I totally understand why my daughter thinks I’m a creep. I go out of my way to be a weirdo to her, because her reactions are hilarious. At the beginning of this weekend, though, my creepiness made a kid cry. Okay, here’s the situation…
Once upon a time, I was a volunteer teacher’s assistant at my daughter’s small Lutheran elementary school. It was Christmastime, so I had been planning her classroom party. I asked her opinion about music and dancing. I didn’t want to embarrass her in front of her friends. A sentiment to which she replied “Don’t worry. I’m unembarrassable”.
Oh really? Challenge accepted.
I have done everything imaginable to turn her cheeks red or make her walk away in shame. I sit inches from her in restaurant booths and stare at her face while we are eating. I call out inappropriate things like “hey little girl, you wanna pet my puppy” when I pick her up from the kiss-and-ride lane at school. I walk with my fingers interlocked between hers when we are in large crowds. I pretend she farted and make a scene about the stench in quiet spaces like the library or Barnes and Noble. Whenever I walk by, I bury my nose in her hair and take a big whiff to remind her of a very strange boy who used to be infatuated with her. Finally, I gave up trying to embarrass Lil Sweetie at last year’s 6th grade graduation party. If flailing around like a maniac to Abba’s “Dancing Queen” didn’t make her disown me, nothing would.
Come to think of it, my antics have made our relationship much more fun. Instead of withdrawing in those restaurant booths, she’ll link her arm around mine while giving me the rundown about school, friends, art, basketball or BTS. At pick-up time her usual retort is “Stop it, Mom, you’re scaring the little children,” as she laughingly gets into the car. Rather than retracting her hand from mine, she has developed the habit of reaching for me first…even in the MALL! She waves her tooshie in front of me and exaggeratedly wafts fake fart gas to my nose like a deranged mime. When her friends laughed (and danced) with me at their graduation, her response was “Isn’t my mom the best?!” The only thing that gets under her skin is the hair smelling joke. Of course, I do it as much as possible now.
That’s the nature of our relationship. I am perpetually trying to get a rise out of her. She, in turn, does her best to minimize her response while simultaneously attempting to make me laugh so hard that I snort. The end result is that both of us have become public nuisances and are somewhat oblivious to the watchful glares we receive.
In my defense, I have had so many strangers open up to me like I’m their long lost bestie, that I don’t consider people strangers anymore. They are friends I haven’t met yet or potential homies. Therefore, I approach everyone with that attitude. Let’s just say that some are more receptive than others.
Friday afternoon we came across a young mother and her three children sitting inside our favorite Korean bakery. The bakery is located in the busiest mall in America (hyperbole). Seriously, this place is packed on a random Tuesday morning at 10:00 am. You can imagine how much foot traffic it receives on a Friday afternoon. The mother was sitting at the table closest to the storefront with her two young sons and her sleeping baby girl in the stroller. I gushed at how cute they were as we entered. No biggie.
After we ordered Honey’s birthday cake and Lil Sweetie’s yaki soba, we took a seat to wait for the food to be prepared. There was only enough space for us to sit across from each other. My back was to the young family. At some point, Lil Sweetie, who has become infatuated with Hallyu (South Korean pop culture), showed me a Pinterest picture of a kid who looked very similar to the youngest little boy. I turned to get a better perspective.
When the kid spotted me watching him, I waved. He smiled and dipped his head shyly. Our cake was ready, so I went to the counter to retrieve it. On the way back, both of the little boys were looking at me. I made a funny face and they giggled. I was the only dark-skinned patron (Lil Sweetie looks Blasian). I figured I was the most interesting person for them to study. Their mom was preoccupied with her phone, so I didn’t want to rile them up too much. I took my seat and waited again for the yaki soba.
Meanwhile, the mom went back to order something more and left the boys at the table with their napping sister. I turned to wave again and twisted my face in ridiculous ways to make them laugh. Without the protection of their mother, I think they may have gotten a little spooked. The oldest brother widened his eyes and pulled his chin into his neck. He gave me a sidelong stare with a face that was begging to become a meme. I did NOT take his picture, even though I really wanted to. Lil Sweetie and I were laughing so hard our eyes watered.
A few minutes later, after we had turned away from the boys, the oldest must have gone to get his mother. His little brother started wailing.
“Mom, you made him cry!” my daughter scolded.
What? I had done no such thing. But the young mother thought I had, because she and her oldest son were glaring at me. In fact, some of the other patrons had followed her eyeline and landed on my face. I didn’t even do anything! I had stopped paying attention to those kids at least three minutes ago. What did they think I was gonna do– kidnap a 3 year-old in the middle of a crowded mall in broad daylight? Absurd!
Thankfully, the yaki soba came out not long after that. As we were leaving, I stopped at the young mother’s table and told her that her children were adorable. She smiled and thanked me. As I turned to walk away, I caught her furl her brow and tic-toc her eyes like an old-fashioned Cheshire cat clock. Ooo-kaay, I guess complimenting strangers isn’t a thing anymore.
My daughter summed up the whole scene with one sentence. “You mean well, Mom, but you’re a little creepy.”
I laughed so hard, I almost doubled over. I staggered past people on my way to the parking garage, probably making a spectacle of myself. When I reached the mall exit, which is only about 100 feet from the bakery storefront, I leaned against the wall and let out a series of snaughles.
Well played little one. Well played.