I am already an embarrassment to my 8 year old daughter. Do I get extra points for that?
My 8 year old came home from school recently complaining that I had embarrassed her by putting a box of raisins in her lunch box. “Now” she fretted, “everyone will know that I like raisins.” Apparently, this was top secret information and unbeknownst to me (among 3rd graders) liking raisins ranks pretty low on the cool scale.
The raisin incident is already old news, but my daughter is going to need to toughen up some if she expects to survive parental embarrassment into her teenage years. As you may recall (see the Plant Parenthood blog entry), I was trained by the master. What my daughter really needs is a little perspective, so the next time I embarrass her by putting her sandwich on whole wheat bread, or some other disaster, I will tell her this story:
When I was in high school, there was a local discount store called ‘Cheap Johns’. With it’s garage sale pricing and the ambiance of a warehouse store, Cheap Johns could have been the love child between The Dollar Store and Costco. The merchandise (if you could call it that) was piled in giant bins and lacked any kind of presentation.
As my parents liked to remind me, that while we were rich with love, we were not rich with anything you could actually spend at a store. When it came time to shop for school supplies, they were not going to cough up the five dollars it cost to buy a highly coveted Trapper Keeper (plus more for matching folders and notebooks) when they could buy a 3-ring binder, plus a notebook, and a folder, some pens, pencils, and a pencil case for that cost at Cheap Johns. The cheap version may have served the same purpose as the stylish looking Trapper Keeper, but it did not have the same visual appeal.
Each Cheap John’s binder, notebook, and folder was proudly embossed with a picture of the illustrious Cheap John mascot, Mr. Cheap John, himself. With his bulbous nose, and his bushy mustache, I always thought the Cheap John logo bore an insulting resemblance to Albert Einstein (See comparison photos below).
I felt especially bad for the Cheap John logo (as if he had feelings) that those of us with
cheap budget minded parents started off each year by filling in the logo of each notebook and folder with black sharpie marker. Having school supplies from Cheap Johns, was definitely not cool (way less cool than bringing raisins for lunch). Worse than being seen using Cheap Johns school supplies, though, was being seen shopping at Cheap Johns.
One September evening, I begrudgingly accompanied my mother to Cheap Johns with my list of required school supplies. I immediately recognized that the only cashier was a student in my graduating class. (Working at Cheap John’s was acceptable as jobs for teenagers in our small town were hard to come by.) I made a mental note to be as invisible as possible, to minimize any damage to my already fragile reputation (what comes beneath nerd in the high school social order?). I should have known better than to have asked my mom to be invisible too.
As we shopped, my mom sang (in her loud off-key voice) and danced (shimmying and all) up and down each aisle. Mortified, and convinced that everyone (all five shoppers) in the store was staring at us I (quite stupidly) asked my mother to stop singing, dancing, and, well, embarrassing me. My mother was taken aback- “I’m embarrassing you?” she asked. I insisted again that she please stop drawing attention herself (and, by association, me).
My mom didn’t even miss a beat. She simply told me, “I’ll show you embarrassing” and then marched to the middle of the store. She then proceeded to shout, “I am Meryl Orange’s mother, she is a student at SWR High School, and she is right over there!!” I immediately dropped to the floor and crawled (because that’s not embarrassing) under one of the giant bins where I fervently wished I could disappear. Eventually, I got up and followed my gloating mother through the check out line (complete with my classmate cashier who now had real story to tell at school).
My mom gave me a great gift that day- perspective. Having learned what it really felt like to be embarrassed, I have rarely felt that way again. I also learned that in most situations, my peers really weren’t paying all that close attention to what I was doing- it was just my own insecurity that was rearing it’s ugly head.
I will tell my daughter this story for two reasons. First, I think my little drama queen could benefit from a healthy dose of perspective. In the grand scheme of things, is it such a big deal if people know she likes raisins? (As an aside, she is obsessed with beef jerky which makes frequent appearances in her lunch box and she is not embarrassed about that.)
Second, I think it’s important that my daughter understand early that I have tools at my disposal and I will not hesitate to use them if necessary.