Motherhood

Have You Ever Embarrassed Your Kid?

Have You Ever Embarrassed Your Kid?

It’s totally okay that my 10-year-old son is embarrassed by me…

It’s the normal state of the universe.

It’s, like, my job to embarrass him.

But somehow, I don’t know, I thought maybe because I’m a mom whose work as a director has me staying relatively current, I would maybe embarrass him less.

All the things my mom did to embarrass me — the juice-can-sized hot rollers in front of my teenaged boyfriends, her penchant for Capri pants, the dance move she still does when she scores a sale or wins at Scrabble — I don’t do.

“Dude,” I sometimes want to urge him in a stage whisper. “Don’t you realize how cool I am?” But I know how desperate that would sound. Still, every once in a while, I’ll casually remind him that I worked as a production assistant on Beavis and Butthead.

As it turns out, it’s precisely the fact that I’m not your typical mom that mortifies him.

Recently, I volunteered to chaperone one of his field trips and his cheeks turned to beets. “Mom! You just can’t.” I took a deep breath. Okay. I wanted to respect his feelings. But I can’t lie. It stung.

Later, I asked him why. After a lot of sighing, he mumbled to his sneakers, “Well. Your sweatshirt, for example.”

My sweatshirt? Yes, okay, it’s a cartoon of a guy with a gargantuan beard. I could see how that might embarrass him.

But, you know what? It’s a fantastic sweatshirt. I wear it to work with jeans and a button-up. I wear it with a cotton pencil skirt and sandals. I sleep in it. I’m actually wearing it right now! It’s fuzzed-over from being washed so many times. More than a sweatshirt, it’s an emblem of who I am.

Like everyone, I express myself through my clothes. And my expression is to be as different from everyone else as possible. My style was cultivated out of a need to rebel against the conservative, preppy sameness of my hometown.

It never occurred to me that my son would grow up to rebel against me, a la Alex P. Keaton.

When my son was small, I dressed him in my image. He had Beatles-esque moppy haircuts. He wore tiny Converse sneakers. Sweatpants with vertical red and cream stripes. Shrunken black hoodies and army pants. He didn’t mind wearing fluorescent-anything. He looked like the mod/punk child I had always imagined I would have.

But as he grew, his own style emerged and, nope, it wasn’t that.

He now dresses himself behind closed doors, in private. His current style is to blend with the crowd. His palette ranges from gray to black. He favors the oversized Adidas basketball shorts that make me shudder. No pockets, no graphics, no anything. My heart deflated a little when he cut his amazing wavy, overgrown, rockstar hair last week for an almost-militaristic buzz.

As hard as it is for me to understand, it’s him — it’s his style and he’s proud of the way he looks. And, as his mom, that makes me happy, of course. Plus, I love a rebel, even if it’s me he’s rebelling against.

Besides, I have a younger boy who wants to be David Bowie when he grows up. Who changes into a skintight, electric blue ninja outfit to chillax in when he gets home from school. His hair is in his eyes, his clothes don’t match and he has no problem wearing his stripey, too-small pajamas out in public on weekend mornings, when we get coffee and doughnuts in our neighborhood.

And he still thinks I’m the coolest.

He’s only seven, so this, too, I know, will change.

But for now, I’ll revel in its comfort, like a sweatshirt with a beard on it.


Lisa Rubisch started her career at MTV and now directs commercials and music videos for major brands at Park Pictures in New York. She also contributes writing to websites, anthologies and books. Here are her posts for Cup of Jo.

Have you embarrassed a kid in your life? (Here’s when I mortified Toby.) Did your parents ever embarrass you? I remember my dad once said to a class parent, “Welcome to the bosom of our family,” and thirty years later I still want to dig a hole and crawl into it.

P.S. The crazy things you do as a parent and completely subjective rules for raising teenage boys.

(Top photo by Cameron Whitman/Stocksy. This essay originally ran on Momfilter six years ago, syndicated with permission.)

  1. Leah says...

    This morning, my two year-old whispered in my ear: “You my mommy. You my best friend!” When he’s a teenager, at least I’ll have that memory to hold on to.

  2. Paige says...

    When I was a timid 16 year old, my dad had a leather coat that was sterling lined. I used to physically feel embarrassed when he’d wear it to school events!!! Now that I’m a decade older, it seems absolutely ridiculous to me. I love my parents as they are, in whatever state. So to any parents of teenagers out there- it passes! lol

    • Paige says...

      sherling***

  3. Cynthia says...

    Driving with my 15 year old son at the wheel, we stopped at a red light. I mentioned that the cute girls in the car next to us were giving him a good look. His reply: “ Yeah, and I’m in a minivan with my mother.”

  4. Liz F says...

    In junior high I played on my school’s volleyball team- the school colors were green and white. My blessed father attended almost every single game, which I loved until he started a certain cheer. “GO GANG! GO GREEN! GO GANG-GREEN!” He eventually got all the dads in on it. Of course then I was mortified but now in my 30’s I’m dying of laughter as I type this!

    • This is amazing!!!! I want to meet your dad.

  5. karen says...

    I normally love Cup of Jo. However I’m wondering why you are running an article that is six years old? It is just a little jarring because I remember reading it when it first came out, and recently too as it is making the rounds again. Since the author is a regular writer here, it would be helpful having a little blurb putting it into context at the top, maybe with an update about how her son feels now, or whether the younger son’s attitude has changed. Obviously from the comments there are lots of moms who missed it the first time around. However one of the unique strengths of this website is the new content, so…

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thanks for your note! lisa rubisch writes for us regularly, and since momfilter is such a small site (and isn’t updating anymore), we thought we’d run this story again on Cup of Jo. we wrote about how it was syndicated at the end of the site. Ninety nine percent of our content is original and new, but when there’s a great piece like this that we know most of our readers haven’t seen, we thought it would be worth syndicating. hope this helps!

  6. Kel says...

    The older I get, the more I want to be just me and not anyone else. Or, I feel like I can decide to be anything I want to be just because it strikes me as beautiful/funny/interesting. In being pretty solid about how potentially uncool and whatevs weird I am, and letting my kids in advance know that as soon as I have a grandchild I’m going to start wearing big blingy butterfly hair clips and gigantic-rimmed glasses, it sometimes has the opposite affect. I have 3 teens and they’ll say “you’re not so weird” in a “you flatter yourself” tone or otherwise know it’s a perfectly sound topic to exaggerate and laugh about. Because aging, changing & becoming is so fascinating and it doesn’t stop at the end of puberty.

  7. Natalie T. says...

    Family photo please with that sweatshirt!

  8. Cindy says...

    Yeah we’re going to need to see a picture of that sweatshirt plz

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      haha i’ll ask her!

  9. janine says...

    Your son sounds like mine. :) I don’t have a sporty bone in my body, and my husband isn’t particularly sporty, but our son is Mr. Sports. Go figure.

    I definitely embarrass him because I’m constantly singing and telling jokes. Sometimes he’ll say to me, “MOM! STOP SINGING!” or he’ll roll his eyes at one of my jokes. Then I’ll usually tell him a.) that it’s better to have a mom who sings and jokes than one who yells and b.) that I have actually been paid REAL MONEY for both my joke writing AND for my musicianship, and that people have actually willingly watched me play music and sing. He believes none of this, although I have SHOWN HIM my byline on things I’ve written and published.

