Let’s face it. When we’re pregnant or waiting for the adoption to come through, we imagine that beautiful, gold-hued bond that we’ll have with our little ones, our angels, those babies we so wanted and already loved beyond measure.
And we do love, and we are bonded. Everything is perfect and amazing…even when they throw up not just on you, but in your mouth. When they poop on your clean clothes 30 seconds before you have to leave for the first meeting you’ve had since their birth. Even when they scream for eight hours and thirty-seven minutes straight, your arms are shaking from holding them for so long, and tears are streaming down your own face at your inability to comfort them. Even then, they are our perfect angels.
And then, they learn to speak.
“You have a bald spot in your eyebrow,” my then three-year-old daughter announced in church one day, not using her inside voice. “Can I rub your bumpy mole?”
“My penis is fat,” a certain male toddler who shall not be identified once told a clerk in the grocery store. “Want to see?”
As they get older, the commentary changes in tenor. It’s not so innocent anymore. “I’m not sure that color looks good on you,” a certain daughter might say. “It’s meant for someone younger. Sorry.”
Or, “If you have to come to the meet, don’t cheer for me, hug me or look at me, okay?”
I think they’ve earned some embarrassment, don’t you? It’s the judgment. How dare they, after throwing up in my mouth? Right? I now gleefully and regularly embarrass my kids. It’s one of the great joys of my life.
One day, we were stopped at a light, and our radio was playing “Boom Boom Pow” by the Black-Eyed Peas. I was singing along. “How do you know these lyrics?” asked Princess Daughter. “This is one of my songs. Also, that man can hear you, so stop singing. Mommy. Stop it. I mean it! Stop!”
I turned to the man and started singing more loudly, thank you very much. “I’m so 3008, you so 2000 and late!” Not only that, I started car-bopping. That’s right. Dancin’ AND singin’, baby! In public!
Another surefire way to mortify the kids is to remind them of their origins. Our daughter came upon her father and me exchanging a fond kiss one day. “Oh, God. Senior citizen snogging,” she blurted. “Run!” She and her brother fled.
“Where do you think you two came from, anyway?” I yelled at their backs. Their screams of horror were my answer.
Each year, I go into the local school and talk to the 8th graders about being a writer. This year, my son is in 8th grade. “You won’t come in this year, will you?” he asked worriedly.
“Oh, I’m so coming in this year,” I said. “And I’m going to talk about writing love scenes unless you clean out that closet right now.” (The closet was immaculate 20 minutes later, I’ll have you know, and kudos for me. I don’t write love scenes, but my son has never read my books.)
In a way, I embarrass my kids because yes, it’s revenge. And because it’s fun. But I also want them to know that being oneself is a gift. No, I’m not a good dancer. But I love to dance, so I’m gonna. I want my daughter to know the joy of not caring what other people think, to be able to enjoy the moment. I acknowledge that 13-year-old boys don’t always relish maternal affection. But I love my son, and I want him to get that message every day. I know in my heart that hugs and kisses are good for the soul, and they mean much more than being cool.
I know the kids secretly love when I cheer for them at a meet, or whistle after their song, or cry when they do something really special. I know they’re happy that their parents love each other. They have a happy family, where it’s okay to tease each other, laugh together and kick back a little. Even if it’s embarrassing.
Kristan Higgins is the mother of two teenagers and a New York Times bestselling author with no sense of rhythm whatsoever. She has been known to dance in the dressing room of many department stores, often makes up the lyrics to songs she doesn’t know and has been seen making out with her husband at the disgusting age of 47. Visit her website at http://www.kristanhiggins.com or swing by her Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/KristanHigginsBooks.