So This Is How It’s Gonna Be

I am the mother of a pre-teen.  This means he is just old enough to be slightly horrified by me.

Recently in the mini-van, the kids and I were jammin’ to some tunz (that’s "jamming to some tunes", to you poor souls who do not have the street cred of this midwestern, 35-year-old housewife), and we came to a stoplight.

And I proceeded to do what is perfectly reasonable for a midwestern, 35-year-old housewife to do at a stoplight: The Robot.

My pre-teen son, who normally would have gleefully joined in with me, instead raised his hand to his face.

"Mom!" he said.  "Don’t DO that!"

"Why not?" I asked.

"Because," he said, glancing around to see if any other motorists noticed.  "A boy has needs."

And evidently one of those needs is for his mother not to do bad eighties dances in the car. 

A new day is definitely dawning around here, as adolescence looms, and I’m trying to be sensitive.  I remember being horrified by my own parents  (who, it turns out, are perfectly lovely people and not at all horrific), and I told my son I understood.  In fact, when his teacher invited me to his class recently to share photos of my Africa trip, I specifically asked him ahead of time: tell me how I can do this in a way that won’t embarrass you.

He did not hesitate.  Evidently the ways I’m humiliating are right at the top of his head.

"Well," he said, "don’t sing opera."  (If you spent any time in our house, you would know that this is a perfectly valid concern.)

"And don’t use the word totally," he said.  I promised him I totally would not.  He rolled his eyes.

"And," he said, pausing nervously, wondering if he was about to hurt my feelings, "just don’t try to be cool."

I assured him there was absolutely no danger this. 

The talk to his class went fine.  I shot him a couple of questioning "am-I-doing-okay?" glances, and he gave me reassuring nods.  I think we’re going to be okay.  I’ve promised him that Dad and I are sensitive to the fact that he’s not a little boy anymore, and I’m standing by my word, when we’re out in public.

But in the privacy of our home?  Opera and bad dancing are the name of the game.  And just before his eyes roll back in his head, I can detect a little twinkle. 

Yes.  We’re going to be okay.

67 thoughts on “So This Is How It’s Gonna Be

  1. Karen says:

    *sigh* my oldest is 10. I have heard rumors that this is the favorite age for eldest children (as chosen by parents). I know all the child development stuff and that I should not be expecting things to stay rosy. I am just not ready for them NOT to be rosy. Blessings to you!

  2. momrn2 says:

    From one mother of pre-teens to another, our rules are basically the same. When we are out in public I put limits on myself. However, when we’re at home… all bets are off! 😉
    How do they grow so quickly??? *sigh*

  3. A Frog In My Soup says:

    Ah, yes! I too am the 35 (for 1 more hour) year old mom of a pre-teen son and can see this in him often.
    It’s a whole new world, where as the mom of 6 boys I suddenly have to endure a little drama *gasp* as our oldest heads far too quickly into the realm of teenager-hood *sigh*. So nice to know I’m not the only one 🙂

  4. Ashleigh (Heart and Home) says:

    I remember a friend of my mom’s telling the story that one day, driving her pre-teen boy home from school, he was going on and on about this terrible, awful thing now called GIRLS. Girls just caused so many problems, and made everything so complicated now. She looked at him and said, “Well, you know, B, I’m a girl.” To which he replied, quite horrified, “Awww, Mom! Don’t be a GIRL!”
    I’m just glad these days are waaay down the road for my boys. Oh, yes I am.

  5. Minnesotamom says:

    You’re a good mom, Shannon. A lot of parents would just go the route of embarrassing and telling their kid to “toughen up.” I’m glad that you’re willing to work with his NEEDS. 🙂

  6. dcrmom says:

    LOL!! All I can say is, I’m SO glad you are going thru this before me. So I can soak up all the lessons you have to learn the hard way. 😉

  7. mimi2six says:

    This can also work FOR you! One of my friends used the “I’ll embarrass you in front of your friends” line to discipline her kids when they were that age and a little older. She even had specific outfits to threaten with….weird glasses, rolled down knee-hi’s with tennis shoes, etc. It worked, too, until they got past that “don’t embarrass me” stage.

  8. MT Nest says:

    Ahhh, I remember those days! My sons are now 27 and 26. How I wish we’d had bloggers back then! Just a word of warning – it’s likely to get worse before it gets better. 🙂 My oldest and I went through a particularly rough time. The day we left to take him to college, I was ready to open the van door, kick him to the curb, and keep going. (Just kidding – but not by much!)
    Today, we have an incredible relationship. So when the going gets rocky, just hang on. And pray, pray, pray!

