How to Win Friends and Embarrass Kids, A Not-So-Ted Talk

She looked at me intently, waiting not-so-patiently for an answer.

There’s my shirt! Photo by the most extraordinary James S. Wood/

“Are you glad,” No. 2 repeated her question, “you had kids?”

“Uhhhh, most of the time.”


Hey, it’s hard work! Really hard work and even the most diehard, dedicated, loving parent will, no doubt, regret their choice on certain occasions — specifically, if you’re the one experiencing labor, when that first baby poo squirts all over you, the first (and second and third) call that your kid is in the principal’s office.

Yeah, it’s an adventure all right and not gonna lie, parenthood is sometimes unrewarding. But you know what makes it all worthwhile?


Oh, did you think I was going to say the satisfaction that comes from growing fun-sized, slobbery, booger-smearing humans into smart, fully-functioning adults who are kind and considerate and environmentally as well as socially conscious AND will make great money to set you up in a swank retirement community?

Sure, that. But the embarrassing part is so incredibly satisfying.

I mean, they do plenty o’ things to embarrass their old parents … like spending 47 minutes pooping in a stranger’s bathroom or telling the teacher how many drinks you had at dinner … pointing out to the speech therapist that mommy fell asleep during the session …

Payback is a necessity. It’s also awesome.

Like when I picked them up from middle school wearing devil’s horns. Hey, it was Halloween. 

Then there was that time (they still all talk about it) when I tried to buy Sudafed at the pharmacy and forgot I had to show my ID. 

“Ooooooh yeeeeeeah, that’s right! Because people use it to make drugs, right? What kind of drugs? Meth, isn’t it? I didn’t make it past the first few episodes of ‘Breaking Bad.’ That scene with the body being dissolved in the bathtub is what did me in. So gross. No, definitely not making drugs — we’re just a really snotty family!”

The kids all looked at each other with raised eyebrows.

“That didn’t seem suspicious at all, MOM,” No. 3 muttered.

Then there’s my infamous “May Contain Alcohol” sweatshirt that I refrained from wearing to parent-teacher conferences but rocked it when I visited No. 1 at college. It killed.

Back in the days we trolled open houses for kicks, I would dress very nicely from head, but not all the way to toes, because I’d slip on my weird, pink wooly fur-covered heels that the real estate agents would pretend they didn’t see. 

Or, the time I was frustrated that No. 3 had neglected his chores and specifically his, uh, dooty to pick up dog poop in the yard and so I texted him a close-up pic of a pile and he opened it when he was at lunch — with his friends.

“Gross, Mom.”

It’s long been tragically embarrassing and painful for No. 3 when we try and use any current slang. He hates it, which actually led to perhaps my greatest triumph in the wide world of Child Embarrassment. I was feeling kinda lonely and silly one day last year after No. 3 resumed full-time, in-person school and so I sent him a goofy text, figuring he’d see it at lunch time and it might give his eyeballs some much-needed exercise, what with the rolling and all. 

As it turned out, he was giving a presentation at the exact moment I texted, the contents of his laptop displayed on the huge whiteboard for the class. Since his phone and computer are all tied together, the text message — with the identifying “Mom” bubble attached — flashed up on the screen for all to see. 

When he came home, he immediately narced on me to his dad.

“You’re not going to believe what Mom did today,” he said. “I had a presentation in English, and I’m up there, at the front of the class and up pops a text from Mom, and it says, and I quote,”— and at this point, he slowed down his voice rather dramatically — ‘What’s poppin, cuh?’ Which is bad enough, but then she had to go and punctuate it properly! So embarrassing.”

I’m pretty sure when this all comes up in therapy some years from now, the therapist will totally think I’m a hoot and want to hang out with me.

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