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Amanda Lamb: Embarrassing moms

Posted August 17, 2014

"You're not old enough to have a child in high school," the lady at Kohl's said to me, stroking my 40-something ego.

I imagined it was my cut-offs, T-shirt and baseball hat that made her think this, or, more likely, she was just being nice. We had been chatting about school starting and she had feigned surprise at my age. The truth is I'm plenty old enough, old enough to have a child in college. But I started late, and so I now have a high schooler and a middle schooler.

You hear it from the very second your children are born: "Enjoy it. It goes so fast!"

But you don't believe until the years are whizzing by like a DVR recording on triple fast forward. One minute you look back and they are in car seats sucking on pacifiers; the next minute they are cross-legged and hunched over their phones enraptured with a text or an Instagram post. While they seem to need you every second as babies, from adolescence into the teen years, you are a nuisance, and quite often an embarrassment.

"Mom, don't wait for me outside school," my sixth grader scolded me this past week after she found me waiting on the sidewalk for her. "Just pick me up in the carpool line like the other mothers. I know where to go. Don't embarrass me!"

I thought back to all the times my mom had embarrassed me right up until the day she died. Being too friendly to waiters, singing too loudly in church, staring at people because she refused to wear her glasses and her vision was awful. I could go on. And now it's my turn to embarrass my girls because that's what parents do, whether we mean to or not.

It was 86 degrees the afternoon I met my daughter on the sidewalk outside her middle school. I was in my running clothes, but I had grabbed a light zip-up sweatshirt from my car knowing she would be embarrassed by me walking around campus in an exercise top. My daughter then zipped it right up to my neck when she saw me, confirming her embarrassment.

"I thought you were a really tall sixth grader from a distance," another mother said to me when we met up on the quad in between the middle and high schools. My daughter looked at me and rolled her eyes, a sixth grader indeed.

"What are you wearing?" my high school daughter said incredulously as we gathered at the ice cream social outside the gym a few minutes later.

"My workout clothes," I responded sheepishly.

Eye roll. They piled their book bags into my arms and ran off with their friends. I loaded everything into the car and waited for them with the windows rolled down, listening to my favorite satellite radio station, "The Coffee House."

"What are you listening to?" my older daughter said with another eye roll as she returned to the car with her carpool buddies and immediately changed the channel to a pop station.

As we drove home, I did the math in my head, trying to remember at what age my mother's foibles became endearing instead of annoying, when I realized putting up with her quirks was a small inconvenience for the unconditional love, support and wisdom I got in return.

I know what everyone says about "it going fast," but by my calculations I've got at least four to five more years of embarrassing to do ...

Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including some on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.


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  • chicnrdu Aug 20, 2014

    Floored by the comments - a cute, honest story turned into a 'mean' mom who is purposefully emberassing her children. Oh and that as a mom we should dress appropriately? So what is appropriate for a mother with a son just starting college? I am young and get mistaken all the time. Should I dress like an old fuddy duddy because someone else thinks it is not appropriate? No, I should dress in what makes me happy and what I am comfortable in. A happy mama means a happy family and a happy home. Kudos to Amanda for knowing what to do with exercise clothes and for understanding that her kids embarrassment is simply a phase and not a need for psychological review.

  • lucasd06 Aug 19, 2014

    View quoted thread

    WOW, Jat.... I think the best advice to you is to get over yourself! Children don't "deserve" anything because they earned it. Parents shouldn't be catering hand and foot to their tweens so that they can keep up an "image." A little embarrassment now and then is a good reality check to let kids know they don't rule the roost! Nothing in this story indicated that Amanda was out to intentionally embarrass her daughters.... it's just a natural by-product of the honest relationship between a parent and child.

    But I guess you know better....

  • JAT Aug 18, 2014

    View quoted thread

    so the embarrassment caused by a child who knew no better deserves purposeful embarrassing by a grown adult? Yeah, that's a real good parenting skill to pass on. And we wonder where kids get their attitudes from?

  • JAT Aug 18, 2014

    was going to say I was surprised by the responses but I suppose I'm really not. What mother would purposely go out of her way to embarrass her child? I would never want to do that - never! Children do not deserve that, and they need to know that if they mention it to their mom (or dad), that their parent will taken them seriously and not use it as an "egging on" opportunity. I guess my mom may have embarrassed me when I was young (I honestly don't remember) but if she did, that is not an excuse to pay it back by embarrassing my child. How harsh can a mom be?

    Amanda's kids want her to look like a mom, not a teen, not a hipster, someone who cares about her appearance. And a lot of the moms who do this at my kid's school, again, do it just to show they live a life of leisure or that they have great legs and the carpool line just isn't the place for that. Obviously, teen insecurities have drifted into the CP line.

  • carrboroyouth Aug 18, 2014

    Yikes, if I talked to my mom like that or did an eye roll... I cannot put into words how much trouble I'd be in. Yes, she embarrassed me on occasion, but if she did, I would politely inform or ask her to change her behavior.

    "Hey, do you mind if I change the radio station? Do you mind if you wait for me outside school?"

    One day, six years after the 6th grade days, mom and I ran into my friend's mother before I left for college. She told us that she couldn't wait for her "horrible" daughter to leave home for school since they fought all the time. My mom and I just looked at each other and silently understood just how awesome our relationship is, was, and will continue to be.

  • Ashley Porter Aug 18, 2014
    user avatar

    All parents are embarrassing and all teens get embarrassed. My kids have learned that when they make a big deal out of their supposed embarrassment that it just eggs me on. ;o) Even if you did everything they wanted-parked just right, dressed just right, listened to their music all the time, they'd STILL find something to be embarrassed about. So it sounds like you have the right idea-just be yourself and eventually they'll learn to love your quirks or at least tolerate them.

  • emaleth Aug 18, 2014

    Howabout this - you don't have to put up with sass from your kids, no matter how old they are! I tell my two that if they can't say something nice, don't say anything at all, or find a nice way to say it. Teaching them to be tactful and polite is a useful world skill!

  • lec02572 Aug 18, 2014

    I considered it payback for the time my children embarrassed my wife and I as they were growing up. I rather enjoyed it especially with my dauther. My daughter has just became mother herself at 26. My how time does fly. I'm sure she will carry on my traditions of embarrassing her children. Have fun with it. I would joke with my daughter about volunteering for the school dances, and driving up to the school at the dance to pick her up. Of course it was a joke (mostly). I never volunteered for the dances and parked an appropriate distance from the door of the school. I would love to go back and do it all again. Guess as a grandfather, I can still do it with my grandchildren. Can't wait.

  • jstewart3 Aug 18, 2014

    WOW people - get a grip! Why must you take such a sweet story and turn it into an opportunity to complain? She was wearing her running clothes because...wait for it...she just might have been exercising. Is there some reason you feel you have a right to determine what any other parent wears, when they wear it, or what is appropriate? Did you miss the part where she put on a jacket (in August no less) to try to NOT embarrass them? Teenagers are embarrassed no matter what their parents do. Fact. This is just a funny/cute story about life with teenagers!

    Kudos to you, Amanda Lamb, for facing this stage of your daughters' lives with humor and love!

  • busyb97 Aug 18, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Wow. Seriously?
    They are teenagers who likely would have been embarassed no matter WHAT she was wearing.

    Amanda, kudos to you. I honestly dont care what other people think, especially other moms. And your girls will live through the "mom, you're embarassing me!" Years. :). They will learn you are there for them. You re their mother, not their best friend right now perhaps, but that will change as they mature.