  9. Mary says:

    I’m a 40 yr old mom of a 12 yr old boy. Just yesterday I was talking to him about Boy Scout summer camp. I’ll be there most of the week as a leader and I wanted to be sure that he isn’t going to be completely humiliated to have me there. I’m not allowed to touch him, sing, dance to try to act funny in any way shape or form.

  10. Ann @ Holy Experience says:

    My oldest is counting the days, not that many, until he turns 13. And I’m not counting the months, so few, until I turn 35.
    And yeah. By His grace, we’ll be okay. I have to remind myself to keep touching, keep making spaces just to be available, sitting on the edge of the bed after the lights are out, waiting for this future man to slowly open up.
    Relationship, honoring, listening. And laughing, lots of laughter.
    Good to walk this way with you, my friend…. (who is *totally* cool ~wink, smile~)
    All’s grace,

  11. chocolatechic says:

    This is hilarious.
    Yesterday after church, the teens had a missions trip meeting. Parents were obligated to attend, so I came up behind my 17.10 year old boy and sang into his ear “you are so beautiful to me, you are so beautiful to me”.
    He said “mooooooom. Do you have to do that?” Well, of course I do. So, I finished the song for him. But I had to wait till he climbed back over the pew.
    Yeah…a 17 year old boy climbing over tops of pews is “totally” cool.

  12. pam says:

    Hmmm . . . I guess that explains why my 12-year-old rolls her eyes any time her daddy and I start singing at the top of our lungs, followed by her asking “is that . . . 80’s music? . . . with a huge sigh attached.
    It also explains why she insists I wear a sports bra if I’m attempting some 80’s dancing. Though I could have figured that one out for myself. : )

  13. ToddleBits says:

    I’m all for being sensitive to a teenager’s constant fear of being humiliated, but I’m still afraid when my girls are older the temptation for me will be too great. Good for you for practicing restraint!

  14. tracey says:

    I think you’re doing awesome, hon. I TOTALLY agree that if you want your kids to remain open and honest with you as teens, then you have to make some accommodations for them. Including not deliberately embarrassing them. Some people think it’s a right of passage, etc. but I just know that teen years are TOUGH and I don’t want to add any complications for my kids.
    Now, remind me of this in about 3-5 years, ok?

  15. Robin says:

    My kids have this paradoxical view of me–their FRIENDS think I’m a “cool mom”; even though I might do things that **embarrass** them (which they hate), their friends think I’m “alright (which they love).
    Can you imagine being the kid whose mom shows up at school after a trip to the Caribbean in Bo Derek BRAIDS??? VERY mixed reaction–my kids loved it at home, cringed in public…but their friends thought it was WILD and crazy (me, too, for the record).
    And, yes, ma’am, I car dance, too, and as long as they don’t see anyone they recognize at stop lights, they’re just fine ;).

  16. Big Mama says:

    If not saying totally is one of the rules, then I’m totally going to have a problem with that.
    And I expect some operatic singing in North Carolina.

  17. Candace (Mama Mia) says:

    I died laughing when I read that you were doing the robot!! I do car dancing too- but mines more of the “throw your hands in the air like you just don’t care” kind of dancing. My oldest is almost 5 and it already embarrasses him :).

  18. Michelle says:

    I also dance and sing loudly in the car. My 12 yr old is NOT amused! It hit me yesterday that he is going to be 13 before this year is over, and I cried, and cried, and cried some more. I should be ready to accept it in another 5 years or so!

  19. Nancy says:

    I’m sure you totally rock as a mom and he’ll know that someday. Of course by then he’ll be where you’re at now! You know the old saying, “What goes around comes around”? It really is true.

  20. Michelle@Life with Three says:

    Loved this post! I sing opera around here too, but my oldest is only 5, so it’s still entertaining 🙂 Good luck as you embark into adolescence — it sounds like you’re off to a strong start.

  21. kellie says:

    I am with you on the pre-teen thing. Not only must I be on best behavior but also, suddenly, my cell phone, car radio, and computer have public property!

