Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Fine Line Between Hilarity and Embarrassment

My kid embarrasses me. But sometimes I think it's adorable.
We'll be in the middle of the grocery store and she'll shriek as though she's on a playground slide. At first I was mortified by it. But when I realized she was no more bothersome than the crazy crackhead yelling, "Happy Birthday" at the top of his lungs or the lady with 2 teeth telling a loaf of bread about her day, I got over the embarrassment and laughed. This made me aware of two things: 1. Kids and parents are always going to be humiliating each other, no matter what. And 2. I really need to find a new grocery store.
We've been teaching L.E. the difference between Inside Voice and Outside Voice. She sings along to the Yo Gabba Gabba song (I can't find a link to the video and can't remember what episode it is. The words are simple: Inside voice, quiet. Inside voice, shhhhh. Outside voice, BIG AND LOUD!) When she does her shriek, we tell her, "Inside voice!" This makes her put her fingers to her lips and says, "Shhhh" and then dissolves into loud giggles. Nothing makes me laugh more than a giggling toddler and if you know me, you know my laugh is more of a witch's cackle...not subtle. So you end up with a shrieking toddler and her cackling mommy. Who's embarrassing who now?
L.E.'s latest is yelling, "BOOBIES!" at every woman while pulling on her shirt. This didn't bother me much, except for when she did it to our neighbor who just underwent a mastectomy. Sure we all had a good laugh but I was embarrassed, nonetheless. Fortunately, our neighbor is a wonderful woman who thinks the world of L.E. so it ended up being ok.
It's restaurants where I really feel the burning-hot pain of toddler-induced mortification. We've been taking L.E. out to eat since she was 3 days old. Once she realized she didn't have to stay in her car seat the entire meal, it became something she genuinely enjoyed. She holds court in her highchair, smiling and waving at anyone nearby. She loves people and they love her. But as she gets older, she needs more things to entertain her. Like books, toys and snacks. If we're unprepared, sugar packets, straw wrappers and spoons do the trick. I try my hardest to make our dining experiences pleasant for us as well as the servers and other diners. Times are tough; going out to eat is a treat. I get that. And I will make sure my child is well-behaved, even if it means carrying her outside surfboard-style because her macaroni and cheese isn't ready yet. 
A lot of places aren't kid-friendly and I avoid those. But that doesn't mean the only places to eat are tacky chain restaurants with mass-produced processed food. We stick with locally-owned restaurants and try to go during off hours or when it's really crowded so nobody would notice if L.E. gets upset because we won't let her have a sip of our beer. For the most part, we've been pretty lucky. Except for the time she took an entire plate of rice and dumped it on the floor. I didn't help my embarrassment by crawling on my hands and knees under the table to try to clean it up myself. (This brings up an interesting question. If your kid makes a mess at or under the table, do you clean it up or just leave a big tip? My answer, backed by almost a decade of restaurant experience is at least attempt to clean it up and still leave a big tip. Chances are the server will see you try and insist you let them take care of it after you leave. Still tip over 20%)
 Of course, people love seeing a happy, smiley L.E. and she normally does the appropriate amount of flirting. And when I exhausted my supply of toys-books-spoons-straws-sugar-packets, I found an almost-empty tube of lipstick. It was a miracle-worker!

Isn't she pretty?
But what about the times, and all of the future times, I'll embarrass her? I already have a trove of stories that would send any teenage first date running for the door. (See above photo.) For not even being two, L.E. sure has done her share of sitcom-worthy moments. Copious amounts of streaking. Peeing on the floor. Spinning in circles for no apparent reason. Humping her highchair...the list goes on. Just wait until she's a bratty teenager... I already have enough ammo, just with this blog!
So it's a two-way street. She'll embarrass me with her shrieking and food-throwing. I'll humiliate her with stories of her shrieking and food-throwing. Maybe then she'll never date!

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