge over her sister in the “She did WHAT?” department.
Last week, driving Carrie and her friends home from drama class (how redundant is THAT?), her friend said that she followed my blog and couldn’t wait to read my next book. I said, very calmly, that my next book was not appropriate, and that she probably shouldn’t read it. Carrie’s mouth dropped open. She executed the rarely seen double-face-palm. Here’s what happened next –
She: Oh, my God! What did you do?
Me: I wrote a book for grown-ups.
She: But my friends are all going to want to read it.
Me: Tell them not to.
She: Sabeen said she felt funny about your first book, and there was only kissing.
Me: Tell her not to read it.
She: Did you really write an X-Rated book?”
Me: No. Only R-Rated.
She: Can’t you publish it under another name?
Now I ask you – did I do this to publically embarrass my beloved daughter, not only in front of all her friends, but on what could possibly be an international stage? Of course not. I published this book because I had written it a few years ago and thought that I should at least give it a chance in the self-pubbed world. I love the characters, the story – yes, there’s sex in it, but (seriously ) only to move the story forward. And because my friend Jean, while I was writing it, kept saying “You need a little more”.
I’m sure that the two teen-aged sons of E L James, now that her face and real name have been splashed all over creation because of her best-selling series of erotica known as “Fifty Shades”, are taking some ribbing from their mates about their mothers’ book. I don’t feel sorry for them. I’m sure as soon as Mum buys them twin B.M.W.’s with that boatload of money she’s made, they’ll be just fine.
So – a major shopping spree with Carrie may be the only thing that saves me from a place in Bad-Mother-Hell. I’m really hoping for the best.