Frumpy Mom: Telling humiliating stories to ease my son’s embarrassment

I want to take my son out to eat, but this is creating a problem. See, right now, he’s in a wheelchair, living in a board-and-care home until he can walk. And he refuses to be seen in public in his chair.

He’s been unable to walk since he was in a scooter accident six weeks ago, and it will be a while until his fractured pelvis heals enough to get out of the chair. He’s staying near several restaurants that we could wheel to, and I think it would be good for him to get out of that stuffy house.

But he’s embarrassed to be seen in the chair. I’m trying to convince him otherwise, but so far no success.

I’ve decided to tell him some stories about times when I was embarrassed. We all have them, right? And some day you do get over it.

A while back, I was invited to cover a regional student cooking competition reminiscent of the TV show “Chopped.” This was fun. Afterward, I sat down to interview the head judge, who was a dignified middle-aged European guy in a tall white hat, who was wearing many medals designating that he was indeed a mighty fine chef.

He ran the kitchen in some snooty restaurant I’ll never be able to afford. He was friendly and not arrogant at all, I’m happy to say.

I had awakened that morning with a small cold and a cough, but when you’re a newspaper reporter, that is not an acceptable reason to blow off your story. So, I was sucking on cough drops while I interviewed Mr. White Hat.

In the middle of the interview, I coughed suddenly, and the cough drop flew out of my mouth and landed on the white tablecloth between us. I turned beet red, grabbed it and put it in my pocket.

“You didn’t see that,” I told him, and we went on with the interview without referring to it again. And I lived to tell the tale.

Another time, one hot summer day, I was feeling pretty pleased with myself because I’d just been invited to be on TV to discuss foster care adoption. I didn’t stutter or cuss or say anything embarrassing, so I congratulated myself when I walked out of the building.

Then, I looked down at my shirt and I realized I was wearing it inside out. Oops. This is why I don’t make the big bucks.

Or the time we were in Thailand, waiting on the dock for the ferry that was going to take us to an island called Koh Lanta. Finally, the ferry arrived and everyone piled on. We appeared to be the only tourists. We had to wait for a bit, so I decided to get off the ferry for a minute to take a picture. Um, no. The second I set foot on the dock, the ferry decided without warning to take off.

My friends started screaming at the captain in English to stop – none of us having mastered a single word in Thai our entire trip – but he didn’t understand. Then some of the other passengers realized what was happening, and – laughing hysterically – asked the captain to stop, and he did. But it turns out the ferry could not back up. And the tailgate of the ferry was about waist high – too high for me to jump onto.

While the entire ferry fell down laughing, I managed to fling my body onto the tailgate and roll toward the middle. While people tried to stop laughing long enough to help me stand up, I muttered the refrain spoken by Frederic Forrest in “Apocalypse Now” after he is chased by a tiger while hunting for mangoes: “Never get out of the boat. Never get out of the boat…”

And I never have again.

When the rugrats were small, I took them to the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach. This was their first foray into the rarified world of art. I had just read an article about how the only thing researchers could find in common among parents whose children got into Ivy League colleges was that they all took their kids to art museums. So, hey, I thought, Let’s go.

Let me remind you that I adopted my kids at ages three and five, and they often behaved like wild horses. I tried to reverse this behavior but had only limited success. If there was a sign that said, “Don’t push this button,” my daughter would push it. When we were somewhere and the sign said, “No running,” you can be sure my son ran to get there.

There really wasn’t enough duct tape in the world to slow them down. Still, I didn’t expect at the museum that they would immediately run up and touch all the artworks, while I had heart palpitations and the security guards sternly told them to stop.

I quickly realized that we just had to get out of there. Fast. So I told the kids to follow me because we were leaving. They did follow me. On their hands and knees, meowing because they were pretending to be kittens.

I tried to control my mortification by refusing to turn around and look at them, but I could hear them meowing as we slowly made our way to the exit and into the parking lot.

That was my last attempt to get them cultured or exposed to art for many years.

I don’t know if Cheetah Boy will respond to these stories, but I am still hoping to get him out of the house. Hopefully, while he’s still in the wheelchair.

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