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Today's Family Magazine

Parenting and other awkward situations

By Stacy Turner

As our kids work their way thought elementary school and have now progressed to middle and high school, we’ve been involved in our share of awkward moments.  Early in their school careers, we were even the cause of a few cringe-worthy moments for our kids.  One that immediately comes to mind was during a Montessori school tour, when my husband asked if the children would be learning Ebonics.  The young, white female director didn’t quite know how to answer that unusual question, and awkwardly changed the subject.  Later, we realized what he had meant to say was phonics, which is another thing entirely.

My eldest likes to remind me of that first early snowfall during first grade when I made her wear her winter coat, snow pants, hat, and gloves, since kids not appropriately dressed would not be allowed outside to enjoy recess.  At the end of the day, she exited the bus in an especially salty mood, telling me that although we had snow at home, there was none at her school and she was the only dork in the whole place wearing snow pants.  Even more frustrating was that all the snow at home had melted away by the afternoon.

In later elementary years, having a parent come in for lunch transforms it from a super special treat to a special sort of undeserved punishment to our kids, so we tried to respect their wishes and make ourselves scarce.  Now in middle and high school, there are even less opportunities for parents to show up and unintentionally embarrass our kids during the school day.  As a result, any embarrassments that occur during a typical school day are generally self-inflicted, like finding out at the end of the day that they accidentally wore a shirt backwards or inside out, or tripping on the way to class in front of a hallway full of classmates.  We can empathize with them and laugh at the humor, but we don’t truly feel the full-strength awkwardness, which weirdly seems bittersweet.

These days, much of what we learn about their teachers and their school days is filtered through our children’s eyes.  They share these astute observations in the car on the way home from school.  And after a full day of being on their best behavior and playing by the rules, sometimes they just need to cut loose a little.  Which probably explains why the conversations in the car are some of the most entertaining.  Sometimes, they may describe their teachers in less-than-flattering ways, like the English teacher who she feels bears a striking resemblance to a mole, or the overweight teacher with the fully-stocked candy drawer who lectures them about eating healthy.  “Really, Susan?  I’m eating too many waffles?” my daughter scoffs.  “Put down that chocolate bar and we’ll talk.”  Often, though, I’ll hear about a really interesting class discussion or an especially creative assignment, or a test they aced after working hard to master the material.

Recently, however, I felt unprepared for the direction the conversation seemed to be headed.  It started when my middle schooler casually mentioned she thought that one of her male teachers had nice arms.  She paused, carefully deliberating over the words she chose to describe his arms, making me think she might possibly have a crush on this teacher.  As I was trying to come up with an appropriate response to her revelations, she forged ahead sharing other positive attributes of his upper body.  Before I had the chance to comment, she concluded by telling us that his arms look like hers will look when she’s older.  Except that hers would have more muscles.

I think we deserve bonus points for remaining straight faced during teacher conferences at school a week later when meeting “Mr. Lady Arms”  and “Mrs. Mole”  in person, because all I can say is that it could have been really awkward.  Luckily, we left before my husband could find out who taught Ebonics.

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