Mom! M-o-o-o-m!

Heaven knows that in their early years, your children can embarrass you, as when your three-year-old drains the cup of cranberry juice set before him in the fine restaurant, smacks his lips and exclaims, “This wine is good!” They also parrot things that make your cheeks burn: “Is Daddy a pain in the ass?” my baby niece once asked her mom in front of the visiting clergyperson.

But really the much longer-lasting stage is the one when you as a parent are embarrassing to THEM.

As an intolerant 13-year-old, I was hugely embarrassed by my mom. That time she stumbled and fell to her knees on the steep stone stairway to the Public Library, I actually kept on climbing, pretending I didn’t know her. When I was in that excruciating what-will-they-think-of me stage of life, she embarrassed me even when she wasn’t falling down: the way she talked so loud all the time! The way, when she picked me up after school, she always glared at the smokers, gracefully draped over the hoods of cars!

“What are those children doing with cigarettes?!” she would bellow, scowling over at the very people I prayed would one day befriend me. “Why aren’t they home riding their bikes?!”

Back then I thought there just couldn’t be a parent more embarrassing to her kids.

Now I feel another way, because now I too am a sorry, out-of-it grownup with my own long list of Crimes against Coolness.

 Many’s the time I have embarrassed my own children – and many are the lessons I have learned along the way. Let me list a few of these lessons here, in fact. Over time I have learned that:

  • Thin is overrated. Sure, it’s probably healthier to be too thin than too fat but exactly no one likes you better because of it. 
  • That old wool sweaters are cool, as your kids will tell you. Those elaborately figured and/or sequined Golden-Girls-style numbers you’re so drawn to at the holidays? Aren’t. (Sorry.) 
  • Your curly hair isn’t half as weird as you thought it was so really you can stop with the flatiron, because – and let us recite this together – NO ONE IS LOOKING AT YOU, MOM. 

A number of other truths come to mind now too, including:

  • The truth that nobody irons, besides us old people.
  • The truth that nobody under 50 wears pantyhose (about which fact I will only observe that nobody OVER 50 thinks this is anything but dumb.)
  • The truth that disposable cameras are very last century and really, Dad, don’t even come to the party if you’re planning to pull out one of those silly things.

Also while we’re being honest,  Mom, please lose the tiny backpack. It makes you look like Pinocchio. You might as well add a little stack of books, short pants and a big floppy bow.

I include this last because I sometimes sense my grown children eyeing my own tiny backpack, which I have been wearing steadily since 1998. They are too kind to say anything though, which I greatly appreciate, since the way I see it is, “Why waste money on a million different pocketbooks when you can get away with just one?”

And maybe that’s it in a nutshell right there: The young are intent on beauty, maybe because they have so much beauty themselves. We old people though: We old people are just lookin’ for what lasts.