When Our Children Embarrass Us

When Our Children Embarrass Us

Yesterday my daughter’s school had a special performance for the bat mitzvah girls and their mothers.

I was sitting in the front row during the performance, which meant I had an unobstructed view of the 3-year-old girl with princess-esque tresses flowing down her back standing by the stage. And then I noticed, along (I assume) with all the mothers and daughters in attendance, that this girl’s pink pants were soaked from top to bottom. An ill-timed accident. Far from home. With no change of clothing on hand.

I didn’t know who this girl was, but later on I saw her holding my neighbor’s hand. My neighbor, whom I have never seen looking anything less than elegant, always well-dressed and made up with a beautiful head scarf. How embarrassing–for any mother, but especially for her…

Our children bring us so much nachas, and sometimes, oy, they also embarrass us.

They won’t share their toys.
They bite.
They misbehave.
They gobble a bite of an apple in front of the rabbi with nary a nano-second blessing.
They are failing a class or school altogether.
They get suspended.
They wear clothing that raises eyebrows.
They do things that make everyone around think we have failed as mothers.

It’s not fun, I know (from personal experience!). But over the years I have come to believe that it’s a good thing that our children provide us with opportunities to exercise this muscle.

The muscle in our heart that says:

Dear child, you embarrassed me in front of the whole world and I will always love you more than life itself.


  1. This article made me cry, for one of my kids who embarrasses me often. Yes I actually do love my child, even while feeling the humiliation…

  2. As a mother and (former) pre-school teacher, everyone knows that kids will be kids: accidents, fighting, etc. It’s NORMAL. It should not be a cause for embarrassment or mentally judging yourself or any other mom. Every parent has moments when kids are kids, in public, no matter how hard the parents try. The message is beyond “I love you.” The message to self is: It’s okay.

    The other point is that as children grow up and become responsible for their own actions, we as parents must step back from feeling responsible. We say ברוך שפטרני at bar/bat mitzvah age; at some point they will make their own decisions. We teach, we model, we guide, and we hope that our message has been internalized. But there are no guarantees. The message to self with older (teen-age? adult?) children, is that I am not my child. I can only do what I think is right. My children are their own people. It is not “You embarrass me but I love you.” We have to teach ourselves not to feel embarrassed when we have done our best.

    • JewishMom

      i had a feeling that there was something I really needed to write to make this piece complete, but couldn’t figure out what it was. and what you wrote is it. this sentiment/muscle “my children are their own people, I am not my child.”

  3. You are not your child and your adult will lead their lives as they see fit. I am learning to step back and not feel guilty when my adult children choose to lead their own lives in ways that are far from my values. It is painful but I still find ways to show my love.

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