Why Parents Have To Be Embarrassing

There are many ways a parent can embarrass their child. For those of you planning a family, or those with toddlers, you won’t have long to wait. It’s a move that arrives early in the game of parenting. Perhaps while you’re at the park, enjoying a picnic. You notice a familiar face from school and realize you’re one short for a balanced see-saw. What you consider as a logical suggestion to your small child, somehow induces the same response as asking a bunch of nuns if they’d like to join in at a swingers party.

“Why don’t you go over and ask Emily if she wants to play?”

Small child shakes head vigorously.

Meanwhile Emily is looking at you, your picnic, and the see-saw, longingly.

“Oh go on, I bet she’d love some of our chocolate cake, and then you could both play on the see-saw together.”

Small child shoots you a look of horror, mutters no, turns her back on Emily and stares at the ground.

“Okay, shall I ask Emily if she want’s to join us? Hey Emily…”

Small child makes a sound that indicates she is dying “Mum, you’re so embarrassing”

And this is where you’ll begin. You’ll realize that no good can come from getting involved with your child’s social life. That you are somehow meant to take on the persona of a shadow, be there, but remain unobtrusive. A complicated role of silent observer yet chief provider of assistance. To survive in this world you will require the patience of Mother Theresa and the negotiating skills of Kofi Annan.

Except you don’t want to survive in this world. And you shouldn’t.

Yesterday when I wrote my post about Boney M I thought it might be fun to make a video. It was terrible. I was terrible. I looked at the video and was of course shocked by the size of the woman on the screen. She looked ridiculous. The dancing was bad. I didn’t have any make-up on. I was on day 2 of a hideous head cold. But the video was silly and I’m a bit of a fan of silly, so I was tempted to throw it on the blog. Just to have a laugh. And then I changed my mind. It was stupid. I’d probably regret it.

The fourth little traveller stood behind me as I took another look at the clip, wondering if it was just better to forget it.

“You can’t put that on Youtube Mum”.

“Why not?”

“Because that’s not even proper dancing – you’re swimming!”

“Yeah, but I felt like swimming, that’s just what I felt like doing when I heard the music.”

“So embarrassing, it’s just so embarrassing. You can’t put that on your blog.”

There are many things that are so embarrassing for the fourth little traveller. My little man who loves to entertain us with shows and performances at home, refuses to join a dance group here. My little man who practices his cartwheels and handstands until his face is purple, refuses to join the gymnastics club. My little man who sings and makes fantastic videos but refuses to put himself forward for a recital. What if someone laughs? What if someone thinks I’m stupid? It’s too embarrassing.

He asked me to play the clip again. I watched as he screwed up his nose, shook his head.

“People will think you’re crazy.”

I stopped the clip.

“Honey, I had so much fun when I was dancing around the bedroom. I haven’t heard that song in years and when I got up from my desk to have a dance I couldn’t stop laughing at myself. You have to have a laugh. And if people don’t like it? That’s their issue, not mine. It’s none of my business what other people think of me. And hey, if other people have a laugh, well that’s brilliant. We can have a laugh together.”

I pushed the publish button.

I asked the second little traveller if she could tell me when I had embarrassed her the most.

“When you joined the birthday party!”

I couldn’t think of when she meant? We visited the ghosts of birthday parties past.

“Oh you mean when I came to pick you up at the specified time and walked into the room to let you know I was there?”

“Yes, OMG so embarrassing.”

I nodded slowly. She is 11, she has no idea how much worse it’s going to get. I thought about my mother folding my large floral underwear while talking to gentleman callers.

What about Dad? What’s he done?

“Oh, well this didn’t happen to me, but Lizzie told me that when Dad took her to the information night for camp, when all the teachers and other kids were there, they said you had to take your own toilet paper – Dad told Lizzie he was going to put his hand up and ask if he needed to bring smooth or rough toilet paper.”

Okay. So that would have been embarrassing.

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