A Letter to My Preteens from Your Embarrassing Mom


To my dearest preteen children,

Welcome to puberty! There will be few other times in your life when your body goes through such dramatic changes, when your social standing will be like walking around on quicksand, and your brain will do the exact opposite of what you want or need. Despite what you have heard, you can survive it. Some even thrive.

Since there will be a host of things you will not be able to control, I thought I would give you a break and help with some things I can control. Given that you are now in the phase of life where everything your parents do is “like so embarrassing,” I want to offer you this truce, so to speak.

As your mother, I promise the following:

  1. Never to turn up MY music (e.g., the soundtrack to Les Miserables, Dixie Chicks, Barbara Streisand) super loud as you exit the car during morning carpool.
  2. Never to pick you up from school, basketball practice, or Girl Scouts wearing curlers or my yoga pants.
  3. To refrain (as much as humanly possible) from thrusting my head up and down while blasting Led Zeppelin; or pretend to play the air guitar to other rock classics such as The Who, Boston, the Stones, the Steve Miller Band, etc.
  4. Never to coach you from the bleachers with motivating words such as “catch the ball,” “throw the ball,” and the old standby “hit the ball.”
  5. Not to move my shoulders, wiggle my hips, bounce and bob to “Footloose” at every stop light in town; and not extend my arm, point my finger diagonally out the window and bellow, “Oooo, ooo, ooo, ooo, stayin’ alive.” (I make no promises about singing “Rapper’s Delight” in its entirety.  Never mind, before your time.)
  6. Not to scream out loud, “Wow, that’s the biggest pimple I’ve ever seen,” when you are having acne issues.
  7. Never to say “You hoo,” wave to you, or call your name while you are on stage for a school performance.
  8. To walk six feet in front of you so that no one knows (God forbid) you are out with one of your parents in public.
  9. To drag out embarrassing baby pictures of you during your slumber party and talk about your infant reflux/gas issues.
  10. To sing opera at Girl Scout campouts, in between baseball and softball innings, when your friends are over, while chaperoning on the bus to school athletic events, when you are playing outside with the neighbors, while you are in the house, or even while you are within a mile of me. (Cross my heart.)
  11. Not to thrust my arm between you and the boy you are dancing with at the middle school dance and say, “Hey, make some room for the Holy Spirit.”

Now, in case you didn’t know this, I am here to tell you that nothing comes free. Therefore, if you would like to live a humiliating-free pubescent life, you must agree to do the following for ME—your mother:

  1. Flush! Not once in a while, not when you feel like it, but EVERY time you use the restroom. (And, for your brother, take the extra second to raise the seat and put it down when you are finished.)
  2. Wash your hands—with soap! Not just when I catch you walking out of the bathroom wiping your hands on your jeans, but EVERY time you use the rest room.
  3. Brush your teeth twice a day and your hair before you go out in public. And no, dabbing a bit of toothpaste on your tongue is not the same brushing your teeth.
  4. Shower/Bath every day, and no, swimming in the pool does not count anymore.
  5. Change your clothes—not in the living room, not in the downstairs bathroom, not in the kitchen, and not in the garage—but in your bedroom.
  6. Pick up after yourself. I know it may seem that God put me on this earth to pick up your cheese wrappers, put your clotted milk cups in the sink, and hang up the wet towels that you throw on the floor, but he didn’t. Believe it or not, there are other things I like to do that do not involve cleaning up your messes. I know it’s a shock, but you will get over it.
  7. Don’t stand there with the pantry door or refrigerator door open and say, “We have nothing to eat.” Yes, we do. It may not be the processed, dyed corn crunchy thingy you like. Its primary ingredients may not be sugar and hydrogenated oil. But, we do have food. I promise. It may have come from the ground at one point, but it is totally edible.
  8. Put away your clean laundry. Don’t throw it in a pile in your closet, leave it in the basket, or sweep it under your bed only to put it in the dirty clothes hamper because it is now wrinkled and has been sitting under your bed for a week. We are blessed enough to live in a house with closets and dressers, so use them.
  9. Get out of bed when I wake you. Do not fall back to sleep, leaving me to scream up at you every 10 minutes for the next hour so you can rush out the door five minutes before school starts hysterical as to why I didn’t wake you.
  10. Give me time to help you with projects. Do not tell me at 8 PM that you need to make a working, explodable paper mache volcano for first period class tomorrow. Remember, my bed time is 9 PM.

I firmly believe that if we all abide by these rules, you and I will both skate freely through the next few years. If not, just remember that embarrassing my children is one of the few perks of parenting.


Take Your Child to Work Day: Stay-At-Home-Parent Version

My husband, Mike, is an engineer at a chemical company in Texas. I have learned that there are two types of people in this world: (1) engineers and (2) everyone else. Engineers are their own breed who speak a strange foreign language that no one else but other engineers comprehend. Don’t get me wrong, it is based in the English language and follows the syntax of English, but the average lay person tends to cross his eyes whenever and engineer talks about his/her job. I call it “brain shut down.” It is the body’s natural response to “engineer-ese” so that our neurons don’t explode and our grey matter doesn’t shrink in trying to wrap our non-engineer brains around whatever it is the engineer said.

Group of children (9-12) watching experiment in school laboratory
Group of children (9-12) watching experiment in school laboratory

This necessary introduction about engineers s to lead up to the fact that my girls (ages 11 and 12) are going to “Take Your Child To Work” Day with Mike. They are very excited to go, because really they have no idea what a chemical engineer does. (I just tell them Daddy makes plastic and goes to meetings with lots of PowerPoint presentations). The planner that he is, Mike sent me the schedule for “Take Your Child To Work Day.” In addition to “Science is pHun” sessions, the girls will get an overview of the company’s operations and jobs. They will see videos on safety, learn about careers in the field, and even win prizes.

So, I wondered what “Take Your Child To Work Day” would look like for a stay-at-home parent if we gathered together several parents and their children. Here are the events and activities I came up with for our big day. I tried to make it as authentic as possible to the job. No glossing over the demands and joys of being a domestic engineer.

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