Into every mom's life some embarrassment must fall. Kids just have a way of saying and doing things that make the adults who are raising them cringe, while praying the floor will swallow them before the humiliation becomes too much to bear. It is my personal belief that my kids are more shame-inducing than most.
Some kids use restraint and limit their embarrassing antics to pointing at a stranger in the store and yelling something like, "Look at that guy! He's so tall (or short, fat, hairy, etc.)" My kids call that amateur hour. Telling the cashier at Costco that the tub of Miralax helps "my poops" is just a slow news day for my daughter.
Our latest incident found me staring slack-jawed as my mud-covered toddler proceeded to strip down until she was as naked as a jaybird, in the middle of a park, while a bunch of other moms looked on. The look on the other moms' faces read, one part: amusement, two parts: complete and utter relief that it wasn't their kids who had just done that. It's a look I'm well familiar with. Here we were at our first playdate with my daughter's incoming preschool class. At three and a half, she'll be starting preschool in the fall, and to help get the kids acclimated to one another, the school has organized weekly meet-ups at local parks all summer long. They say you only get one chance to make a first impression and oh boy, did my kids make an impression...
While the other kids happily played on the designated playground equipment, my two toddlers were the only ones to locate the lone mud slick in the park and headed straight towards it. Though they haven't had fire safety preparedness, they instinctively knew the drill: stop, drop and roll -- in the mud. This would have been fine if my daughter wouldn't have then decided she didn't like being covered in mud, promptly removing every last stitch of clothing from her body and standing in her full glory in front of everyone. For my son, it became a case of monkey see, monkey do.
"Well, I guess it's time for us to be going now. It was nice meeting all of you," I mumbled as I dragged my filthy, naked charges off to the car. The other moms laughed, then turned their attention back to their clean, fully-clothed toddlers.
Of course this episode became the latest of my Facebook status updates, chronicling many such embarrassing predicaments my kids have put me in. One friend later told me that she was reading her news feed at the doctor's office when that one came through. She laughed and felt compelled to read it to the nurse. "You don't know these kids but if you did, you would die," she told the nurse. Yes, it would seem my children are beginning to gain a bit of notoriety in our social circle. Sometimes I suspect that people are only friends with me on Facebook for the schadenfreude aspect.
Then there was the time we were at the local children's museum, playing at the water table. Most toddlers politely gather around the table, delicately splashing and grabbing the bobbing balls floating around the exhibit. This is what my kids had always done in the past, until the day my daughter suddenly decided to climb in and stand proudly in the middle of the table. Seeing this, other moms registered looks of shock and disbelief, while my face showed nothing but resignation. I pulled her out, explained that we don't stand in the water table, that it's for hands-only, only to turn around and see my son had taken her place as king of the water table. Dripping wet, we again took our leave in a cloak of shame.
Lest you think that my children limit their antics to creating messes necessitating clothing changes, I'd like to reassure you, they've had more than their fair share of verbally humiliating run-ins as well. At two years old, my daughter began identifying people by the color of clothing they were wearing. "Look at the green girl, Mommy," she'd say of the woman in a green coat. This became problematic the time we were at my husband's company picnic. There was an older girl there, who my daughter quickly became infatuated with. This girl was part Caucasian, part African-American. At this point, I should mention this girl happened to be wearing a brown sweatsuit. Any time she left my daughter's sight, my two-year-old would cry, "Where's the brown girl, Mommy?! Where'd the brown girl go?!" This was the first time I cursed both the clarity and projection of her young voice. My husband had to explain to people that we weren't raising our kids to be bigots, that it was just a shame that little girl hadn't been wearing purple.
Our next stop was a trip to the library, where I picked up a racial sensitivity book, in an effort to help my daughter understand the differences between people's skin colors. It was no use, she'd often point to the Asian woman in the book and call her Mommy, while she identified herself as the Hispanic girl and her brother as the African boy. She was too young to understand, so our only hope was that primary colors would come into vogue. We did okay for a couple of months, but then we went to the pharmacy, where everyone dons white lab coats. On this particular day, there were two female pharmacists on duty, one Asian and the other Caucasian. The Asian pharmacist came to help us, then wandered back towards the shelves to retrieve our meds. My daughter, in an impatient mood, wanted that woman back, ASAP, so we could be on our way. "I want the white woman, Mommy! I want the white woman to help us!" "Yes, honey. The woman in the white coat will come back soon," I said, somewhat loudly, hoping no one would think I was perhaps the only Klan member in the Pacific Northwest.
Luckily, I've had my share of near-misses as well. I can't tell you how grateful I am that I found the "fresh meat" sticker my daughter had peeled off the hamburger meat package and placed on my behind before we left the house.
It's all good though, because I have a secret plan. You see, when kids hit middle school, an embarrassment power-shift occurs and suddenly, the parents hold all of the cards. And then, let the retribution begin. I scan garage sales for just the right multi-neon-hued fanny pack, preferably something with a bit of bedazzling as well. I dream of purchasing a wood-paneled station wagon and am saving all of my clothes, which will surely be sadly out of style by then. These dreams and schemes sustain me throughout my kids' toddler years. Then, they will truly know the pain of humiliation.