  10. Meredith says...

    I embarrass my kids daily (12 and 9) because we live in Germany and my German is pretty bad. Their German is perfect even though we have all been learning the language for the same amount of time. We have lived here for 5 years and I have taken classes and I have improved significantly, but I still speak with a strong accent and make tons of grammatical mistakes. You cannot take yourself too seriously when you are living in another language (you WILL make lots of mistakes), so I usually just laugh it off, but I hope that one day my kids realize how difficult and sometimes humbling it is. One particularly funny story that my 12 year old daughter does laugh about is when we were at a cafe and I ordered a “Kaninchen” (bunny) of tea rather than a “Kännchen” (small pot) of tea. Even the waiter laughed at that one.

  11. Alli Horst says...

    My second grader had a performance at school and was getting really nervous about his dance part. Knowing the very idea would completely horrify him, I told him that if he got too nervous he could wink at me and I would come join him on stage.

    Well, halfway into the performance, he caught my eye and did the most exaggerated wink you’ve ever seen. He turned the tables on me and I loved it.

  12. k says...

    When I was about 14 my mom graciously volunteered to coach my soccer team even though she knew nothing about the sport. She gathered all the girls around at the beginning of the first practice and introduced herself, then she tried to kick the ball, stepped on top of it and fell over. Mortified.

    I don’t have kids, but if I ever do…. embarrassing them will be my favourite hobby.

    • Carol F. says...

      Was it on purpose or just her luck? So funny!!! Embarrassing the kids just comes automatically to us with teenagers. I don’t know how we are all so gifted at it!

  13. Cerises says...

    I think that it is the way of the world. And to comfort you, I’ll remind you that even Zoe Kravitz was embarrassed by her father when he came to pick her up at school!!!!

  14. My son, who would have been about 8 at the time, was so embarrassed by my singing along to a song by Adele that he punched me in the mouth … we were in a Central London coffee shop at the time.

    In mitigation, he has autism, but, honestly, my singing isn’t that bad.

  15. Madame says...

    Hahahaha! My now grown daughter went to boarding school. The first year that she was boarding, I lived on an island that was not too far, and occasionally made the trek onto the continent, and came to the school for the odd reason.
    The island had no cars, and I lived on a point that was several miles from the village and the main port. In the winter it could be super rainy and seriously muddy. I had to ride my bicycle to the port through the mud, wearing rubber boots (very cute! Honestly! Hunters or Chameau, or Aigle) always with a beautiful, (but certainly functional) caban or sailors peacoat whether I took the ferry or my own boat over to the continent. Her school was literally across the street from an old port, full of sailboats and sailors! No one even noticed! But she could hardly bear the embarrassment of the rubber boots ! Hahahahaha we laugh about it now, because she has come to love a pair of good rubber boots as well.

  16. I brought a boyfriend home to meet my family when I was 15 and my Dad said to him at the dinner table, “So Chris, I hear you play rugby. So you like to fondle oddly shaped balls?” I died. Still deceased today.

    • Priceless!

      My boyfriend came over with a cold in high school. My dad told him not to spread his sperms around. My dad is German and I *think* it was an honest mistake and he meant germs.
      We all still laugh about it 25 years later.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      my dad used to tell my high school boyfriend to stop wearing baseball caps because they make you go bald. every time i died a little inside. dads, man!

  17. Heather says...

    My son is 4 and he still thinks mama is cool! :)

  18. Kristie says...

    When I was in high school I would walk home with my friends, but occasionally my mum would ride her mountain bike to meet me at the school. She would be in Lycra and a helmet, and happily waving to me- meanwhile I wanted to disappear! Now I appreciate how she would’ve been watching the clock and grabbing the opportunity, thinking oh I can go meet my daughter today!

  19. H says...

    When I was in high school, I went on a beach vacation with my family and my parents insisted on packing a giant cooler with drinks and fruit. My dad made me carry one end of it down the hotel hallway and who do we run into but my crush and his mean best friend. It was mortifying. But there was watermelon so…

  20. mindi says...

    My parents both played the bagpipes when I was growing up (my dad still does). If you don’t love the pipes, you hate them. As a kid, they were so loud and awful. We had a “cultural fair” in high school and my girlfriends convinced me to invite my mom to play. I was annoyed…until the cutest boy, who happened to be a musician and a major crush, asked if it was my mom. Then I was mortified. “That’s so cool,” he said. It made my year.

  21. T says...

    If you can’t beat them, join them.

    My mum made a sport of embarrassing us kids so as the third born I decided to just jump in. We’d do grocery shopping after school and as a teenage girl I would unbutton the stomach section of my school dress, smoosh my belly skin together to make a mouth and say loudly in a muppet voice “I’m sooooooo hungry” until she’d relent and buy me snacks.

    The apple didn’t fall very far from the tree and now at 36 we regularly try and outdo each other, much to my older sister’s continued mortification.

  22. Elle says...

    I don’t think I can accurately represent this because it was a “song,”…..my family lived in Montana and winters are cold. Of course my sister and I routinely walked to school anyway. That’s what you did. But, every once in a while my dad would offer to drive us to school. He’d go out and start the car to get it all warm for us. He was dressed in his pjs, a flannel robe, and puffy down slippers that were all crooked on his feet. As we approached the school he’d start to rock back and forth and sing, “I…go…to…HIGH…school” over and over again. I acted mortified, and would have been had he ever gotten out of the car, but he never did. Just dropped us off and drove back home. I secretly thought it was hilarious. I wonder if he knew?

    • Jenny says...

      Hi, Fellow Montanan. I’m a Polson girl!

  23. Florencia says...

    Just yesterday I was at the store with my son (13) and we had a situation come up in which I thought I might have embarrassed him. As we walked to the car I asked him if it did, or what I do that embarrasses him. He responded with “no, that’s who you are. That’s the way I’ve always known you and loved you.” Sweet boy. I wonder if he was being honest.

    • jane says...

      You birthed Buddha, congrats! ; )

    • Florencia says...

      Jane, that is so funny! He has often been referred to by others as Buddha, since he was a tiny guy :-)

  24. Laura says...

    I’m sure my parents embarrassed me all the time growing up, but the one that stands out was when my fashion-challenged father came to pick me and a friend up from the mall wearing a 70’s brown tight shirt (that was actually from the 70s and this was maybe 1994) that had snaps at the V-neck, but was fairly open and showed a bunch of chest hair, and purple striped swim trunks. And he was walking around the mall looking for us, not just waiting in the car. Horrifying to my 14 year old self.

  25. Owl says...

    Everyone is different, but here’s how I’ve handled the embarrassment I cause my teenage son:

    1) I I recognize and acknowledge his feelings, and point out that it is perfectly normal to feel that way. (Even though I am sooo cool!) This reassures him that I am not taking it too personally. Truthfully, I don’t take it too personally.

    2) I try to be on my “best” behaviour, and reassure him I will “behave”, but also I do NOT apologize for who I am and don’t change who I am. In fact, I do point out if his “criticisms” are a bit hurtful. Though generally, I just repeat step 1…

    3) I keep it light, keep my sense of humour, and know he will outgrow it.

    4). I try to give him some space and celebrate his emerging independence (fashion and all).

    Above all, Keep being (and loving) yourself, and also loving your kid for who he/she is. It sends a message and lesson of self-acceptance.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      this is such great advice! it reminds me of the movie Eighth Grade, where the girl is always annoyed with her dad but he just goes with the flow and knows she loves him and that it’s a phase. i really loved his character.

  26. Karen T. says...

    OMG–I’m dying over “welcome to the bosom of our family.” Can’t.stop.laughing. I embarrass my sons every day. All element of cool left the moment they hit double digits….

