"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.