Recently, a notice came home from M’s teacher asking for parent volunteers to help run a school-wide event the class was organizing. I haven’t been able to make it into the class so far this year and since the activity was taking place after school, it seemed like a good idea. Except when I told M that I was going to come and help, he was horrified. Apparently, I act “…too much like a mom.”
I gave him a big, long speech about how parent volunteers were really important and the teachers counted on us to help out. I pointed out that since this was his last year at the school, I felt an obligation to give back. M was unimpressed. When I’m on a field trip or in the class, “I tell him what to do and embarrass him in front of his friends.” In my defense, when I help out on a field trip, he’s always in my group, which means I’m responsible to make sure he follows instructions. On those (rare) occasions when I “tell him what to do,” M is generally doing something he’s not supposed to be doing, like pushing another child or not staying with the group.
I’m not so old that I can’t remember the horror of parental embarrassment. My mother was rarely a problem, but my father was guaranteed to humiliate me in front of my friends – tasteless jokes, talking too loud, etc. However, my father was a difficult and unpredictable person, who didn’t particularly care if he embarrassed his children in public. I, on the other hand, try to take my child’s feelings into consideration.
But as I discovered, M has reached the stage when his parents (at least his mom) are embarrassing just by the mere fact of being. Especially if there are other kids around. He’s particularly sensitive about parental contact at school. It doesn’t even have to be in the building – I used an endearment (something like “honeybun”) as I was walking him from the car to school after an appointment one morning and he asked me “not to call him that.” We were barely on the sidewalk and there was no one else outside. I didn’t point this out, but chose to respect his wishes.
Despite M’s objections, I did go ahead and volunteer for the recent class event. I reiterated my promise that I wouldn’t hang around him. I arrived late and didn’t see him for the first 10 minutes or so. When our paths finally crossed, I said hello and asked how he was doing. He looked annoyed and mumbled something at me and walked away. I didn’t make a big deal of it, but the next time I saw him, I quietly pointed out that being rude to me wasn’t an option.
I got busy helping people and didn’t really pay attention to what M was doing. At one point, I wandered into another area and noticed he was busy with something with a group of his classmates. The kids were very involved in running the event, so it probably wasn’t too hard for him to keep himself occupied – as far away from his mother as possible. I had to give him credit for finding a creative solution to the problem.
I;m not completely persona non grata. M still hugs me. Most nights, he wants to read in our bed and prefers to lie on my side. The other night, he’d fallen asleep after reading, instead of going to his room and when I tried to move him, he just cuddled up beside me as I read. But I imagine that before too long, the hugs will be an exception rather than a rule and he’ll want to spend as little time as possible in the same room with either of his parents. The good news it that by the time he’s in his twenties, I’ll be much more acceptable.