  27. Anais says...

    As a seven year old, there were two things I was absolutely sure about: I was going to be a marine biologist when I grew up, and my dad’s goal in life was to mortify me at every turn. I guess it shouldn’t have been a total surprise, then, when he showed up in my second grade class room to participate in a reading program where my teacher invited parents to read their child’s favorite book to the class once a week. I would have been embarrassed by his mere presence in the classroom, but I just about died when he walked in, unannounced, in a full body wet suit, flippers, a scuba mask on his head and oxygen tank on his back, accompanied by a homemade six foot paper mache shark to educate my classmates about Eugenie Clark (a badass marine biologist and pioneer researcher of shark behavior!).

    • Katie says...

      Your dad sounds amazing! So sweet. And I love that he taught your class about a badass woman in science! Though I also totally understand being embarrassed by very earnest parents as a kid :)

    • Mina says...

      Your dad is awesome!

    • janine says...

      OMG I love this. He loved you so much to go to such lengths!

  28. Allison says...

    Hmmm…. my parents didn’t really embarrass me when I was growing up, but they embarrass me NOW (I’m 35). The thing that I HATE is when we’re walking around San Francisco and my mom literally says hello to everyone we pass on the sidewalk. WHYYYYY does she have to do this?

    • janine says...

      Hahaha, this is my mom, too. She used to work with special needs teenagers, so sometimes if she sees a child/teen or even adult with special needs she will go out of her way to be nice, yelling out HELLO!!! But sometimes if the person (and his/her caregiver, if present) doesn’t know her, they will look at her suspiciously!

    • Dana says...

      OMG My parents used to do the same exact thing when they’d visit when i lived in SF! It drove me insane!

  29. Jemma says...

    I lose all my cool on the first day of school. For so many years my daughter had serious separation anxiety which would leave both of us in tears at drop-off. So it was with a pang of sadness and pride when she ran into school at the beginning of second grade without so much as a goodbye and I was forced to run after her like a crazed person crying, “Where’s my goodbye kissssssss?!!!?” thus thoroughly doing my job of good parenting by embarrassing her on her first day of school!

  30. Emma says...

    My family moved to a new state when my brother, Stanley, was just starting middle school. When my mom dropped him off for one of his first days of soccer practice at his new school, she watched him join his team and couldn’t hold back her motherly nerves. She rolled down the window of the car, and yelled out, “Be nice to Stanley!!!” The phrase is now infamous among him and his old soccer teammates (his good friends to this day! they were nice!) and among my siblings :).

    • Robyn says...

      This is golden, and made me smile so much! I love the pure motherly love that turned into such desperation, and then that they were, of course, nice to Stanley :)

    • Jay says...

      So sweet and so so funny.

    • Chrissie says...

      Oh my god I love this. I’m going to start yelling “be nice to Stanley!!” too!!

      So glad the kids on his team were nice!!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      omg hahahaha that is so so cute.

  31. Kristin says...

    Going to need a photo of that sweatshirt, please!

  32. Robin says...

    My mom, bless her, flirts with handsome waiters whenever we eat out together. She will chat, make jokes, and giggle away with them while I attempt not to crush my wine glass in embarrassment. She’ll say, “I’m not flirting, I’m just being friendly!”. I guess I spent to long being a cool customer in the big city. Maybe I just wish I had her confidence?

  33. Milla says...

    I don’t have children yet but felt compelled to comment. My two-years-younger-than-me brother and I were raised by a single dad. Never ever was there a time when my dad was able to (or even seemed to try) to embarrass either one of us. However, I was and always have been (for whatever reason) the biggest source of embarrassment for my brother. Like, when we were both in high-school he wouldn’t dare to even look my way. Still, he cringes and rolls his eyes whenever I say something that I guess feels embarrassing to him (and we’re both in our twenties). I find it hilarious.

    • Anna says...

      When I was 13 years old I started my period on Christmas Day. My mom must have told my dad because when we sat down to dinner that night my dad made a toast to “his little girl becoming a woman.” I about died. And the worst part, not only was the extended family there but my parents had invited the neighbors whose kids went to school with me.

  34. Judy Sommer says...

    Hahah – my best childhood friend’s mom used to called her pussy willow (and therefor pussy) too. We still make fun of her for it.

  35. Agnes says...

    Does a niece you’re looking after count?? Oh hell yeah I’ve embarrassed her. Here’s me, the totally oblivious auntie, noting to my 15-year-old niece in the parking lot of the grocery store following an argument about a frozen pizza – ‘you were nicer when you were on your period.’ Cue her freaking out, as apparently a mother and daughter looked over. I thought a loud car was muffling my words but apparently not. Horror. I did apologize for saying it at all. Which bears no relation to whether it’s true or not (it is) but that I shouldn’t have said it (I shouldn’t have).

  36. Sasha L says...

    1. I’ve never known a *cool* parent who also has a healthy, good relationship with their kid(s). Not saying it’s not possible, but in 46 years, half of them as a parent I’ve seen A LOT of very cool, hip, more friends than parents type parents, and to be perfectly brutal, they have all sucked at many of the basic functions of being a parent. Saying no, occasionally making your kid unhappy, being a freaking adult, setting appropriate boundaries, being dependable and trustworthy, you know all that deadly boring and not fun stuff.
    Wear whatever you want, but don’t think that being cool will somehow improve your kids’ life.

    2. It’s astonishing just how little like their parents many children will turn out to be. Style, tastes, values, personality, you name it – it’s almost unbelievable sometimes just how far that apple can fall. (I am a granola overalls wearing very plain Mama with zero bad habits, my youngest (5 inches shorter), has dyed black hair, tats that seem to multiple by the day, loves the music scene, and of course I love her dearly for being just who she is, which happens to be nothing like me). And yeah, I’m pretty sure I was embarrassing as hell to her not all that long ago.

  37. Lara says...

    Well .. when I was 16 or maybe 17 I went to this dinner party with my friends .I got dressed up .. I was sooo ready to spend a good evening in town .everything went right until my father showed up . The story says that when it was time for me to get home ( by 11:30 as planned ) he tried to call me and I didn’t pick up the phone. So he called several times and when I wouldn’t answer he got out of the car to try to find me ( first red flag ). At that moment I was basically saying goodbye to my friends when I saw my father coming in … navy , dad-style pyjamas , striped dressing gown, slippers … you name it .i was mortified .I quickly said goodbye and followed him to the car hoping that nobody saw him in that embarrassing outfit . I didn’t talk to him in the car nor the next day .he called everyone in the family to say that he just ” embarrassed me ” .I could hear him laughing on the phone .obviously I am still recovering years later haha thanks dad

  38. Caitlin says...

    My mom used to stand in her robe on our front porch and yell “Listen America, I love my daughter!” as I would run to catch the school bus. Mortifying. Now, as I’m about to be a first time parent, I think of all the ways I was such a brat growing up…I probably deserved a bit of cringe-worthy embarrassment.

    • Allegra LaViola says...

      that’s amazing. i love your mom.

  39. Maria says...

    My oldest daughter is surprisingly (to me) un-embarrased by her parents. Of course, if I suddenly would do something weird she would be mortified I am sure. But I remember constantly being embarrassed by the fact that my parents even were… existing, if other people were around, even though I loved my parents and they were kind of normal. I wondered a bit about why she is not more embarrassed. And I think it is in part because we live in such a diverse area, there are people from all over the world here. Every big religion I can think of and also some more obscure religions are represented here. Kids have so many different backgrounds and languages and histories and traditions that it would be strange to be embarrassed. No one is the norm, parent-wise, here. Very different from my own childhood.

