I don’t mean to embarrass my daughter usually. It can sometimes be out of my control. When you have a ten year old, almost anything you do can be considered “cringy”.
You can’t really blame me. I mean, I raised this kid ever since she was bald and toothless. I’ve seen every incarnation of Olivia since the genesis. We’ve been through her non-stop runny-nose phase, the headbands and hairclips phase, super hero phase, Disney princess phase, and many others. This one child I was tasked to raise ended up being hundreds of kids on hundreds of days. I’ve had to alter my approach at every turn.
So, of course, things get confusing. We had a near-miss during her trip to the movies with Girl Scouts last week.
Events like this are usually done by the moms, but I was lucky enough to snag the spot. I happily started to put my shoes on and, before I left, my wife asked me this:
So, are you going to stay and watch the movie or just come home?
Incredulously, I replied in an almost sarcastic tone.
What? How could I come home? I’m watching a movie with her.
My wife smiled.
You’re not watching a movie with her. You’re bringing her to the movies. They have a private theater. You can stay, just see who’s around to sit with.
Even more incredulously than the first time, I spit back an even more sarcastic response.
What? “Who’s around to sit with?” I am going to sit with her! I’m taking her to the movies.
I thought the two of them were going to fall out of their chairs in laughter.
Why would she sit with you? She sits with her friends.
I looked at Olivia. She repeated the statement so I could understand.
Yeah. I sit with my friends.
At this point, I felt like an idiot. So, in an effort to show that I realized it’s no longer 2011, I tried to play it up like a joke. I pouted and dropped my head.
But…I thought I was your friend. Wah.
She laughed. On the outside, I laughed too. In my head though, I was a little sad.
Turns out that the movie was a terrifying story about a dog that goes through hell to get home. It was scarring to me and I’m supposed to be the grown up. There were distraught children weeping and running in the aisles.
I was pretty happy to be sitting in the back with the moms and our phones. They’re great. The phones are great. Everything’s great. Still, though, a part of me wished I was sitting up front with my kid and making fun of the terrible acting and heavy-handed tear jerking. If we were home, we could. But this wasn’t home and no other parents were doing it. That’s what would make it “embarrassing.”
That’s one of the toughest things about raising a child. As they get older, you have to make adjustments to norms that once held true. Sitting next to her at a movie – something that you’d be vilified for not doing if she was six – is something that would cause embarrassment at ten.
You see it sometimes in public – the parent who didn’t get the memo. They’re trying to force their preteen to sit on their lap or holding the juicebox while they sip. It’s one of the most ironic parts of raising kids. Those things were fine when they were little and then, one day, they just weren’t. Doing the job you’ve been doing the whole time is suddenly embarrassing and realizing when that happens is all on you.
My kid changes as she gets older because that’s what people do. It doesn’t mean she loves me any less. It just means that she is becoming her own person. My job is to be there for her at every stage of her life as I am needed. I don’t cry or wish for the good old days constantly. I find areas where we are still connected and common interests that didn’t exist when she was little. I try to make new “good old days” for tomorrow.
Embarrassment is a tricky thing, though. It could be my Achilles heel, but also my secret weapon. If you can spot embarrassing moments, you can both avoid them and use them to your advantage. At times when her ten-year-old attitude comes roaring out, that’s when I do my finest work. The best example was the time I accidentally interrupted her important Facetime session.
When Olivia Facetimes on the iPad, it’s like a corporate merger. She has Minecraft or Roblox loaded up on one screen and her friends all conferenced in on another. They talk about building houses and “noobs”. It’s a whole to-do. Walking in on that can earn you a scornful response. That happened to me.
I stepped in to say that dinner was ready, but she acted as if I stepped in to murder her. Immediately, this kid I was simply trying to feed began waving her arms in a manic way and loudly whispering, “I – am – on – Face-time!” Finally, she waved her hand in the air to dismiss me like a 19th century butler. I stood there in stunned silence as the arrogant grin settled on her face. That’s when I knew what I loudly had to do.
Yo, Olivia! What the heck?! Are you farting in here?! Ugh! I can’t even breathe! Oh my God!
I could hear her friends roaring with laughter through the screen. She tried not to, but she was too. Through her hysterics, Olivia chased me out of the room, and shut the door behind me. My awkward work here was done.
We laugh about that one still and it’s just one of many others. Being told you’re embarrassing isn’t an insult when you’re a parent. It’s an adjective. Because you are. You can deny it. You can fight it. In the end, you might as well accept it. It’s a parental superpower. Whether you use it for good or evil is completely up to you.