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”

How to Handle a Tween Meltdown

So I am happy to report that I survived Christmas, but now it’s puberty trying to take me down. I guess it was right before Thanksgiving when my tween had the mother of all meltdowns and I was so glad because nothing is better than having to deal with a tween meltdown at the same time you are cooking dinner and the boys are having a swordfight in the living room. With maximum drama, my tween admitted she wasn’t happy and that she felt like something was missing. I was forced to abandon dinner, hide the swords from the boys and sit down with her on the floor in her bedroom to figure it all out. In between her gigantic sobs, I was able to ascertain that 90 percent of her meltdown was being caused by two things: hormones and the increased workload of middle school. As for the other 10 percent, five things in particular were bothering her, which are listed below along with my responses, in case you might need them someday:

I’m weird

You aren’t weird, you are fun, wonderfully refreshing, and interesting. Do you remember the other day your friend was here, and she was drinking chocolate milk? Do you remember her telling you that the only way she could drink chocolate milk was to lap it from the cup like a dog? So weird, right? Do you remember how you laughed? Our weirdness is what makes us fun to be around and helps us to relate to one another. I had a friend in college who would run up and down the hallways of our dorm singing a song about chicken patties whenever they were on the menu for lunch. If we aren’t weird we are boring and forgettable, and who wants that? Keep being weird, it’s awesome.

I’m too big

First, you aren’t too big, you’re just really really tall. Second, have you not listened to the lyrics of that Meghan Trainor song? Super skinny girls are actually at a disadvantage because they don’t have any junk in any place, right or wrong, and therefore don’t have anything to shake. I have seen plenty of skinny girls be overlooked for a slightly bigger one with a certain je ne sais quoi, or boom boom as Ms. Trainor puts it. Boys do like a little more booty to hold at night, but what she really means is that boys (or at least the good ones) adore girls who are real, eat food, and know the difference between longitude and latitude. There is so much more to you, or any girl, than your size. Having said that though, you really need to stop with the Nutella.

I don’t have a boyfriend

The reason you don’t have a boyfriend is because you are 11, which is like five but with six years added to it. Why are you in such a rush? Dating sucks. What’s the worse pain you’ve ever experienced? Knee surgery? Multiply that by a hundred million, and that’s how painful dating is. Back when I was dating, a guy who told me he would love me forever plunged his fist through my ribcage, ripped out my heart, and ate it like an apple right in front of me. And I wasn’t the only one–most of my girlfriends can share similar horror stories. Why do you want to do that to yourself before it’s time? Besides, no one knows what they are doing in the sixth grade; it’s all just really awkward and embarrassing. Stay out of it until high school. Or college. Or never.

I don’t have a best friend

Yes you do, she’s just flaky, because she is also 11. Honestly, sometimes I think it’s good not to be tied down to one girl. I had a best friend at your age but I was way too wrapped up in her, and as a result my world was a lot smaller than it should have been. It’s so much better for you to have lots of friends. It’s important that you don’t try too hard, either. You can’t force these things. And lots of times, your best friend will change. My best friend in high school was not my best friend in college, and my best friend now is not the same one I had when I had you. It’s all about attracting what you need at the time you need it. Trust in this–it’s actually a law of the universe and it’s usually correct.

I miss being six

Me too!! Do you know what else I miss? Eleven! And 40! This is such an important lesson for you to learn, and I’m glad you are learning it so early. Life goes by too fast, and there’s nothing we can do about it, so we have to treasure every single day. Hold onto 11 as long as you can, really soak it in, because before you know it you will be 12, and then 20, and then you will have your own kids and wonder what the heck happened as you deal with a tween meltdown, dinner, and a swordfight in the living room all at the same time.

I won Harry Styles at the Tricky Tray

mom loves harry

I have a confession to make. I love One Direction. Mostly for their music, which I know is not considered good by anyone with any musical taste, but I don’t care. Their songs, “Steal My Girl,” “Kiss You,” and “One Thing” put me in a good mood when nothing else will, and on those mornings when my kids will not put their shoes on or stop beating the crap out of each other, One Direction saves me.

Beyond their music, One Direction ain’t bad to look at, especially the one named Harry Styles. Harry is 20 but somehow this doesn’t register with my 43-year-old brain. He is without question the most beautiful human walking the earth right now, and has this unmistakable Mike Jagger/Jim Morrison thing going on that makes everything else in my life meaningless.

I’ve been here before, obsessing over a member of a British boy band. I was a more appropriate 15. The band was Duran Duran, and even though I was truly in love with the bassist, John Taylor, my friend claimed him first so I had to choose the next best which was really hard, but I had to pick, and so I chose keyboardist Nick Rhodes. Never mind that he was super feminine and wore more makeup than my Mom, he was perfect. And he was mine.

To deal with the emotional turmoil of loving someone I didn’t know and couldn’t have, I retreated into fantasy and wrote elaborate stories of us being romantically involved until my mother confiscated most of them. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was writing what’s now called “fan fiction” or “fanfic” and today it flourishes on the Internet. The most popular fanfic website, fanfiction.net, has more than two million registered users who write about their favorite characters from books, television, film, or music in all sorts of combinations and situations. Most fan fiction is absolutely dreadful, but some of it is so dirty entertaining that it is actually discovered and developed by Hollywood. In fact, the wildly popular book 50 Shades of Grey that drove many a suburban Mom into a tizzy back in 2012 began as a piece of fanfic someone imagined between Twilight characters Edward Cullen and Bella Swan.

So, I had this idea to write some fan fiction of my own but from the perspective of a 43-year-old married mother of three who must conduct herself properly, especially in front of her 11 year old daughter. I call it, “I won Harry Styles at the Tricky Tray.”