  40. Julia says...

    This so reminds me of my relationship with my dad growing up. Spoiler: we are best friends now, and have been since around the time I turned 17 (in my 30s now). I borrow (steal) his clothes all the time and his attempts to “embarrass me” now just send me into peaks of laughter. Once your son finds himself, he’ll find his way back to you.

  41. Laura J says...

    I used to do it on purpose. In high school, my daughter was not good at saying thank you after I would drive her to school(there were a lot of bigger issues but this one I could do something about). So…I would let her close the door and take two or three steps and then I would blow the car horn. Everyone one around would look and she would slink back and say thank you. Yup. I’m that kinda mom.

  42. Morgan says...

    As a pet name my mom has always called me “pussycat”, often obliviously abbreviated to “pussy”. I’ll never forget the time as a teenager that a sports accident landed me in the emergency room and my mom tried to comfort me by repeating over and over again “it’s okay, Pussy”. MORTIFYING. but somehow I’ve still never told her not to or suggested she use “kittycat” instead.

    • Lara says...

      Hahaha I just laughed out loud in a coffee shop !!!
      A story to remember years later as a kid !

  43. Irene says...

    I am French and I live in Brooklyn with my family. My daughters (6 and 10) speak English in all situations, but they are SO embarrassed when I speak English with my French accent in front of other people, that they answer to me in French, hoping I will switch to French and stop embarrassing them. I don’t :)

  44. Emily says...

    I just realized that I’m capable of embarrassing my 5 year old. It was about 95 degrees this summer and I was nursing my infant at the pool. No covering up, fully exposed, postpartum one piece suit half-off, nursing. My son jumped out of the pool and told me “Mom! Everyone can see you!” I just told him that his brother was hot and hungry and needed to eat. He’s never said another word about it at the many other public places I’ve nursed, so I’m calling it a victory.

    • Taylor says...

      It is kinda concerning that at 5 he’s already internalized that boobs (especially for feeding!) need to be tucked away! Glad he understood it’s not a shameful thing!

    • MissEm says...

      I wonder, Taylor, if it’s more that at that age or a little younger parents make sure to talk to kids about not letting anyone touch or see the parts covered by a bathing suit, for safety reasons. I know that’s how my little ones might understand that. Such a great chance for him to see how breastfeeding is so different than objectification!

    • Emily says...

      Yes, more like Missem said. He was trying to keep private parts private, but this was a good chance to discuss the difference.

  45. Kara says...

    I’m trying to mentally prepare for this day, but I’m not sure I can! My 5 year old still thinks I am awesome and hilarious and have all the answers. My heart will definitely break a little bit when he starts to find me embarrassing, as he will.

    • Sarz says...

      It may not be for long, though! Never been a parent myself, but I can attest that my Too Cool Phase lasted from about 14-16. That’s barely a blip, really. I hope his phase is similarly brief. :)

    • Maria says...

      I feel the same way! Also is it just me or are kids growing up faster nowadays? I was extremely embarrassed of both parents but it didn’t start til about 13. Ten just seems so little to me.

  46. Lisa says...

    I grew up in South Africa, and there’s a paracetamol brand called panado. At one stage they were advertising it by having a giant life size cut out of a doctor outside a pharmacy. My mom * waved at it*. She also used to sing in the queue at the bank. Now she doesn’t embarrass me (more confuses me) by talking to strangers in public in London. You don’t do that unless they’re in fire

    • Charo says...

      Haaaaahahahahaha!

  47. Megn says...

    I married my husband a couple years ago. In my vows, I promised to always do my best to embarrass my step sons. If it’s going to be a given that parents will embarrass kids, we might as well really go for it.

    • Megn says...

      *with kindness, empathy, boundaries, etc., of course

  48. Sarah says...

    When my son was 5 we were about to leave the house for the school drop off, he looked at me horrified and said you can’t go out looking like an ugly old hag! It turned out later he was referring to my slippers. It was a line he’d heard from a movie…

    • Mollie says...

      This is amazing. I’m cracking up- hahaha!

  49. Ramona says...

    I don’t have children but this post was so beautifully written I was compelled to comment. :) I love how you give your kids space to be themselves. Congrats on being a really cool mom (in my book, at least).

  50. Rebecca says...

    I can’t claim ownership of this story. It’s between my older sister and her, at the time, 2-year-old son but entirely too funny not to share. Our family often calls my sweet nephew “stink stink”, of course in an endearing way. Well one afternoon when my sister was picking him up from daycare she walked in his room while he was still playing with his friends and said, “Hey stink stink!” She said his face instantly turned serious with a stern look. As they were walking out towards the car he was silent instead of his normal chatty self. While buckling him in his seat she asked what was the matter. He looked at her and said, “Don’t ehver cwall me stink stink in frwont of my frwiends again.” It’s a family treasure story now. :)

  51. Jenny says...

    Concur: Ed is a SNAQ.
    My mom is an eccentric woman, the type neighborhood children imagine is a cat-eating witch (she told them that’s why it’s called catsup!!!). Once, she wore a Poncho Villa outfit to my parent teacher conference in middle school, complete with coffee-ground-attached-with-caro-syrup beard, allegedly because she was attending a costume party afterward. The things that almost killed me with embarrassment as a kid now make me proud— she was so unafraid to do her own thing in a conservative, rural town. The Bacchus costume with grape crown still kills me though. Now, she needs help from the community because of mental health struggles. You know Bryce who used to sing dong ditch the cat eater’s house as a kid now shovels her steps every day it snows. Plus my sister and I are stone cold weirdos in her image.

    • Jenny says...

      ** ding dong ditch

  52. celeste says...

    My parents offered to come to my tennis matches in high school. I was worried if they watched, I wouldn’t concentrate or do poorly. So they never saw me play. They’re both gone and that was a mistake.

    I’m sure I’ve embarrassed both of my kids but cannot think of any direct examples. :)

    • cg says...

      This was me in all my years of school while I was in band. My parents have never heard me play. They thought I was embarrassed of them, but the reality was that I was afraid I’d make a mistake, they’d hear it and know it was me and be let down.

  53. Alexis says...

    I sincerely hope that my rainbow stripe, purple sweatpant, crazy sock-loving kid does not go the preppy route so that we can continue to wear matching tshirts/coveralls/Vans.
    As a kid, my quadri-lingual mother embarrassed me by pronouncing things wrong, actually trying to act cool (Hey guys, isn’t this RAD??), and trying too hard to help us along (trying to make friends for us, going behind my back to “fix” a tiny issue at school that snowballed once she got involved, writing a research paper for me in 3rd grade “I’m helping!”)…

  54. Sasha L says...

    This post could be alternately named, have you raised a teenager? Because if yes, then, of course. Sometimes I think my very existence was embarrassing to my daughters lol.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahaha i remember that phase — i must have rolled my eyes at my parents 8,573,924 times during my freshman year in high school.

  55. Reg says...

    My mom, who is originally from Korea, raised my brother and I in small towns all around the US (military family). When we were middle schoolers and embarrassed to be seen around her, she thought it was because of her accent/ appearance. She never told this to us, but mentioned it to another (non immigrant parent). That lady was like, “oh honey, all our kids are embarrassed of us! It’s not just you!” She told me this story years later and mentioned how much those words from a fellow parent helped her during those years.

    • K says...

      that’s so touching.

