Valerie’s dad in his finest. (Photo courtesy Valerie Medina)
You know the look.
The I-can’t-believe-you-just-did-that look. The one that makes you feel like no matter how tiny your infraction, your teenager will forever remember this embarrassing moment.
The problem is, it’s challenging for me to refrain from breaking into song-and-car-dance when Uptown Funk (or even Funky Cold Medina) comes on the radio. It doesn’t matter if a friend of my 15-year-old daughter’s is in the car, a random cute boy is biking by, or we are at a stoplight with a car full of her peers right next to us — this type of music gets into my soul and beckons me.
Yes, I have officially become the embarrassing mom.
Anytime my daughter catches a glimpse of this boy on our way to or from school, she reaches over, holds my arm down so I won’t attempt a wave, and says, “Don’t even think about offering him a ride, Mom!”
It’s a legacy. Growing up with my dad was like being in a room with Rodney Dangerfield— loud red overcoat, green and red plaid golf pants, and the occasional “have you heard this one” joke. Yet, somehow, all my friends loved him. He was the life of the party and they thought he was cool. But to me, it was awful: him talking to my friends, especially the boys, wanting to be part of my group, being completely unavoidable — sometimes just because his obnoxious outfits entered a room before he did. And if it wasn’t his clothes, it was his flamboyant taste in cars — always a sports car and usually red. Periodically, I had to drive the flashy red car to school. And when I did, you would find me parking in the church lot waaaayyyyy across the street, behind the building, and as far away from the line of incoming high schoolers as possible.
You’d think I would have learned. But like my dad, I’m not subtle. I love talking to her friends, knowing who she’s hanging out with and what they are like. I, too, dress in colors that are hard to miss — bright orange, turquoise blue, sometimes I throw in a paisley print or stripe to jazz things up.
Recently, while driving my daughter and her friend home from school, we drove through the local hot dog stand. As we pulled up to pay, I saw our teenage neighbor (boy) through the window at the indoor counter. As one of the few teens I’ve known since he was a little kid, who will still genuinely acknowledge me and say hello, I wanted to offer him a ride home. I waved at him and asked if he needed a ride, forgetting that this is forbidden in the teenage code book. Uproarious laughter and embarrassment ensued.
How could you do this?
(You’d think I’d just stuck my foot out and tripped her as she walked past Ed Sheeran.)
These days, anytime my daughter catches a glimpse of this boy on our way to or from school, she reaches over, holds my arm down so I won’t attempt a wave, and says, “Don’t even think about offering him a ride, Mom!”
The list goes on and on. In her eyes, I’m not acting my age, not acting as a “mom” should.
To be honest, I want to stay as young as I can, while I can. At times I hear a ticking clock running as the background audio over my life, reminding me of the defined amount of time left and the importance of taking advantage of it.
I so loved being in high school and still feel like it wasn’t that long ago. When I drive her to school, I get this exhilarating and anxious feeling all throughout my body, remembering how great those years were, how I wish I could do it again. I want to gush to her, “these are the best years of your life, stop and soak it up!” It’s likely that this is why I accidentally let the lines blur between her high school years and mine. I miss it.
But there’s another reason. In some fashion, we are all embarrassing parents, loud clothes or not, simply because we are theirs. Whether we wave or not, we’ll never be invisible enough for them to tolerate. They are in the process of figuring out who they are by separating themselves from us.
As I drive my daughter to school on her last day as a freshman, I’m working on tempering my joy and being the best version of Mrs. Brady that I can muster. My hands are firmly on the wheel, not waving, my butt is secure in the seat, not grooving, and my voice is barely audible, humming Maroon 5’s “Sugar…yes please…” But believe me, the ride home is all me belting out the back-up for Bruno Mars.