  22. Melissa says:

    I’m a youth group leader and we just had a YG event this past weekend. One of my favorite things to do when driving with the teens (high school age) is to have a dance party! in the car! We find music with a dance beat and as cars pass, we dance! I guess it’s cool when you’re at YG. Personally, I think it’s hilarious to watch the looks on people’s faces!

  23. La says:

    I guess I have things like this to look forward to…my son is only 3 but I am sure our time will come. Where is the picture of your new purse? I am also looking for a new one and would love to see yours. I am just picky when it comes to purses and the one I have now is great but too big…it fills up to quickly with junk.

  24. Jan says:

    We have 5 kids, ranging in age from 25 to 13. I used to worry about embarrassing them. But now? We view it as our right as parents to embarrass them.
    And you know what? Their friends ADORE us.

  25. Memarie Lane says:

    My son loves the robot! He’s only 4 though.
    My mom once taught my Sunday school class, I think I was 8 or 9, and I about died of embarrassment when she said that “Jeremiah was a cool dude!”

  26. Megan says:

    These rules are close, but not complete for this mother of pre-teen GIRLS. I keep telling myself (and them) that we’re going to fight the stereotypical teenage daughter/mother relationship.
    I will fight for them.
    But oh. The fight is hard. And why did NOT ONE SINGLE PERSON tell me that the hormone personality thing begins waaaayyyyy before the other obvious physical changes?
    And I get to do this four times.
    Grace, I tell you. I need more.

  27. Runningamuck says:

    I love this post! Thanks for the teary-eyed laugh it gave me. My oldest will be 7 this year so I have a ways to go. My robot-dancing and opera-singing (what IS it with us 30’s mamas and opera-singing?!! Do we all do it?! I don’t know about you but I do it at the top of my lungs. There’s really no other way) is still cool. I dread the day they ask me to stop. ‘Cuz then I’ll have to go out to the garage to do it, or do it while I’m outside pulling weeds… and I’m thinking that’ll impress my neighbors a WHOLE lot! lol.

  28. Kelly @ Love Well says:

    A parent who asks how they can avoid embarrassing their teen will not embarrass their teen.
    I was a youth group leader for years, so trust me when I say, there are many parents out there who get it. They understand their teens “needs” and try their best to be a parent and a friend (within reason). I believe you’ll be one of those.
    The teen years don’t have to be horrifying.

  29. jenny says:

    Yes, I think you will be just fine. You’re such a good mom. I think it’s great that you know how to have fun with your kids, and yet you are sensitive to their needs (of not being embarrassed). I love the twinkle in the eyes!

  30. Shalee says:

    You’re a much better mom than I am. Whenever The Girl starts to get embarrassed over me and insists that I not do “something”, I remind her that in this world, everyone has the right to be themselves. I want her to learn to be content with who she is even when she’s going against the pack. And I want her to learn that she is not in control of everyone else.
    So far, so good. Although, I have made it a point intentionally not to embarrass her, but some things cannot be helped.

  31. Lari says:

    My oldest son is 11…and will start middle school next year. YIKES! He’s also starting to be more particular about what he wears and how his hair is fixed. Sigh…where has the time gone?

  32. Courtney says:

    You are a very good mama to be sensitive to this for him. He will respect you and love you for it, and will be so happy that you still are “the real you” at home, because he LOVES it 🙂

  33. Connie says:

    I am a 51 yr old mother…my two children are now in their early 20’s…and guess what…I’m cool again! So, don’t give up!

  34. jennielynn says:

    Drama Queen had an aneurysm as I head- banged to a random AC/DC tune that came on the radio. Probably should not have done that while her friend was in the car. Friend just laughed and said, “It’s cool that your mom is such a dork.”

  35. Ginny says:

    When my children were little (both moved out now) my daughter was never embarassed by me. She would get out of the car and yell, “Bye Mom, I love you” in high school. My son didn’t want me to walk him to his 2nd grade class because he was “a big boy.” I actually think he was already embarassed by me. By the time he was in middle school he didn’t even want me to breath in the same zip code. So, of course I didn’t….I did something like gasp or pant instead :o). Seriously, though we, too, are fine. On a side note, my mom used to do the hula in front of my friends. As if THAT wasn’t embarassing.

  36. LifeatTheCircus says:

    Awh! You sound like such a great mommy, ahem, guess it is Mom now. I think it is great that you can be fun and let loose with the kids at home but that you are also sensitive to his feelings and are trying to not embarrass him..I would imagine both will help you to keep a good relationship and communication open through the teen years.

