Does a teen ever really die of embarrassment? If you ask my 16-year-old son, the answer is yes, and many times, daily.
My beautiful firstborn child, who long ago and in a galaxy far, far away, couldn't get enough of me as an infant to the point that my husband had to hold this little baby boy up so he could still see me every time I showered, this little baby of mine, the same one that I would have to sit on my lap when I went to the bathroom because his world would fall apart if mama was out of his sight... this same little boy now D.I.E.S. that someone might realize that oh my gawd I am his mother.
How many teens actually DIE of embarrassment anyway? And you can't count the time I went to pick up the pizza in my pajama bottoms and his dad's winter boots.
When you're 16 years old, the answer is every day, and every time, your mother is near you, living and breathing.
He is 16. The age when everything is about you. Everyone is talking about you. The whole world only notices you. It all has to do with you. And the reflection of you: your parents.
I am no physical monster. Last time I checked, I wasn't cloaked in black emerging from the city's sewers. As the joke goes, when I walk down the street, people do not hang out of their cars shouting, "Is it Halloween already?"
This new development, of causing physical mortification to my child, cuts deep to my heart. I come with a history that has made me take extra care to not embarrass my children. I grew up with a mother that was different, and though I loved her and now miss her, I wanted her to be like the other mothers. I know what I felt when I was a teen, and I remember promising myself, I would be a cool mom my kids would be proud of. Cue the irony.
My world is now one of my son's rules, all meant to help him save face. As we enter the school parking lot for morning drop off, he recites his requests. His rules come at me like rubber bullets, "Don't say good-bye, don't say my name, don't wave, don't get out of the car, don't wait to see that I get in, don't shout at me if I forget something in the car. If I fall down flat on my face and my brains spill out, just. keep. going..."
His fear of embarrassment is unfounded, I assure you. I have never broken into self-choreographed interpretive dance moves when Adele comes on the radio -- no matter how much that woman slays me. Not with him, anyway, I save that fun for when I'm on my way to the grocery store. I confess that I may think about swaying my hands all over my head, but I don't give in.
Not with him. These days, it's hard to not think about how this almost six-foot-tall rider in my passenger seat was once was my 1 a.m. bald-headed dance partner in the kitchen.
I wince, because I remember how much embarrassment I felt about my own mother as a teen. She had come from another country. I was embarrassed, but I rationalized, there was reason for it, right? Or so I thought. I mean, she had an accent, and dressed funny, and acted like she wasn't even in America. She would try to imitate the movie stars of the time. I knew back then, as a teen, that any children of mine would never be self conscious that I was their mother. Oh, the pain of karma! I figured I was going to be a cool mom -- speak perfect English, not dress in the costume from the old country *blackdressblackdressblackdress* and I would never try and imitate Elizabeth Taylor. What kid wouldn't be proud of me as their mother? I was with it, American, and had no delusions of grandeur.
You can see how this has all knocked me off my feet. How did I fall into this new role of the social pariah of my son's village?
Our morning drives to school begin with my son reading to me from his How To Be Invisible Manual: "Don't drive right up to the door, mom. Just slow down, and I'll get out and DO NOT say good-bye to me so loud the world hears it. You're so loud. I mean it. I MEAN IT."
To which I meekly ask, "Can I look at you? For a minute? I promise not to make eye contact..."
"No. See? SEE? Look straight ahead. This is what I mean. Just drop me off."
He might as well have said, "Go back to your door built into a tree house on the swamp, Fiona, go back from whence you came."
I do as he requests and I drop him off far enough from the school's front doors. I slowly creeper-drive away, sunglasses covering my eyes, so he can't see that I'm still watching him, watching my handsome, tall boy walk away from me... without even one glance back in my direction.
I watch him and he leaves me as breathless as the day he was born. I felt my heart leap out of my chest then, and I still do now. I breathe deep, and pat myself on the back, congratulating myself on my maturity and verbal restraint. Because it's a battle, you know, between mature mother and the human ego. It is taking everything I have in me to not screech on the brakes -- good and loud, roll down the window and shout, "Embarrassing? You want to see embarrassing, my boy? How's this: BYE HONEY I LOVE YOU AND DON'T FORGET TO WEAR YOUR CUP AT PRACTICE TODAY BECAUSE IT'S IMPORTANT TO PROTECT YOUR TESTICLES!"
You know, I think I might just call it his nutty buddy, for good measure.