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Why we embarrass our kids

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Just doing my job

"Mom, you're so embarrassing!" The eye rolls, the tone of voice... Things I never thought I would really experience. My boy was too sweet to go down that path, I thought. I would parent him better than that, I thought. The joke is on me, I guess, because just like most parents of teenagers before me -- just like my own parents! -- I am an embarrassment to the species known as the American adolescent (notice I didn't say "human") merely by the fact of my existence.

Just doing my jobIt can happen anytime and anywhere -- out in public or at home or in the car, with other people around or not, and over just about any issue from the color of my t-shirt to the music on the radio. No matter how many talks we have about appropriate behavior (many) and consequences for inappropriate behavior (creative), no matter how much I believe he was raised better than this (he was), it's happening. At some point, I realized the need for a sense of humor about it or I'd go crazy. So now, when my son declares, "Mom, you're so embarrassing!" I respond, "Thank you for the validation -- just doing my job."

Still, it stings a bit

There are times when I feel like I am working extra hard to be plain and not embarrassing for my son, but the declaration and the attitude still happen. This can hurt a little bit; I take it personally, even though I know it's not personal at all. It's a phase, part of his growing up and separating from me. Ironically, it's when I am actually trying not to be embarassing that the embarrassment for my son seems the worst. This is partly because I am paying more attention to the issue. When I am just being myself, remembering that the embarrassment factor is going to happen no matter what, I deal with it a little better. Still, though, it can hurt.

We are not in this alone

I take comfort with the mothers of my son's friends. Each of their kids is nice and behaves completely appropriately toward me. Apparently, though, these boys are just as awful with their own mothers as my son is with me -- and the moms confirm that, at least to them, my son behaves properly and with respect. The other moms and I laugh about it, or try to. We know that this phase will pass (as confirmed by the veteran moms among us), but in the meantime, we laugh and reassure one another that we are not alone. It's about all we can do, some days.

Sometimes he embarrasses me, too

There's something my son doesn't know about this whole situation: Sometimes, he embarrasses me, too (though I try to never let him know it). When he behaves in a typically adolescent and inappropriate manner in public, it embarrasses me to think that others might assume I think this is okay. This is just extreme self-consciousness on my part. More likely, the people looking are parents who have been through this phase and have some sympathy, or they are parents not quite there and feeling smug about their own parenting. Either way, just like my son's mortification, the feeling is my own issue and no one else's. I have to learn how to deal with it -- with a much better poker face than my son.

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