I have some terrible news for my children. The kind of news that could make them wish they had another mother.The kind of news that makes them wish that they could hide in their rooms till they are 25. Because I am here to tell them that I will never stop embarrassing them. Ever.
Nothing embarrasses my son more than when I scream out the window at carpool “I love you.” At pick-up 8 hours later, he is still mad. I’m okay with that though. Trying to get him to give me a hug and a kiss at the grocery store creates a mother-son tug of war that is half silly, half frustrating. God forbid someone from school walk by, he wants to lock himself in one of the freezer sections and become an icicle. But I still wont stop, because I don’t want him to grow up being ashamed of letting feelings be expressed. Now before you side with the kids and think that I am some horrible, awful mother, let me explain.
Feeling embarrassed is a natural reaction to discomfort. We have all felt it, when we trip in front of a group of people, or spill red wine down our white blouse at a dinner party. However, it’s one of those emotions we tend to give too much power to. And with it we tend to withdraw a little, or change our behavior so as not to call more attention to ourselves. So I have taken the Brewster’s Millions approach to embarrassment. Remember that movie? When Richard Pryor had to spend a ton of money, and almost become bored with it in order to get more money? Same thing here. I’m going to shower my children with embarrassing displays of affection so that they begin to just accept it as any other part of life. Because I want my children to hug when they feel like giving a hug, and to say “I love you” when they feel it. To know that walking down the street holding hands with their mom, or dad, or best friend (and even significant other) is all okay. Contact, affection and showing endearment are not things to be ashamed of. They are amazing gifts we give those people we love and care for, and ourselves.
I can still remember being embarrassed holding my mother’s hand when we went shopping when I was 13. It was horrifying. My mom held tight, though. And I am grateful every time I think about it that she did. That when I was 20 and in college that we would walk down Newbury Street holding hands and how safe and loved I felt in that simple gesture. That we never said goodbye without saying “I love you.” That to this day I almost never hang up with my friends without saying “I love you.” Not out of obligation. It comes from feeling it and knowing expressing it is something to be celebrated, that I always want the people I love to know it.
So I apologize, my dear sweet delicate little boy, but I LOVE YOU OLIVER COONEY! There, that outta fulfill his embarrassing quota for the day.