If you can’t handle embarrassment, don’t become a parent. In the non-existent job description of a mom, handling embarrassment is right up there with changing diapers. Right from birth your kids are experts at embarrassing you. Ok, maybe you are too busy when you are pushing them out of your you-who to be embarrassed about the fact that at least ten different people are staring at your hairy neither regions, but trust me, it will hit you later. And to some extent, this embarrassment factor is to be expected. You know that after you have a baby you run a high risk of showing up to a social event with baby puke on your shoulder or leaky nipple stains on your chest. But the part that is the worst is when you step right into it all on your own – like when you stupidly ask your kids to do something in front of other people and actually expect them to do it. So in order to hopefully spare you some of these embarrassments, I have compiled a short list of things NOT to ask your kids to do in public.
1. To say “Thank You”: There should be some kind of law stating that manners are not required until kids go to school. Otherwise, you are just asking for trouble. Just because a kid can talk doesn’t mean that they understand everything yet. Imagine if someone told you that you had to say ‘snikerdoodle’ every time someone touches their nose. Would you remember to do it, assuming you have the typical toddler attention span of Dory from Finding Nemo? Personally, I am not sure I would believe that the person who told me to do it wasn’t just trying to embarrass me or get a cheap laugh out of their friends (you know you do that to your kids – make them say some cute phrase, or in Alice’s case, swear words – in front of your friends just to get a giggle). How are they supposed to know the difference? But we continue to try and get them to say it because we want to look like responsible parents, even though 9 times out of 10 our little one will respond by throwing a tantrum complete with stomping of feet and emphatic shrieks of “NOOOOOOO!” Does this really make us look better than simply saying thank you on behalf of our child? I don’t think so. So save yourself some embarrassment next time and just say thank you yourself. Remember, kids are like parrots in training – they will eventually catch on and start repeating everything you say anyway. So as long as you have manners and use them, eventually it will rub off on your kids.
2. Talk on the phone: If your child is able to talk and not yet in school do not let them within 10 feet of a phone, and not just because they will probably try to call China. First, the typical toddler has more mood swings than Elvis during his fat years. One minute they’re beating you about the head with Pooh Bear, trying to get you to let them talk on the phone and the next they act like you are holding a rectal thermometer if you bring the phone anywhere near them. And while all this is taking place, the person on the other end of the line thinks that you are either lying about them wanting to talk or dissuading them from doing so. Either way, you are probably out of the will.
Secondly, if any of you have had the pleasure of speaking to a young child on the phone then you know that it is about as much fun as having your bikini hair removed by tweezing. You sit on the phone wracking your brain to try and remember the names of the characters on Sesame Street in order to find something to talk about. Then you have to pretend to be excited when they tell you they pooped in the potty today. Worst of all, you always end up talking in that voice that is usually reserved for cute puppies and kinky foreplay, and thanks to the invention of speaker phone, all the adults on the other end of the line are listening and laughing at how ridiculous you sound. While at first this may seem like a reason to let your little one run up the long distance minutes just so you can get a laugh at the expense of your friends and family, be careful. As Art Linkletter would say, Kids say the darndest things, and you don’t want it to slip out that your kid caught you and daddy ‘wrestling’ in bed last night.
3. Keep their clothes on: Apparently, Simba is allergic to shoes. And hats. And pants. The bottom line is, if he can get it off it is coming off, and he doesn’t care where he is at when he does it. Last week in church, in front of complete strangers, I caught myself telling him to keep his shoes on. He lasted for all of 12 seconds before they were on the floor and I had to go pew diving once again to retrieve them. Then in comes Team Judgement, silently judging me with their shifty eyes and raised eyebrows for (a) talking out loud to a one-year old as if he actually understood or cared what I am telling him and (b) for caving and not doing anything in retaliation after being disobeyed. Had I had the insight to say afterwards “Now you will not get your shoes back because you threw them” or something that made it sound like I was actually in control of the situation instead of being played by a baby, it might have been less embarrassing. But instead I just bribed him with food so he would stop attempting to tear up the hymnal and went back to pretending that I was actually able to pay some attention to the service.
Despite all of this, I will still continue to step into embarrassment by asking my kids to do all of the above things. You know why? Because when it actually works, it is so awesome. It is worth every bit of embarrassment you have racked up in the past when you ask your little one to say thank you and they actually do it! Who cares if people think I’m a pushover, or that I let my kids run around naked like wild animals at home because they can’t keep their clothes on in public? I will gladly take that kind of embarrassment over leaky nipples any day.