It happened last Friday. We were fooling around in the car, just the two of us, listening to music, chatting through the gossip of the day, when BAM! She rolled her eyes and uttered those dreaded words, "Mum, you're so embarrassing!"
I looked over at her, her flushed face in hands, too ashamed to look at me. And with a heavy heart, it dawned on me that my little girl was no longer a baby...she was a tween (cue dramatic music).
The tween years are like watching what I would expect a baby T-Rex to look like as it nibbles it's way out of an egg - limited cuteness before its deadly instinct takes hold. This is undoubtedly the beginning of the end.
She's ten. I know I've been lucky it's lasted so long without the eye roll, but now we're officially on the slippery slope to adolescence and that, my friends, is like a black abyss surrounded by poisonous forests, with hormonal beasts ready to lash out at any unpredictable moment.
Not knowing how to respond, I tackled her car shame in the only way I knew how - by piling on the embarrassment. First, I congratulated her on her initiation into Tweendom which I cemented with a big kiss at the next traffic light. Then I cranked up the radio which was generously playing Radiohead's "I'm a freak," wound down the windows and bellowed it out at the top of my lungs. Mortified, she quietly asked me to stop...but I couldn't, I just couldn't. It was too much fun this tween-baiting. I was getting a kick out of it and what are kids for if not for our own personal entertainment?
Next I tried silly voices and crappy jokes, all the while she was groaning, shaking her head and wishing the ground would swallow her up. And yet, (and here's the real joy of this age), she was both hating it and loving it in equal measures. Of course I may be delusional but when she said, "Stop mum!" What she actually meant was, "Carry on mum, you're hilarious!"
And so it begins, this vicious cycle of kid feeling embarrassed, parent being more embarrassing, kid tortured, parent getting a kick. It's mean, but it's a riot, no?
I'm bracing myself because I know the cringe-factor parent phase is long-lasting. I was 34 before I could finally dance with my dad without blushing. I went to a school reunion recently and asked my mum to drop me at the gate, the shame of being driven in by her was just too great, despite me being a long way from 16!
It's obvious to say but we're in it for the long haul. One day they won't be embarrassed by us but by then we'll be in a retirement home, inappropriately hitting on a 24 year old caregiver.
So the next time your kid rolls their eyes, roll up your sleeves, stick on a terrible tune and subject them to the worst type of mum-dancing you can muster. If you're lucky, she may just appreciate it in twenty years time.