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Location: Northern California

Read all about the adventures of the Tsao Family during the summer of 2012

Saturday, November 03, 2007


The embarrassment of Emily, Part I: The Preschool Years

The more seasoned and experienced moms among us, those with children in the tween and teen categories, know that there eventually comes the day when our small children--the ones who now cover us in kisses and "I wuv you"s--will grow distant. No longer will they want our affection; no longer will they eagerly grab our hand during a walk. Instead they will begin the long and painful exercise of detaching themselves from us, one embarrassed moment at a time.

Yesterday I got my first taste of that bittersweet pull when Emily, after getting out of the car, slipped her small hand in mine and confronted me outside of her preschool classroom. "Mommy?" "Yes, sweetie?" I replied, my mind filled with thoughts about my Friday morning walk and whether or not we were late for circle time. I looked down at her sweet face and tiny, perfect body.

"Mommy, I don't want them to see your hair."

The night before I had showered and braided my hair when it was wet. In the morning I had let loose the braids and unveiled my temporary hair-do to Emily, who promptly declared it a hair-don't. I thought I looked a little bit like Jessica Lange in Tootsie, and for someone with hair as straight as mine, the effect was--in my opinion--rather charming, perhaps even a little sexy. Emily's wide eyes and hesitant giggling didn't convince me that I should pull a wet comb through my new 'do. Instead, I opted for my biggest sunglasses and told myself that I looked positively chic, in a retro kind of way.

But in front of her school, Emily told me the truth as she had never experienced it before. She was--in a word--embarrassed. Why was I choosing that moment, the one with her in it, to challenge the status quo? Emily is not a child of the 80s and so doesn't understand the condition known as the Oglivy Home Perm. It used to be perfectly normal for moms--kids, even!--to suddenly sport ringlets, waves, and curls so tight a hair pick couldn't get through them. I told her that mommies sometimes change their hair and that nobody would notice, even though I was a tad bit unsure of the truth in this statement. I rehearsed my story for the inquisitive: Oh, I braided my hair last night and this is what happened! Thank God the days of home perms are over, huh?!

Being too young to attend school unaccompanied, Emily was forced to swallow her embarrassment and let me walk her into the classroom. She certainly pulled away from me quickly, though, leaving me alone at the sign-in sheet wondering if I just had a tiny taste of what every day of my life will be like in a few short years. I think both of us were relieved when nobody noticed that I had transformed into Cher from the days when she was wishin' she could turn back time.

Later in the car I couldn't help but sneak a peek in my rear view mirror. Was my wavy hair really that horrendous? I still didn't think so. In fact, I thought it looked mighty cute and I knew I wouldn't be changing it for school pick-up, even though I also knew I would be causing my daughter yet another spasm of embarrassment. Hey, if I have to mentally prepare myself for the pain the tween years will bring, she can, too.