    • yoonjee says...

      my mom is also Korean, and she always used to yell “yoonjee-ah” at carpool when looking for me…. so of course my friends used to then start calling me “yoonjee-ah”. Mortifying.

  56. Annie M says...

    My parents raised walaroos while I was growing up, which to most kids would be the coolest thing ever. However, instead of leaving them at home, my dad would put them into a cozy pillowcase inside a backpack and cruise around with them everywhere he went… with the backpack on his front, Ergo carrier-style. He always showed up to my high school volleyball games with a little roo peeking out, then proceeded to tell the never-ending crowds all the facts anyone would ever want to know about marsupials.
    Insert face palm emoji.

    • Lily says...

      Okay, that might be the cutest thing *ever*! Walaroos?! But I also see the potential for embarrassing a high schooler…

    • Sarz says...

      *Absolutely*, that would be embarrassing to a high-schooler. That being said, I kinda wish they’d make a movie about your childhood. :)

  57. Rikke says...

    The only parents who do not embarrass their children are the absent parents. Period. If you take part of your kids lives you will embarrass them. So go ahead. Be present and mortify them!

    • CELINE says...

      Like!

  58. Sally says...

    My mother STILL embarrasses me, and I’m 34!

    Twice recently, she’s managed it.
    1: A company announced on facebook that they’d appointed a good friend of mine. I commented on the post, offering congrats to my friend. Mother dearest THEN commented, correcting their grammar! Way to ruin the moment.
    2: We were together on a quiz team, and every couple of rounds, the announcer would read out the points of each team, and mum likes to write them down. Once she was busy doing something, as he started to read out the scores, so I grabbed the pen and started to write them down.
    She literally snatched the pen from my hand, and loudly stated, “NO, write them down like this!”
    I was like, “I was writing them down one under the other, like you did before…”
    She looked at my writing and said, “Ohhh… I thought you might leave too much space between the numbers!”

    I love her dearly. But sometimes… It’s a lot.

  59. Jenn says...

    My school had uniforms and my mother loved that we got to avoid most of the struggle around what to wear, especially as a teenager. After endless begging, I convinced her to take me to Macy’s to shop for some off-duty clothing. I was so excited and really enjoying myself. Until my mother farted – very loud, and without missing a beat, turned to me and say “EEEWWW, Jennifer that is disgusting.”. I would have melted into the floor if humanely possible. Mortifying then, hilarious today.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahahahahahahaha

    • Karen says...

      HAHAHA!!! Your mother was clever and quick to blame it on you as it must have been mortifying for her too!!

  60. Chrissie says...

    This post made me laugh!

    I regularly embarrass my 13 year old son and 10 year old daughter. The other day though I embarrassed my daughter and I felt TERRIBLE.

    The backstory is: I talk very openly about body things in my house. My kids have known about periods (for example) for a long time. I felt SO much shame surrounding my period and don’t want that for my daughter.

    Anyway, the other day a new “hey girl your body is changing!” book came in the mail that I had ordered for my daughter. I showed it to her and loudly said “look what I got you!! A book about PUUUUBERRTYYYYYY” in a loud, joyous, sing-songy voice. The look on her face was pure mortification. She almost cried she was so embarrassed!! I felt AWFUL about it. Just because puberty is an easy thing for ME to talk about, doesnt mean that SHE felt comfortable with it.

    Anyway, I apologized profusely and told her I’d be more sensitive in the future. Whoops!!

    • Cynthia says...

      My niece got her period and didn’t tell her parents. She just figured it all out on her own or via friends. When they ultimately learned she was cycling and asked why the secrecy, she said, “BECAUSE I KNEW YOU WOULD DO SOMETHING CRAZY MOM LIKE HAVE A PARTY OR CEREMONY OR SOMETHING!”

    • Chrissie says...

      Cynthia, LoL!! hundred percent sure my daughter is worried that i, too, am going to throw her a period party.

    • Anna says...

      That’s why the parents of my godchild asked me to talk to her about it when she started having her period :-) I sent her a “secret” parcel containing the stuff she might need, together with chocolates, an audio book and a colouring book (just something to relax with, not anything related to the topic as such) and wrote her a letter offering infos and links to sites she might want to visit. She was really thankful and I felt kinda proud how I handled it ;-) Let’s see how things will go down with my own daughter, though…

    • Ro says...

      Anna, that’s so sweet of you! I’m going to tuck that idea away should I ever have a daughter or niece. I remember being so so embarrassed by periods because my mom wouldn’t talk about them, but I imagine her shouting it from the roof tops would have been equally mortifying. Love the idea of just giving her information and letting her process in her own time.

  61. Trish O says...

    So the thing I have learned about kids..mine are teens now… is that no matter how cool you are, you ain’t cool to them. You are just embarrassing to them in your oldness and lameness. You could be Lenny Kravits, arguably one of the coolest people EVER, your kid will still think you are old and lame. Just the way of the world.

    • Viv says...

      Totally this! Our friend is the lead guitarist of a famous rock band. I mean, the absolute epitomy of coolness. On top of it they get to be around other famous musicians on the regular. They’re teens now and to them it’s always been a huge eye-roll coupled with “Omg Daaad!! Can you just NOT!” You really can’t win haha.

    • Midge says...

      This reminds me of an interview with Kristen Bell where she says that her daughters get mad at her when she sings along to Frozen. She’s like, “You know that’s actually me, right?” It made me feel so much better about embarrassing my kids.

  62. Becky says...

    Wow, some of these comments are so moving, I’m tearing up reading them.

    As a mother of a 12-year old, I just want to say that everything that embarrasses your children now will very likely be everything that they remember about you, and yearn for when they are older. I grew up hearing my mom lament that her father’s turquoise sneakers embarrassed her so much as an adolescent that she’d hang behind him at the mall pretending she didn’t know him. Just as the author’s son wants to blend in with the crowd, adolescents want their parents to do the same. But, we’ve already been there and we know that in the end personality and being ourselves is the golden ticket in life. We just need to let our kids figure that out, and in the meantime, keep being zany selves.

  63. selby says...

    my parents always offered to chaperone EVERYTHING. i now realize how sweet that was, but at the time it was so embarrassing. one of my extracurricular groups went on an annual trip, and my father as “head chaperone” (and lawyer in normal life) decided to write a code of conduct for the group.

    if that wasn’t embarrassing enough, a couple years later when i had my first boyfriend (who was also in that group), my dad created an addendum with a “No PDA” rule. i was mortified.

    • Deanna says...

      We were flying from NZ to CA so my now husband could meet my parents for the first time. My parents were in a different state when we arrived, so my dad had a list of things until they got home (water the plants, trash day, etc.). Number 1 on the list was “You will individually occupy both guest rooms”. Luckily, as an adult, I found it funny.

  64. Cassie F. says...

    My 7 year old has ALWAYS had her own style and it’s still hard for me to accept. Recently she asked my opinion on which scarf she should wear (it was 97* that day), and when I said neither because it kind of looked like a grandma outfit with the scarf, she replied “I know, Mom. That’s my style.” I don’t get it, but it did make me happy that she wasn’t concerned with anyone’s opinion. And she was standing firm in her choice.

    • Sarz says...

      Good for her! As a grownup who shops in the kid’s section, I must say I’m not a huge fan of most of the clothing marketed to young girls (and, uh, me). Nothin’ but unicorns and pailettes and poop emojis as far as the eye can see! If she’s already learned what works for her and what doesn’t, what good that must do for her confidence! :)

  65. Rachael Mcnamara says...

    I read an article where Victoria Beckham was saying how her kids are so embarrassed by them, and make David drop them off around the corner. Like, it’s David Beckham! One of the most handsome footballers of all time and I’m sure he has a lovely car! If teenagers can be embarrassed by David Beckham, there’s no hope for the rest of us!

