Speaking of children learning about embarrassment....
My Very First Embarrassing Moment
Mary Cassatt, Ellen Mary Cassatt in a White Coat
I was in third grade. In an effort to bring music and art appreciation to our low-budget elementary schools, the PTA sponsored monthly classes taught by parent volunteers. Once a month, we had visits from our "Art Mother" and our "Music Mother", who helped us learn about a famous composer or artist. We viewed great art or listened to great music, learned more about what led (Or is it lead? There goes my left eye) each artist to create such a body of work, and then had a special activity to help us apply our new-found knowledge.
Looking back, I'm quite impressed with what the local PTA was able to accomplish!
My mother was the Art Mother for my third grade classroom.
One day, I was busy finishing my math worksheet, innocent of all that was about to bring misery to my young life. Suddenly, the classroom door was thrown open, and a woman, bedecked in a ridiculous flowered hat, entered the room, trilling in a sing-song voice, "I'm here, children, I'm here! And I'm wearing my beautiful spring hat!"
The woman was my mother.
She wasn't just wearing any spring hat. She was wearing a pink-gingham pillbox with a large bow that sprouted prolific blooms of purple plastic lilacs. She had made it herself.
The room erupted in gasps and giggles as my mother pranced into the room, ready to give the monthly Art Appreciation Lesson. I had no idea she was planning to visit that day, and I certainly had no idea that she'd make her visit wearing a spring hat! I put my head down on my desk and covered it with my arms, hoping that this was just a very, very bad nightmare.
It wasn't. It was real life. Mom proceeded to tell us all about the artist Mary Cassatt, known for her primary subjects of children and women in hats. A gifted teacher, my mother had our third grade class in the palm of her hand, unable to do anything but listen with rapt attention to the woman in the silly hat. The lesson went exactly as she had planned.
Only, I don't think she'd planned on her own daughter being quite so mortified. I'm sure she and my father enjoyed a few laughs over the re-telling of the horrified expression on their daughter's face when Mom made her grand entrance. Mom got a lot of mileage out of that hat, threatening to wear it again in public if she ever needed to "motivate" me.
And that moment, when my mother danced into my third grade classroom with purple lilacs bouncing from a bright-pink-gingham brim, remains my earliest memory of embarrassment.
Aren't I lucky?