40 Ways I Embarrass My Children

Recently, my daughter, who is 12, was invited to a special event at the mayor’s office. It was very exciting, and when we arrived, I ran into another Mom whose daughter was being recognized for the same thing. I greeted them in what I thought was a regular and normal way, until my daughter glared at me and said, “Mom…stop.”



“Stop what? What am I doing?”

“You are embarrassing me.”

“What did I do?”


I dutifully shushed and sat quiet, silently running over the greeting again in my mind and could not come up with anything I did that was even remotely embarrassing. The problem, I concluded, was with her and not me, and so, I brushed it off.

A week later, I crossed the street with my son, three years younger than my daughter, and exchanged pleasantries with the crossing guard. I got the same familiar glare from him after we walked away.

“What’s the matter?”

“You are so embarrassing!”

“What do you mean? What did I do?”

“You laughed!”

“So what?”

“She didn’t even say anything funny!”

It’s true that I’m socially awkward and often laugh at things that aren’t really funny, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it is embarrassing. Then again, he is just a kid, and he does, in fact, tend toward the self-conscious. Also, I have never seen a video of myself socializing with a crossing guard. Maybe he has every right to be mortified.

I began to pay better attention to whenever my kids cringed, rolled their eyes or otherwise glared at me after I said or did something I thought was innocuous and, as many bloggers are known to do, kept a running list. Here are 40 things I should never do again to spare my children any embarrassment:

  1. Speak
  2. Cough
  3. Yawn
  4. Wear a shirt with flowers on it
  5. Wear a shirt with a graphic design
  6. Wear a sleeveless shirt that exposes my armpits
  7. Wear a shirt that is a little snug
  8. Wear capris
  9. Wear chinos
  10. Refer to pants as “chinos”
  11. Wear shorts
  12. Eat a sandwich
  13. Eat soup
  14. Listen to music
  15. Sing
  16. Dance
  17. Show happiness of any kind
  18. Respond “OMG” or “LOL” to a text
  19. Ask how their day was
  20. Tell them they look good
  21. Pay them any sort of a compliment
  22. Engage one of their friends in a conversation
  23. Appear anywhere in the house when they have friends over
  24. Use the word “playdate”
  25. Show concern and/or suggest a band-aid after an injury
  26. Ride a bike
  27. Rollerblade
  28. Walk swiftly
  29. Try to play a sport of any kind
  30. Tell a joke
  31. Take a photo of them
  32. Ask them to smile when taking their photo
  33. Remind them about the importance of proper hygiene
  34. Remind them to say “please” and “thank you”
  35. Show affection for their father
  36. Remind them of the important role fiber plays in digestion
  37. Be friendly to the waitress
  38. Chat with the cashier
  39. Strike up a conversation with someone on a train
  40. Say the word “bra”

Home Sick

Dear Child,

I am so psyched that you are home sick today. When the nurse called yesterday to give me the exciting news that you weren’t feeling well, I almost jumped for joy. I mean, it’s been–what?–three whole weeks since you were sick? I love tending to you when you are sick. I love how you moan, how you writhe in pain, how you beg me for food that I can’t give you because I know you are going to throw it right up.

I love how when you vomit, you never make it to the toilet but to an expensive rug instead. I love how I gave you red Gatorade instead of white so that now I have to throw out all the rugs. I love how once you are feeling better and in school again I won’t be able to get a pedicure or meet a friend for lunch because I’ll be too busy driving up and down the state of New Jersey looking for a good sale on rugs.

I love how I don’t sleep when you are sick because it worries me so much. I love the anxiety I get and the buzzed feeling it gives me. I love how your father is still working from home today even though you are sick and will still ask me to make him a tuna sandwich for lunch as if it’s a regular, normal day and I’m not hallucinating.

I love how you cling to me while we watch another episode of the Amazing World of Gumball, which isn’t amazing at all but bizarre and, frankly, painful. I love how you will not release me to wash the dishes or do laundry so that when your brother and sister come barreling in later this afternoon, I won’t be able to provide either of them with a clean drinking glass or soccer uniform.

I love that I won’t be able to walk the dog as long or as frequently today, so that his pent-up energy will cause him to steal and chew one of my brand new erasable Pilot Frixion pens that I had to special order from Amazon. He will also poop in the basement today, but he’ll do it in a spot that is hidden from view and so I won’t discover it until someone steps in it and tracks it all over the damn place.