    • Rachel says...

      LOL that is the best image, and a good reminder that parents are embarrassing regardless of how cool/attractive/successful they are.

    • steph says...

      Hahaha so true!

    • Erin says...

      But imagine how embarrassing it would be if you were a teenager and your dad were *David Beckham*?!? He would never blend in anywhere. Probably their kids just want a NORMAL dad!

      (And I say this as someone who was plenty embarrassed by my sweet, very normal dad when I was a teenager. He wore a horrible bucket hat on his bald head to keep from getting sunburned at my swim meets! It had a button pinned to it that said “I’m a swimmer’s dad!” So embarrassing!)

  66. Georgia Leigh says...

    Can we please stop idolizing David Bowie? He routinely had sex with teenage girls when he was an adult man. We don’t tolerate this from other men, so why do we give him a pass? Please teach your young son about allies, not abusers.

  67. Chantal Roberts says...

    I accidentally embarrassed my almost 4 year old daughter and it’s made me realize how much my responses to her actions matter. She was getting herself dressed for school we realized she had accidentally put her clothes on backwards, we all started laughing — me and the nanny and my daughter. But suddenly she shrieked “Stop!” and dissolved into inconsolable sobs.

    As we were walking to school later, she looked up at me and said, “I hate when people laugh at me.” And then she started crying again. Not tears of hunger or fear or exhaustion or any of the baby/toddler emotions I was used to. She was crying tears of shame. I crumbled to the ground to look her in the eye and said I was so sorry for laughing and that I understood. She let me give her a big hug, continued walking and started telling me all that she had learned about bugs lately.

    Growing up is the start of big, hard, complicated emotions –for both of us.

    • Becky says...

      Not sure if you’ve ever watched Daniel Tiger, but Miss Elaina’s clothes are always on backwards and it’s the absolute sweetest. None of the characters ever mention it, it’s just her. Whenever I see kids walking around with shoes on the wrong feet, I can’t help but smile. They usually figure it all out eventually, as will you.

    • T says...

      I think this is the difference, I don’t think it’s ever ok to laugh AT someone else, the trick to the innocuous embarrassment is to be yourself or silly or whatever and then just by you existing they’re embarrassed BY YOU. I learned this the hard way too, by mocking my five year old niece, ugh, what a lesson. I’m so glad these kids drew these boundaries with us. You should be proud of her for doing so and of yourself for validating that line.

  68. Annie K says...

    When I was in sixth grade, my middle school PE teacher told all the parents at parents’ night that they were welcome to come on “mile day” Wednesdays and run the mile with their child. My dad, long divorced from my mom and doing everything possible to connect on his every-other-Wednesday visitation days, saw this as a golden opportunity! He laced up with me that very next Wednesday, to my absolute horror. I can still hear the eighth grade girls squealing “Oooooh that’s soooooo CUTE that your DAD is here”.

    I’m proud that I had enough sense at the time not to say anything to my dad; he ran the mile with me a handful of times that year. My PE teacher said he’s the only parent who ever took her up on the offer, and she taught for decades. It was mortifying. I am so proud that he did that.

    • Becky says...

      This is amazing

    • Y says...

      Amazing.

    • Hannah says...

      I hope this makes the Friday highlight reel of the best comments.

    • Maria says...

      This is the sweetest story! Thanks for sharing it.

    • K says...

      so sweet.

  69. L says...

    I grew up in a fairly conservative, preppy town. The mothers mostly wore neat skirts and twin sets. My mother wore skinny leggings and big t-shirts and fanny packs (before they became cool). I was so embarrassed and desperate for her to fit in. But when I was older, I realized that those outfits are exactly what make my mom so great: She has no pretense, she’s not a snob, she does exactly what she wants, and she doesn’t give a sh*t what other people think. Lessons I would like to pass on to my own daughter!

    I think the things that embarrass kids are actually their parents’ best traits. At least that’s what I’ll tell myself when I start embarrassing my own kids. :)

  70. Lizzie says...

    my mom used to embarrass me and hide behind that it was just her being fun and i was humorless. except it wasn’t fun for me and was almost always an attention grab for self validation. i hated it then. i hate it now. and if my child expressed that something embarrassed her as simple as a shirt she hated – i would strongly consider not continuing to taunt her by wearing it at school drop off – now matter how cool i thought it was.

    • Awads says...

      100%. i had the same mom. i will never be that woman. i will always HEAR my son’s concerns and not try to make him fit into some idea i have of how he should dress or wear his hair. he does laugh when i threaten to dance in public, but he knows i have his back.

    • K says...

      Yeah I think it’s a balance and about intention. If my mom is overly hurt that she embarasses me instead of thinking about why, her ego’s too strong. If my mom takes my opinion overly seriously as a child about something like, a silly t shirt, or wanting to watch my recital (context matters), then she has too low self confidence, unless she truly is maybe an awful human being and has different motives for being present.

      Same goes with parents that say their kids embarrass them or are making them lose face. Maybe the kid IS being rude, but the reason to discipline shouldn’t be because the parents think their child represents them. They shouldn’t behave for the sake of their parents.

  71. kathy says...

    the other day i was at a dr’s appointment with my 4-year old and i was thinking that for all of the trouble it took to cancel work, arrange care, etc. i was so enjoying being with her and she says so dryly, “mom, do you have to laugh so loud?”

    • Emily says...

      oh my god <3

  72. laura says...

    “I’m not a regular mom. I’m a cool mom.” ;)

  73. Amber says...

    Lisa,
    i loved your essay and am too faced with embracing my 12 and 14 year old daughters slide into secular fashion. although, i may have handled the transition less gracefully than you. when my oldest was a 6th grader, i relentlessly counseled her on holding her head high when kids teased her about her clothing choices. i thought i was helping reinforce her strength of character. by 7th grade, her confidence tanked. she felt like an outsider. after school pick up one day, i offered to take her shopping for some athletic leggings (worn for fashion, not sport). as i remember it, there was an audible sigh as she melted into the front passenger seat. the weight that was lifted from her was immediate. the next day instead of critiques, she received compliments. for the rest of the year, i watched as her self-esteem slowly began to fill back up. she was able to focus on the hard task of being a 13 year old girl without expending the energy it took to stand out. middle school is hard. kids are unyielding at that age and most everyone just wants to blend in. interestingly, she began her 8th grade year a few weeks ago, and i’ve noticed her branching out again, expressing herself. all that to say, there is still hope that your son will sprinkle some hot pink into his black and grey uniform. those punk rock roots are in there somewhere!

    • june2 says...

      This! Social cues are never again as clear as they are in grade school and while it may seem a fine line between cultivating an original thinker who stands up for herself or becomes a mindless sheeple, doesn’t the personality naturally take it’s own shape when it knows it’s safe to do so? Learning the benefits and boundaries of fitting in are a vital lesson and it seems that middle school is when that happens. Forcing it out of fear is probably not a good idea.

      On the other hand certain boundaries won’t kill them. In my era everyone wore promotional or branded t-shirts for either bands or products or etc and my mother would simply not allow them: “You will not be walking advertisements!” I protested probably daily but she never backed down other than to finally agree to solid color tee’s with no label/logo. But not my favorite, white! “You will not wear underwear in public!” Years later I appreciate the label-free mentality.

