I just got done reading 16 Ways to Embarrass Your Kid on the First Day of School on the very popular mama blog The Stir. I read it for my children, thinking I could learn something to make their days go more smoothly. I was disappointed that it was just a random, exaggerated, humorous blog about things few mothers would ever do.
So, let’s talk about things you might actually do.
First off, I am a Highly Sensitive Person. Let’s start with that. It is really easy for me to read people, including my children. I look intuitively at their body language and facial expressions. Subtle changes indicate to me a variety of things. The simple fact is, if your child is a sweetheart, he might not want to hurt your feelings and tell you that you’ve embarrassed him… but that doesn’t mean you didn’t.
When I’ve talked to other moms about being sensitive to my children’s emotions, I’ve been told I’m being too delicate with them. I’ve been told that kids just have to deal with their moms embarrassing them, it’s a part of life.
But my son happens to be a Highly Sensitive Person too, so an embarrassing moment may snowball into a horrible day. I simply want my son to have as happy of a life as he can.
No, not everyone is going to be as delicate as I am to my ten year old. But this rationale that he should learn insensitivity from me (his very own mother) is ludicrous to me. I breastfed and co-slept with him so that he could learn to trust me, so that he could go courageously out into the world, securely attached to me… knowing when he stumbles, I will be there for him.
So, without further ado, here are 16 REALISTIC ways to Embarrass Your Kid
on the First Day of at School:
1.) Dress provocatively. Look, our children’s schools are not a single’s club. Sure, there may be some sexy, single dads there, and a mini-skirt and a low cut halter might catch his eye for a second, but our children’s schools aren’t about us. They’re about our children. They may not say speak up, but if their friends can see large amounts of cleavage (and I’m not talking about when your infant is pulling at your shirt.) you’re not being sensitive to your child’s feelings.
2.) Similarly, you could… Dress weird. I’m not being mean. I have been called a freak more times than I can count, but not at my kid’s school. So, if you’ve got tons of rather scary tattoos, toss a lightweight shirt on. If you like to wear spiked bracelets all up your arms, cover those up to or take them off for the twenty minutes that you will be reflecting on your child’s reputation. I think a little self expression at school functions is acceptable, but if your expression is such that all eyes are on you. That might embarrass your child. Oh, I know, I know… everyone should express themselves, we shouldn’t hide who we are, bla bla bla. Do you want your child to be comfortable being seen with you or not? I’m not asking you to be Lil’Miss Square, but when you are on your child’s territory, I think it would be more sensitive of you to let the “expressing” come from your child. (And I can say that because I’m a hippie freak and my husband is a tattoo artist. Though for some reason, HE is cool… but my regular clothes are embarrassing. Hehe.)
3.) Smoke a cigarette as you’re driving up to pick him up. See, even if you’ve put the cigarette out, it makes no difference. If his friends even see you smoking, it might embarrass him. I know it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but I’ve seen children walk two steps ahead of their moms only after she lit up a cigarette, and I can guarantee that it wasn’t second hand smoke they were worried about.
4.) Kiss them goodbye… even in the car. Your car has windows, and his friends can see. I went through this with my son. Every month or so in his growing up, I’d say casually, “Do I get a good bye kiss when I drop you off or should I get one now?” One day, in about second grade, I was informed that I’d have to get my good bye kiss and hug at home, before we left for school. Check in with your child to see how they feel. And if they are secure enough in your relationship to tell you the truth, respect that and don’t start tearing up. (Exhibit A is a photo of my son saying good bye to me in the car before we got to the school.)
5.) Cry. The other blog touched on this, but I’m going to take it a step down even. Your kids can read you and usually assume everyone else can too. If you’re upset at school, suck it up. If you are in their school, keep your eyes dry. That includes recitals, first days, last days, and everything in between. I am a Highly Sensitive Person… if I can hold the tears back, anyone can.
6.) Call them by a pet name. Just because the teachers can get away with calling your child “Sweetie Pie” in front of his friends doesn’t mean you can. Just trust me on this one. I learned it the hard way.
7.) Be too excited to see them. Almost any kind of excitement after say the third grade seems to be pretty much too much. About the time they start calling their friends dude (if they’re boys) is about the same time you need to start greeting them rather calmly. Substitute, “Hi, honey! How was your day?!” with, “Hey, what’s up? Ready to go?”
8.) Touch them. Again, just because you’re child’s teacher can give him a hug or pat his back doesn’t mean you can. About the time little girls start hugging each other good bye everyday is the time when you don’t get to hug them hello.
9.) Hold their hand in the parking lot. This one’s a tough one, because you’re thinking, “Well, that’s a safety issue.” I’ve found ways around this. Starting around second or third grade, holding your child’s hand even in the parking lot at school can be horribly embarrassing. I’ve adapted it so that for safety I either specify exactly how close he needs to stay to me or I hold his back pack or I tell him to grab my purse. Meanwhile, I pretend to look uninterested in him. He says he likes it better this way.
10.) Well… there is no 10. That’s all I’ve got for now, which is why I wanted to read that other blog in the first place. Maybe you can help. What subtle things do you do to avoid embarrassing your children in school? Did you learn the hard way or did you just anticipate it using your awesome mothering perception?
Being a sensitive, supportive mother to an older young child means a lot of strength, self discipline and sacrifice, but it wasn’t that long ago that we were their age. And it is doable. A mother can do just about anything for a half hour for her child. It was crushing today when I went to pick my son up from school today, he informed me that he thought he was riding the bus, I asked him if he wanted to ride the bus instead, and he said yes. At first, I was bummed. But then I remembered this poem…
by Kahlil Gibran
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.
… and so then I said very nonchalantly, “OK, meet you at home then. I’ll beat you back.”
And then he proceeded to get on the wrong bus.
Two hours later, when he was finally dropped off, we both laughed. I asked him if he was scared. He said, “No, not at all. I knew you’d figure it out.”