  37. fern says:

    You are now entering the really fun years. My 18 y.o. son is beginning to lighten up, but my 15 y.o. daughter has to check what I am wearing before I can be seen with her in public. And, I am not allowed to talk with her friends, except to say Hi.
    And dancing and singing in the car–that they will have to live with (though I keep it to a minimum and never do it when their friends are in the car).

  38. Katy (aka funny girl) says:

    The thing is, we 35-year -olds really DO know how to dance. It’s our pre-teens that don’t. So when they say we look like dorks, what they really mean is “Dude, I totally wish I could jam like my mom, cause that would be, like, rad to the max!” They’re just too afraid to say it, so they’re sticking with the dork thing. It’s something they teach them in tween school.

  39. Kim says:

    Very funny and sweet! My son is only two, so (for now) he thinks my dancing is hilarious. I’ll be sure to savor it while it lasts – thanks for the warning!!

  40. Worlds Greatest Mommy says:

    Love this! I’ve got a ten-year-old son who is going through the same thing. I’m not so hot at the robot, but I’ve got the running man down pat. 1/2 the time he joins in, and 1/2 the time he rolls his eyes. I think we’ll end up okay, too.

  41. d says:

    You need the t-shirt I got for my b’day. It says “Don’t make me use my opera voice”. My boys are still too young to get it, but the aunt that gave it to me raised 3 teenagers and thought it would come in handy.

  42. Vicki Courtney says:

    I don’t know if you want to add this one to the list, but it’s probably not a good idea to run out on the football field if you son is knocked flat. I heard about a mom doing this when her son was in middle school. Okay, so it was me. My son who is now in college still tells the story as if it was the day the world came to an end. That one and the time I pretended the ketchup bottle was a mic in Johnny Rockets and lip synced along to Michael Jackson’s, “I wanna rock with you.” Not good.

  43. Heather says:

    They do grow up way too fast…
    Okay — throw out the miracle grow and lead (as in heavy stuff that seems to line the insides of the nearest toddler so he weighs about a ton in a body that should only be about 35 pounds)
    And find the weed be gone please! (so we can slow down the “growing up” process. this is optional — as I have one teen that NEEDS to be on his own and I assure you I am NOT kidding.)

  44. Ann G says:

    Just don’t do a “fauz pauz” and have another baby once he is already 13+ or things could get ugly!! I did this and he has never been the same!! Embarrassment comes on a daily basis now, and he’s about to turn 18 so I guess eventually I’ll become a “cool mom” again, but I know it’s gonna take awhile.

  45. Amy R. says:

    Have you heard the song about “As long as I’ve got King Jesus?” with the choir in the background? One night at a redlight I couldn’t help myself during a particularly fast part and broke out into the “Running Man”. My 16yr old son came SO CLOSE to exiting the vehicle and my 15yr old son may have passed out for a few minutes…I was lectured the rest of the way home…oh, what memories in the making.

  46. Okie Sister says:

    This is a “totally” sweet story. How sensitive you are to your sons “needs.” Looking back, what he will remember most is the laughs and silly times you shared together.

  47. Julie Stiles Mills says:

    I often ask my 12 year old son if I’ve done something to embarrass him – so I won’t do it again. So far, he’s been pretty gracious. He’s been honest. But gracious about it.

  48. Ashley says:

    This is so hilarious and yes I remember days like this as well. I can just imagine what my teen son thinks about me, but he stays silent… I’m assuming to not hurt my feelings lol
    Great story

  49. Paige says:

    Oh, I hear you. It seems that kids don’t want their parents to have any sort of “personality”. When I sing or dance around the house, my kids roll their eyes, and give me that “Moooooommmmmmm”. What? It’s my house–and I’ll sing and dance (badly) if I want to. They also don’t believe me when I tell them that the little mermaid story is about me, and that I used to live in the ocean before I met their dad. Go figure.

  50. Anonymous says:

    As the Mom of 2 teen age daughters, an 18-year-old and a 13-year-old, I have been embarrassing them for years!!! I had lots of practice with the older one before the younger one became a teen……

  51. CheriBeri from Multiply says:

    OH! I feel your pain. My son is 12.5 – lol – and my daughter is 10. I don’t embarass my daughter, but if I just breathe awkwardly it’s enough to put my son over the edge. I well remember those days, too, so I try to be sensitive. But if he dogs my super cool yoga pants one more time, there might be blood.

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