  74. mali says...

    My friend’s father would take a Heinz ketchup bottle off the shelf at the grocery store, hold it like a mic, and begin to sing into it to her. “I willlll alwayssss love youuuuuu….” and other songs. She would absolutely die–and yet she loved it all the same.
    I remember feeling strangely jealous when I heard about it. My father was always away on business trips, and he never had the opportunity to embarrass me.

  75. Jen says...

    When I was in middle school my parents saw boys from my school yanking the tops of agapanthus off as they walked down the road. We slowed to a roll next to them and my mom shouted at them to leave the flowers alone. My parents turned back to see me hiding on the floor of the back seat. They tease me to this day for my embarrassment.

  76. Beth says...

    Last year, our kindergartner wanted my husband to start dropping her off around the block because she was embarrassed of him. Him!!! There was a kid in her class whose Dad had the ‘100’ emoji tattooed on his forehead in a large font, and she was embarrassed of her Dad in his outdoorsy Patagonia jacket and hip sunglasses! It gave my husband a bit of a complex for a while. After some more detective work, it turns out she just wanted him to not kiss her goodbye anymore.

    • katie says...

      this is amazing

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, that’s so funny. kids are hilarious. anton and i walked by a street musician the other day and (even though i had not moved a muscle) he suddenly gave me a sterm look and said, “DON’T DANCE.” i’m like, okay, anton, but i’m not THAT horrifying a dancer haha.

    • Lizzie says...

      Ok I’m going to need to know more about this dad with the emoji tattoo. A real, permanent tattoo? Of the 100 emoji? On his FOREHEAD??

  77. Lindsey says...

    I see embarrassing our children as payback for their toddler years when they inevitably embarrass US in public. This past spring I carried my screaming toddler like a football for three whole blocks while seven months pregnant. I thought “I can’t wait until you’re older, kid. I’m gonna dance on the grocery store.”

    • Sarah says...

      This! I love the explanation that parents embarrass their teens because when those teens were young children they put their parents through so many awkward situations the parents became totally desensitized to behavioral norms and clearly can’t be held responsible for their later behavior :)

  78. Julia says...

    My mom would always do embarrassing things (at least to me) and I’d ask her to stop..and then she would say out loud to whoever we were with that she was embarrassing me! That part was so much worse than the actually embarrassing thing. I’m sure I will embarrass my kids tons, but I’ll never say that.

  79. TriciaR says...

    You mean, like today?? Because he’s 14 so I’m pretty sure I embarrass him the moment my feet hit the floor :-D

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahaha

  80. Alex says...

    On the first day of pre-K my husband said to my not-even-4-year-old “I’m going to stay with you for the first hour of class while you get comfortable” . and my daughter said “Okay daddy, but if the other dads leave, then you have to leave too.” She’s already too cool…

  81. My Dad consistently drove the oldest, most beat-up cars he could find and felt zero shame about it, but my siblings and I were horrified to have to ride in his junkers. I distinctly remember ducking down into the floorboards in one of his cars in an attempt to remain anonymous, which only made my Dad more determined to embarrass me by honking and waving at people on the street. In hindsight, anonymity was impossible – when you grown up in a town of 2500 people everyone KNOWS whose car that is (and whose DAD that is!)!!

  82. Zoe says...

    I grew up with a thrifty artist dad who REALLY didn’t seem to care what anyone thought about him. Beat up cars, riding his bike with a 99 cent store bag full of stuff on the front, etc. The most memorable moments? One time I went to the YMCA with him to work out and as I pedaled away on the elliptical machine overlooking the pool I spotted him swimming laps in a wetsuit! Another time, he picked me up from the airport in LA and decided to drop by unannounced at a friends house (that he hadn’t seen in YEARS) in Beverly Hills… to use the bathroom.

    • agnes says...

      aha ha what a great personnality!

    • ali masse says...

      Hahaha…..the wetsuit is hilarious but I can see how that would
      be totally mortifying. He sounds pretty eccentric but how boring
      the world would be without people like him.

  83. Tara says...

    I have Bells Palsy that unfortunately will not going away. I always worry my two daughters (3 months and 2.5) will be embarrassed of their droopy faced mom who can’t smile when they get older.

    • Marieke says...

      No.. it will be the dearest face in the world to them, forever.

    • Catherine says...

      Your girls are so little and only know you as their beautiful mother, nobody else. They see you for who you are and love you because of it. I have scleroderma that affects my face, and while my boys (9 and 10) have asked about it before, it’s not a big deal at all. I’m just their mom. xo

    • C says...

      It’s hard to feel like something you cannot change may be a cause for embarrassment. I read something recently about a teenager who still hugged his mom goodbye, in HS. When his friends gave him heat he brushed it off with a smile saying, what? you guys don’t love your mothers?
      Isn’t that awesome?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that is awesome, C!

    • Christine says...

      You are their mother. They will always see the love you have for them shining through your face. My daughter has a red birthmark on her forehead (she’s now 4), and when she was younger with no hair, the comments people made were tough for me (asking if she got hurt, why I didn’t cover it up, etc), but I always just saw her beautiful, happy face. I imagine your case will be the same, just in reverse :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Tara, I agree with Marieke — your face will be full of love and beauty to them forever and always.

    • Ann says...

      You are their beautiful mother, always.

    • Anonygirl says...

      I echo what everyone else has said. Your sweet girls will love you for who you are.

    • L says...

      Just to get as real as possible: My mother in law has a paralyzed nerve in her face, and her face is effected to the point that she her eye doesn’t close all of the way and she has to use artificial tears and really struggles with the wind, and many other little things too. Before I met her in person, I saw a few pictures of her at my husband’s apartment. She had this way of looking into the camera from the side and I assumed she was a very sassy person. She also had a little bit of a drawl over the phone, that I assumed was from living in Texas (and maybe that does contribute?). So when I first met her, I I worried that I had a visceral and apparent reaction to the fact that one side of her face is paralyzed. And I was so pissed at my now-husband. I asked him, How could you have not prepared me? And he very truly said that he forgot. He said he’s never noticed, and he doesn’t really see it, and he doesn’t even know the cause of her facial paralysis. It has literally never occurred to her that she looked out of the ordinary in any way. So I think you can feel confident that your Bells Palsy won’t matter to your kids. And now, a decade on, I can say that after that one embarrassing moment for me I completely integrated that bit of facial paralysis into my life and I don’t notice my m-i-l’s paralysis at all. To the point that sometimes she has to ask for help or point out ways in which it’s changed or she’s struggling! To me, she is our beloved family member. And her grandkids, my kids, have never once mentioned or wondered anything about it. She’s just love to them. (And candy.) xox

    • Nancy says...

      The left side of my mother’s face is paralyzed due to a damaged nerve from surgery. She can’t fully smile or close one eye. I was embarrassed by my mom for a lot of reasons but her face was never ever a reason. Never. You will always be their beautiful mother.

    • Tara says...

      How kind of you all, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Adjusting to a new face along with our second baby has been causing me a fair bit of sadness and some depression. All of your words of encouragement mean so very much.

    • Angela says...

      Hi Tara. My husband had Bells before we met and it wasn’t diagnosed in a timely manner. Because of this, he has some irreversible nerve damage. I’m sorry you have this worry and just wanted to let you know you weren’t alone. My husband nearly broke my heart when he voiced his concern about his (future at that point) kids asking him why his smile was broken, or why his eye watered, or why his face looks funny. Our twins are 4 and NOTICE EVERYTHING and have never commented. My answer then, and my thinking now, is his face is his and one they (will) love. They don’t know any different, just like I don’t really either. It’s him who has the weighty recognition of a “before” and “after.” I met him “after” and fell in love with that face, the same as our kids.

