Monday, April 25, 2011

Such an embarrassment!

I have officially crossed over. I am no longer the Great and Powerful Oz, benevolent, omniscient ruler of my universe. I've become the bumbling, stumbling humbug behind the curtain. I am now, such an embarrassment.

I'm not sure exactly when Earbaby deemed me as too embarrassing for words, but luckily  I am joined in this sad estate by my husband and my sister friends, fellow moms who have 12-year-old daughters. Our very existence is cause for our children to squirm with humiliation.

My feelings should be hurt by this, and admittedly sometimes they are, a little. Sometimes though, I just get exasperated.

Two recent events come to mind. One of my duties as a parent at my daughter's school is volunteer work. Note I said duties, not joy, not vocation. Because it's a small Catholic school that seeks to keep costs down, in addition to mandatory fundraising throughout the school year, there is mandatory parental participation. If you're a handyman or woman, there is work to be done. If you're a whiz at fundraising and organizing activities, fairs and the like, there's a spot for you also. I'm not any of those people, and neither is my husband. But I am home days, and the cafeteria workers require help to keep the lunchtime feeding of nearly 300 students going smoothly, as well as the recess time that immediately follows. The lunchtime has three shifts. So every other week, I go in for two hours, to sweep floors, clean tables, try to make some semblance of order out of the chaos that is a break in a buttoned-down day, and monitor recess, all so the teachers can have a chance to eat their lunch in peace. I really don't mind doing it, there isn't a lot of heavy lifting (although we do have to put the chairs up on the tables at the end of the last session), and it's nice to be able to see EB briefly in the middle of her day.

Or at least it used to be. When EB came to this school in fourth grade, she would make her way over on my days there and give me a hug. Last year she would occasionally hug, but at the very least smile and wave. And she would talk to me on the playground, even (gasp!) with her friends around.

Sixth grade is a totally different animal. She barely acknowledges me, unless she wants something (like money), and prefers that I not acknowledge her, or her peers. The last time I was there, two boys in her class started to get boisterous. Although they weren't fighting, they were starting to get physical, something I know can easily, and quickly, escalate into a confrontation. After I moved in to ask them to break it up and sit back down, I got the eyeroll from Earbaby. "Thanks for embarrassing me,'' she hissed. Then she rolled her eyes at me again and gave me the evil stare throughout recess. Of course the fact that I was doing what I was supposed to do, keep order in the lunchroom, never occurred to her. The fact that I deigned to step up when everyone knows whose mother I am, was just too humiliating.

The next time I was too embarrassing was at her dance class watch week, the week parents are invited to observe their children's class, which is off limits the rest of the time. Her teacher, who is also a dance buddy of mine, always calls the parents up at the end of class to learn the recital finale, a tradition she started a few years ago. It gives everyone a little perspective on just how tough it is to get up and dance and the parents brave enough to get up usually have a good time, laughing at how ridiculous we look. In years past, EB, who has been dancing since she was 3, would immediately beckon me to come up.

Not this year.

This year she pouted and sulked when I got up when her teacher invited us all to stand behind our dancers and learn the last dance. Never mind that had I not gotten up, I probably would have been called out by said teacher. Remember, we take a class together and have known each other since before I had either husband or daughter. No, Earbaby was embarrassed that I would get up. Now one mom had worn heels and decided to stay seated. Her daughter chastised her for not trying to dance and said she should have gotten up like I did. I tell you, you can't win with your own daughter.

I'm not sure how long this whole embarrassing existence will last. If her father and I talk to her friends, if we talk to our friends about her in her presence, if anyone over the age of 18 acknowledges her existence at all, she's embarrassed. These include people who have known her since birth, friends of mine, members of our church, and even a scattering of relatives. Now she won't roll her eyes at them, but I'll hear about it later. Like I've said before, she's good in public.

Ah, but I remember when she wasn't. The tantrum in the drugstore because I wouldn't buy her a Barbie, that she would have loved for all of three minutes. The airplane ride when she screamed the entire time of the landing because she had to go to the bathroom but it was too late to use the facilities, and she didn't want to go in her pullup. Everyone on the flight knew she wanted to go in the potty instead, but I didn't roll my eyes at her during that escapade. Granted she was only 3 both times, but still, it was an embarrassment.

So now, apparently we're getting her back. We exist, we talk to people she knows, we dance like there's no one watching, even when there is, and we refuse to just shut up and disappear.

Such an embarrassment. It's a tough job, but someone's got to do it.

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