I love that it is finally gorgeous outside but I am inside, as if it is still winter. I love wiping your butt raw from another rotten bout of diarrhea while I listen to the birds happily chirping outside the bathroom window. I love that the world keeps humming along when you are sick, leaving me feeling forgotten and alone in my misery.

I love that your sister has an orthodontist appointment today–the same one I have had to cancel six times before–but because your father is going to a golf tournament this afternoon, I either have to cancel the appointment for the seventh time or bring you with us and hope you don’t vomit in the waiting room.

I love that after a successful trip to the orthodontist, you will think you have recovered completely and insist on playing basketball in our driveway, even though I know it is too soon for basketball.

I love how you will try your best to rest but will instead follow me around the house while I catch up on everything I have neglected, sharing with me every thought that goes through your six-year-old head, no matter how rambling, irrelevant or insignificant.

I love how great it will feel to drop you off at school tomorrow (depending on how tonight goes), and just as I begin to get my bearings again, the nurse will call me with the joyous news that your brother isn’t feeling well and the whole cycle will begin anew.



My Kid is Fine

by Jennifer Forte Cuomo, Blogger for a Day

As a child I distinctly remember a few things about being in elementary school. One is how terribly bored I often was with whatever lesson was not capturing my attention. The other thing I recall is how I enjoyed socializing with the other children. So much so that I was often in trouble for having limited “self-control,” as it was referred to circa 1980. My report card would come home and there were good marks (“S” or “E” for Satisfactory or Excellent) for everything but self-control. Next to that was always an “N,” for “Needs Improvement.” My mother would sigh and say something to the effect of “Really Jennifer? Again?” And life went on.

I suppose then, it should not come as a big shock to me that my son Nick has problems controlling himself at school at the tender age of 7. Maybe because he is a boy, maybe because he is a little indulged as well, his control is much less than we would hope and certainly beyond simply “needing improvement.” So much so that we’ve recently had lots of contact with the teacher, the social worker, the school psychologist, the vice principal and yes, even the principal.

Here’s the conclusion I’ve come to, after churning myself inside out over this for the better part of one year: my kid is fine just the way he is. Allow me to explain. I do not mean it is okay for him to misbehave or act out of turn. I do not mean we will not continually work to reinforce good behavior and reprimand bad behavior. I certainly do not mean that he can disrupt the classroom. All of this is being addressed on an ongoing basis and things have improved.

What I do mean is my son is an individual. He is learning about the world and himself in a way that makes sense to him. Sometimes we have to guide him in a different direction. Sometimes we have to allow him to make mistakes in order to learn something. He is just that kind of child. But he is also the kind that can add three and four digit numbers in his head since he was 6 years old. He is also the kind that reads a full grade level ahead of most of his peers. He loves math. He loves science. He asks a lot of questions. He loves playing with other children. He loves swimming, football, soccer and hockey. He will happily try any sport or game, and almost never gives up until he masters it. He is smart and goofy and athletic and social and we want him to be him. And oh yeah, he is also compassionate and kind. He doesn’t have a mean bone in his body.

We’ve opted out of getting Nicholas tested although it’s been suggested to us by more than one of his teachers. I’ve also been gently nudged into considering medication if he were indeed to test positive for ADHD. I have nothing against medication for children who need it to learn. However, my son excels at every subject in school so I can only assume medication would make life for the teacher easier, not for my son.

Do we get frustrated with Nick? Why yes, yes we do. He is a tough kid at times. But with the tools and strategies we’ve employed, his self-awareness and behavior has improved and we feel it will continue to do so. What we do not want him to feel is that we don’t like how he is so we’re going to fix him with pills to make everyone else’s life easier. What lesson will he learn from that? This is what he has been given in life–he has to learn to get it under control on his own. He can do it. We believe in him. We will continue to fight for him and his right to be himself. Because my kid is fine just the way he is.

Jennifer Forte Cuomo is a Mom of two actual children who secretly favors her dog because she never talks back and is always happy to see her. She runs her own PR agency specifically so she has an excuse to travel without any members of her household coming with her. She loves cooking, gardening and drinking coffee in the morning without having to reheat it in the microwave more than two times.