The other day was school picture day at Julia’s school. And so I sent her wearing a turquoise top and nice white pants.
Imagine my shock when I went to pick her up, to see that the knees of those white pants were covered with grass stains. I’m not kidding … about the shock. Julia is so NOTa grass stains girl. She’s more of a ketchup on her sleeve or chocolate sauce down the front of her shirt kind of girl. Rolling around the grass, not her thing.
When I pointed out the grass stains on her knees, she began to profusely apologize in a panicked, teary-eyed kind of way! I’m not sure why since I am soooo NOT about grass stains the way Joan Crawford was about wire hangers. Naturally, I assured her that it was no big deal. I’d bleach it out.
She calmed down and then according to plan, I started to head out to do errands on the way home.
JULIA: Can’t we go home first?
ME: Why? The errands are on the way home and they won’t take too long.
JULIA: I can’t go out in public with these grass stains!
ME: It’s not a big deal. Lots of kids have grass stains on their pants.
JULIA: No mom, no! I just can’t! I’ll be so HUMILIATED!!!
And then she really DID break down in tears.
Now, first of all, I didn’t even know she knew the word humiliated, let alone what the word meant. And second of all, even if she DID know what it meant, I seriously doubted that she REALLY KNEW what it meant. And isn’t it a parent’s job to clarify?
ME: Oh honey. You don’t know the first thing about humiliation. Grass stains on your knees are not humiliation. Humiliation is showing up at a boyfriend’s house begging him to take you back after he’s dumped you. It’s throwing up on the shoes of your friends while they’re walking you around a club parking lot after you’ve had too much Fettucini Alfredo and wine and wild dancing. It’s doing an unflattering imitation of your high school drama teacher in front of the class not knowing that the teacher is standing right behind you. It’s growing up with an Italian mom and then misspelling the word “ciao” on the (you thought) clever job applications you sent out to all the major studios after graduation. It’s being on a first date with a guy you really like and being told by that elderly lady in the elevator that you remind her of Hillary Clinton and not in a political way. It’s plugging and flooding the toilet at your boyfriend’s parents’ house the first time you’ve been asked to dinner (and doing it just before dessert). It’s getting your diaphragm stuck at an inopportune moment that resulted in a panic so awful and a scene so humiliating that just thinking about it makes me want to curl up in a fetal position in the corner of a shower with the hot water running and my thumb in my mouth.
Well, that’s what I WANTED to say anyway. But, she’s only 8. And I wasn’t sure I was ready to explain what a diaphragm was. So instead I did what any decent mom would have done.
ME: Sure, honey. I’ll take you home so you can change first.
She beamed gratefully at me from the back seat. All innocence and sunshine. And I thought how she has a lifetime to learn about REAL humilation. And unfortunately she will. As we all do. For now, let her think that humiliation is a silly grass stain.