Shame of the family

January 4, 2013

We’ve reached the point where my very existence embarrasses my children. It seems that, almost overnight, I went from competent, intelligent, eyes-on-the-back-of-my-head mother to a nitwit who can’t even pronounce things right.

The first signs of this came when, on a trip into New York City, my friend stopped her car at a light in Midtown. We noticed that a car had pulled up alongside us, and there were teenagers in the back. My friend cranked the radio to a ’70s song and winked, and the two of us began dancing in our seats, arms flailing and hair all wild. The two teenage girls in our back seat howled in horror and dove onto the floor.

“What do you care?” I asked. “You don’t know those people and will never see them again.” But that didn’t matter. When you are a teenager, the only thing more embarrassing than your mother is your mother dancing in public.

Teenagers are bailing out of Facebook for this reason. My son, who at one time kept a running commentary on Facebook, has abandoned it for Twitter. When I asked him about it, he said there are just too many “mothers and aunts” on there. Apparently, we cramp their style, making it more difficult for them to express their every thought about how boring school can be, and making it harder to post videos of knuckleheads taking stun gun shots to the crotch.

I think I might have set up a Twitter account awhile back, but never tweeted anything. The latest news suggests that Twitter is the preferred social media of professionals. (The morning news shows regularly include Tweets of celebrities and politicians in their stories. This is lazy newsgathering. Why make an effort to reach someone to ask a question when you can just download the sentence from Twitter?)

I don’t post much on Facebook, mainly because nothing I do on a daily basis is interesting enough. But young people think every little thought they have is worthy of sharing. For kids, there are few unexpressed emotions or ideas left invalidated.

And maybe that’s why I’m such an embarrassment. Social media has swelled kids’ heads. And how can a mom compete with that?

I guess it’s always been this way. I didn’t like it when my mother arrived in her VW Beetle to pick me up from band camp. There was a time she showed up wearing sunglasses atop her regular glasses and I thought I would die if anyone saw.

But here’s the part I missed: Teenagers are never embarrassed by other kids’ mothers. Those mothers are more or less invisible, and had I been paying attention, I would have realized that no matter how embarrassing I found my own mother to be, the shame was my own. Nobody else cared.

My son and daughter like to eat at Chipotle, and we go about once a month when we’re in that part of town. Recently, I took my daughter and her friend on an errand, and said, “How about dinner at Chipotle?” And I pronounced it Chip-POTT-lee. Laughter came from the back seat.

“It’s Chip-OAT-lee,” Grace said. And then they snickered some more.

Now, when we’re driving around, my kids will sometimes make fun of how I pronounced that word. It’s always when they’re asking me to take them there to eat. But I, being the uncool mom behind the wheel, crank up the ‘70s music and sing. And I keep driving right past.

Beth Dolinar can be reached at



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