Before I had children, I made certain vows to myself about what kind of parent I would be. This exercise stretched as far back as my teenage years when I knew for certain that I had the wherewithal to be an absolutely perfect mother. Given my vast personal experience at having parents – and long clinical rotations of observing other kid’s parents – I had derived the secret formula that would someday compel my unborn children to thank the heavens above that they wound up with me. In each iteration of this formula – and it did shift around a bit based on my daily run-ins with these grow-ups – there was one constant, one tried and true silver bullet that never lost its number one rank in the Perfect Parent criteria list:
I would never ever ever ever embarrass my children.
Remarkably, I held onto this ideal for quite some time. And let me tell you, it is really super easy not to embarrass your children when you don’t have any. I was, in fact the perfect parent, at my wedding, in those early years of marriage, and during both my pregnancies. I remained true to my promise well through both boy’s infancies (blobs don’t get embarrassed), toddler hoods (Mommy does no wrong), and grade school years (I will take full credit for this one, but it was work.)
And then something changed.
As the center of the boys’ universes shifted away from me towards themselves and their friends, my universe began to return back to a place where I mattered just as much (maybe even sometimes more) than those sweet little boys to whom I gave life. Translated: Suddenly, my singing show tunes in the mini-van at the top of my lungs with the windows rolled down completely mortified my sons. And I didn’t care.
I employed a bit of dramatic license above. I did not roll the windows COMPLETELY down. But I have, in fact, given up on being the perfect parent in this regard. And in the spirit of embracing my imperfections, I am taking this opportunity to share with you some of the best (and easiest) ways to humiliate the fruit of you loins. (Note: Referring to them as the “fruit of your loins” is always a winner — as is blogging about them on a weekly basis, but those are almost too obvious.) Here are 5 more ways to embarrass your children by doing nothing else but living your life:
Sideshow Mom: Singing your favorite show tunes is almost too easy. You can embarrass your child by belting out a few bars even when there isn’t another human being around for miles. But for some variety, try a popular song that your child loves… when you’re driving their friends around in the car. (I do a GREAT Mumford and Sons). And.. for an added kick – get the words wrong. If singing isn’t your thing, just dance. Preferably alone.. In a department store. Or at a track meet. When Bizarre Love Triangle serendipitously comes on over the sound system. (OMG!!! I love this SONG!!!)
One of the Gang: Insert yourself into their world… preferably physically. It is amazing how embarrassing your simple presence can be. For instance, when your kids have friends over and are hanging out in the basement, bring down some food. Then, linger for let’s say… uh… ten seconds. Ask if everyone is okay and if they need anything. Watch as your child implores you with his eyes to high tail it upstairs. If you are feeling saucy, ignore the silent plea and take a few steps further into the room as if you might join the crowd. It’s quite a powerful feeling.
Complaint Department: Being served food in a restaurant that is sub-par or inedible is a golden opportunity to humiliate your offspring. Don’t forsake it. The simple act of politely telling your sever that that your dish is rancid or your wine tastes like vinegar is enough to send any teenager under the table for the rest of the night. As they slink further down in their seat, turn to them and, in front of the server, say “WHAT??? Why are you embarrassed?”
Loud Talker: You may not realize this gem, but anything you have to say that can be overheard by friends or the general public has the potential to redden the cheeks of your child. Nagging your son about getting his homework done as you stroll by the girls track team is quick, easy, and effective in a number of ways. If you see one of your kid’s friends in Target, be sure to scream, “Look, hon, there’s Susie – you should go say HI!!!” And never miss the chance to employ the loud whisper which implies that you are trying to be discreet and therefore are unaccountable for your actions.
Child Advocate: If your child is having a problem in school with a teacher or coach, gently suggest that perhaps you should send an email or make a phone call to better understand the problem. It doesn’t matter how constructive you promise to be. The threat of engaging with another adult in power on the subject of your child is enough to throw any kid into a tizzy. The only thing worse is proposing a conversation with another parent about problematic friendships. Somehow, no kid sees the immense good that can come from “talking it through.” If ever think you hear a distant painful cry of “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” – that is a child reacting to this suggestion from his or her parents.
So to all you teenagers out there who are making the same vows I did at your age, keep dreaming. By the time your hypothetical children are in middle school, your perspective will have shifted. The oath to never embarrass your kids will fall a distant second to the importance of standing up for them, communicating important things, eating a good meal, engaging with them on your own terms, and celebrating the goodness of life by singing and dancing when and wherever you want to.