“Sorry I’m late girls, I burned dinner again.”

“Oh my god, you better hurry up. They are collecting the baskets now.”

“What? What time did it start? I thought it started at 7!”

“No, 6. It’s OK, just dump all your tickets in the mystery basket and get yourself a drink.”

For the love of Pete, I can’t believe this is happening. I studied the basket list for three days straight with a highlighter and had a bulletproof strategy for winning something really good this time. Ugh. Oh well. There’s always next year, unless the fundraising committee arbitrarily decides never to have Tricky Tray again and instead has Bingo but that would be so stupid I’m sure it’ll never happen.

I frantically tore each individual ticket at the perforation and dumped all of them into the mystery basket bag while apologizing to the committee member who patiently stood over me. We all had a nice dinner and then the drawing began. I applauded for but secretly loathed that one Mom who kept leaping to her feet triumphantly waving a matching ticket for what seemed like every basket. OMG, I am never that Mom! When is it going to be my turn? *sigh* I need more wine that stuff the committee is trying to pass off as wine.

“Congratulations again to Jenny Sue! How many baskets is that, Jenny? 12? You must have the magic touch.” Laughter. Wine.

“OK everyone, the moment you have been waiting for is finally here! It’s time for the mystery basket! For maximum drama, we are going to announce the winner first and then we’ll tell you what’s in the basket. Are you ready? Here’s the number: 19683753.”

“196..837..53? Wait a second…196…837…53? Oh My God! It’s me! Yay! What did I win?”

A hush fell over the crowd. “Gina Randall, you are never going to believe this, but you and a guest have won a VIP dinner in New York City tomorrow night with Harry Styles of One Direction!”

There were a few groans from around the room, but I could have fainted I was so excited. Everyone crowded around me, people were taking pictures, it was like a dream come true. Who’s got the magic touch now, Jenny Sue? Bow to me, all of you, and I will tell you my Tricky Tray secrets.

The next day was filled with excitement as I interacted with dozens of One Direction staffers and shopped for something new to wear–something that didn’t scream, “Mom who studies the basket list in advance of a Tricky Tray” without going anywhere near “Cougar,” “Puma,” or God forbid, “Jaguar.” A car came to take me and my daughter to a small, unassuming restaurant in SoHo. We waited a good 45 minutes and then, he arrived. All 5 feet 11 glorious inches of him. Like Carly Rae Jepsen, I could hardly look at him and the words I couldn’t seem to find were falling out of my mouth anyway one after another until they were piled on the floor like laundry that needed to be folded. In contrast, my daughter, who at 11 was supposed to be nothing if not awkward, was extremely poised and in control.

I don’t really remember much from our dinner. I’m sure there was food. I remember him asking my daughter a lot of thoughtful questions, and her answers were absolutely adorable. I was so proud of her. There were a few paparazzi and one of them promised to send me a shot via email. When it came time to leave, we hugged goodbye, and he slipped me his cell phone number complemented me on raising such a wonderful kid. I wanted so badly to just follow him out of the restaurant and spend the rest of my life trying to look right at him baby, but I had to settle for a single night out in SoHo. Or did I?????


How to Embarrass Your Tween

I sank to a new low last week. My first, an 11 year old girl no longer in elementary school, left for junior high the earliest she had yet, allowing her to walk at a relaxed pace that does not cause sweating and casually chat with friends before the daily grind of science, orchestra and social studies. It was a great way to start the day and I was so glad I didn’t have to nag her about getting out the door on time.

The boys got up, I prepared their breakfast, and then I saw it – the audition form. My daughter was trying out for the musical after school and I had very carefully filled out all of her acting experience, knowing full well that none of it really mattered because she was going to get ensemble anyway. I had put the important (not really) form in my daughter’s backpack the night before, but remembered at the last minute that she had to sign it, so I took it out and neither one of us bothered to put it back.

I glanced at the clock. I had 10 minutes before the first bell. Plenty of time. I accepted the challenge. I called her on her cell. She answered.

“You forgot your form!”


“You forgot your audition form!”


“Where are you?”

“In front.”

“OK, I will meet you in front…WAIT!…there’s not enough time. Go to the back.”

“OK, I’ll meet you in the parking lot. But leave now!”

“Yes, I’m already in the car.”

During our conversation, I grabbed and put on the closest pair of shoes I could find: my black rubber rain boots. It wasn’t raining. I got in the car with the cordless, not the cell, and peeled out of the driveway. In my pajamas.

I turned the corner and then it hit me, they won’t let me in the parking lot. Good God Almighty. They are not going to let me.

I stopped at the intersection and let a car go by.

Maybe they will let me just this once? Surely there is a grace period that will slowly wean helicopter elementary school Moms from babying their children who are now old enough to remember their own things.

I rolled up to the entrance of the parking lot and quickly realized that there was no grace period. There were like armed guards blocking the entrance who eat Moms like me for breakfast. I could see my daughter in the distance but I could not communicate with her because the cordless was now out of range.

Oh my God, I am going to have to get out of the car. I am wearing rubber rain boots with no rain and pajama bottoms and my hair looks like a Unicorn Zombie Apocalypse.

It is amazing how many things your brain can process in three to five seconds but it won’t remember to put an important (not really) form back into a backpack. I considered just sitting there to see if she would come to me, but then she would be late. I considered leaving and maybe faxing the form from home but what if she came to me and I wasn’t even there?

There was no choice, I had to get out of the car.

I got out of the car and starting running in my rubber rain boots with no rain and pajama bottoms which I could now see were tucked into the boots like Aladdin. When I finally got to her, I tried to apologize, but I was laughing too hard. And she tried to be embarrassed but she was laughing too hard, too.