    • B says...

      When I was in ninth grade, I went for a sleepover at a new friend’s house. Her cool, funny mom picked a group of us up from the mall, made us dinner, etc. We were all sitting in the kitchen when I noticed the kitchen had a lot of interesting gadgets. “Why?” I asked. Everyone stared at me: “Are you serious?!” Turns out her mom only had one arm, and I hadn’t even noticed. (P.S. That new friend is now a pretty successful actress.)

    • Catherine says...

      Tara, I already commented (I mentioned having scleroderma), but there’s a great UK organization called Changing Faces that works to end the stigma against people with facial differences. They have an Instagram account and post a lot of really uplifting stuff. I wish there was an org like that in the US. Sending love your way!

    • T says...

      Tara, Carly Findlay and Turia Pitt might be worth a look into. If you can get to a place of acceptance, or even pride of your resilience I think you and your kids will be much more likely to shrug off projected shame. Because I suspect that “droopy faced” is not even close to how they’d describe you given the chance.

    • june2 says...

      Everything everyone else above commented – and also – keep an eye on stem cell therapy for nerve repair. Amazing strides are being made.

  84. mary says...

    I took my 12 year old son to a birthday party, roller skating, this weekend. I asked him before if I could skate or would it embarrass him? He said it was fine. I had the best time, and several girls commented about my ability.. I stayed upright. I know I embarrassed by teenaged daughter, but I think it was just my mere existence, so I can really change that.

  85. Kate says...

    In high school I was so embarrassed by my dad’s red ’87 Ford F150 pickup. I thought it was old and gross and junky and was mortified when he drove it to pick me up. But now I’d give anything to have that truck!

  86. Emily says...

    My dad used to pull over to pick up old furniture left on the side of the road. He was a wood worker and loved to refinish furniture. My mom still has some of the pieces. But I was mortified!

  87. KL says...

    My mother-in-law loves telling the story about the time my husband, then her 10-year-old son, needed new underwear and was so, super embarrassed about it. Apparently he said some not nice things to her on the way to the store, so she marched him through the parking lot to the door yelling “make way, make way! this boy needs new underwear!” Does this make for good parenting? Eh, let the debates abound. But does it make me laugh thinking about a 10 year old cringing with every step on his way to get new underwear? Yep.

  88. Lele says...

    My own father used to embarrass me every day with his antics! He was the guy at the wedding talking a little too loud, toasting everyone, saying hello to strangers, yelling silly things out of the window of the car, wearing an ascot and a beret to the grocery store, you name it. I’m 62 years old and a grandmother of 2 now, and I would do anything to have him embarrass me just one more time…..xoxo

    • Lara says...

      You story made me tear up ! I lost my dad 5 years ago ( when i was 18 )and I know that it never got easier as it is supposed to . Reading your comment confirmed that ! At 62 I will be missing him just as much as I am today . Xoxo

  89. carolina says...

    When he was little I dressed my son in what he would say was a very European style – nice pants, cozy cardigans, bufandas !?! – in pictures you can see where he starts to spin away from me and into the clothes your son favours – it stung – at one point he also became embarrassed that I would pronounce Spanish words correctly – he begged me to pronounce them like everyone else – I’m ashamed to say I started faking an English accent which made me feel a fool – the things you do for love

    • Amanda says...

      Omg I can relate! I’m not a native speaker where I live so I embarrass my kids every time I open my mouth. For years I’ve been using a slang phrase I thought meant « what a mess ». I just found out it actually translates to « that’s f*cked up! ». I’ve said it to their teachers, at school meetings, etc. I must be the most embarrassing parent on earth!

    • Fiona says...

      I don’t have children but have lots of friends who do; sometimes I read stuff here that moms seem to understand but doesn’t intuitively make sense to me (like that thing about wanting to “eat” babies). But I try to understand moms’ reactions when possible, because it helps me relate to my friends.
      I’ve seen a couple of mentions of a “sting” when a child wants to dress differently. Can someone explain what’s behind the sting, or the feeling of the mom in the post, of feeling deflated when her son wanted a different haircut?

      The only thing I’m intuiting is that there is something in a mom that feels ownership or connection to how a child looks, and when a child decides differently, the mom takes it personally in some way?

    • molly says...

      Fiona, my son is only 2, so we haven’t hit this point yet, but for me, the part that would “sting” would be the realization that he’s entering a new phase of life. With a baby/toddler/little kid, even though they have (strong) opinions and feelings, in a way, they’re still an extension of you. They think mom is the best person in the world. I like to think I won’t care if my kid wants to wear clothes that aren’t to my taste, but I know it will be hard to see him grow up and leave the baby stage behind. It’s not so much a personal affront as an OOMPH, we’re moving on, this is hard. I’m sure there will be parts of this phase of life I’ll be happy to leave behind, but like anything you love, it’s hard to see it change (even if it ends up being a good change!).

    • carolina says...

      The sting is the realization of the passage of time and that you’re leaving behind a precious time. Its not the clothes its the closeness.

    • Lisa says...

      Fiona – I saw this on Instagram which gives an indicating of what it’s like
      “We don’t own them, we’re just borrowing them for a while. They belong to themselves, and each milestone is a bitter reminder of that”
      Also, for me, every emotion is more intense when it comes to my children. Them not liking something I like feels like a rejection

  90. Ruth says...

    My dad used to skip with my younger sister in the parking lot. Ten-year-old me was MORTIFIED. Now, I skip with my 4-year-old in the parking lot any chance I get — and I will until she rolls her eyes and yells at me to stop.

  91. Gillian says...

    Just Friday night at a Mets baseball game with my 12 year old. They were showing couples in the stands and when the couples realized they were on the screen they would kiss (sponsored by a flower delivery company). Then they showed a mom with a baby and the mom kissed the baby. I told my son if they showed us I would have to kiss him. He moved three seats over and wouldn’t look at me until the kissing had stopped and baseball had resumed. When my husband and younger son returned to our seats, my husband and I had a good laugh about it.

    • Jen says...

      Oh my heart! So sweet and funny. I can definitely imagine my sons doing the same in the future!

  92. Samantha says...

    I’m sorry, this is going to be irrelevant, I don’t have kids but…
    Lisa, I went and read your old posts and I have to ask — how’s Ed? He’s dreamy! I love that story.

    • Samantha, I want to know more about Ed, too! He IS dreamy. 7 feet tall???? Wow.

    • Heather says...

      Samantha and Amy, if you haven’t seen this, Lisa posted an update on Ed in the comments of the original post: “dear everyone who posted: i can’t stop smiling at these comments. i wholeheartedly agree that ed is a dreamboat! he just wasn’t MY dreamboat. more of a brother and a seriously nice guy. a small addendum: three years later i met the love of my life, ian. i credit the english guy for opening my eyes to real love. barbara and i became really good friends after the trip. she is hilarious and awesome. and after we all long left our jobs at mtv, about a decade ago, i ran into ed in the hamptons. we were both toting newborns and it was great to see each other again. i just wrote him to let him know he has a fan club. :)”

  93. Katha says...

    My Dad used to whistle. Little melodies. In public while walking down the street with me. I remember begging him to stop.

  94. I really want to see this sweatshirt!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahaha same! i’ll ask if she has a link :)