Of the countless things I do that embarrass my boys, my most heinous infraction of late is wearing a hot pink tutu when I run a 5K.
I was compelled to wear the tutu after reading about Self Magazine's "shaming" of a tutu-wearing marathon runner battling a brain tumor. Because I've worked in the media for my entire adult life, I, too, have made really stupid mistakes in print and it always stinks. The magazine quickly apologized and took the drastic measure of firing its editor.
The implication in the Self piece was that serious athletes should be offended by those of us in tutus and shamrock headbands, and that we're dumbing down these near-professional athletic contests. Get a grip. This is not the Olympics. We're out there to get some fresh air and exercise and maybe show our kids that pushing oneself can be a rewarding experience.
I don't hold a grudge against Self, and will still continue to buy the occasional copy, in the hopes that I can "Totally reshape my butt —- in just three weeks!" But the tutu has grown on me. It's now more of a celebration than a protest. And, despite what my 14-year-old son may think, it has nothing to do with embarrassing him.
I'm certainly not a fast runner but I am an enthusiastic one. I love to see kids out there pushing themselves, whether they're doing their first 1-mile fun run or running alongside me for 3.1 miles. I am that crazy person your kid tells you about on the way home from the race: "Some lady kept telling me to keep going. She wouldn't leave me alone. She said it would be lame if she beat me so I had to keep running."
The tutu brings it all up a notch. Or maybe it brings it down. For those kids (and adults) who are intimidated by the fast runners (my annoying brother), my ridiculous outfit lets them know this is all for fun, contrary to Self's opinion. It's a healthy, community-building event that raises money for a good cause and encourages physical activity.
The uber-fast runners know that regardless of my attire, my entrance fees pay for their prizes. But more importantly, they know that making exercise fun for the next generation is especially important. Getting kids off the couch and away from the screens isn't easy, and encouraging them by cheering, wearing ridiculous outfits and doling out dozens of high-fives goes a long way.
Walking back to the car after the 14-year-old ran a race with his lacrosse team (and I'd worn what he considered an especially hideous orange tutu) I knew what was coming. "PLEASE never wear that again, OK?"
It's not like I go out of my way to embarrass my boys. I post very few photos of them on Facebook because I know there is nothing worse than being "tagged" by one's mother. When said teenager told me I could "absolutely not" accept the invitation to speak at his middle school's Career Day a few weeks ago, I politely declined to the school. ("Nobody else's parents are doing it," he said. "It would be horrible.") Hugging in public has pretty much come to an end. And just last week, at the urging of some wise parents, I remained seated while the lacrosse coach bandaged my boy's bleeding hand on the bench. (I really wanted to go put a little Bacitracin on that.)
But the tutu and the high-fives? They're here to stay. At least now he'll have good material to write some angst-fueled lyrics or a college essay on handling extreme tutu-related adversity.
Teresa M. Pelham is a freelance writer living in Farmington and is co-blogger for the Courant's Mommy Minute blog. Teresa is author of the children's book "Roxy's Forever Home," and the forthcoming "Roxy and Her Annoying Little Brother, Stuey," to be published in June. For more information or to pre-order a copy, visit www.roxysforeverhome.com.