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Embarrassing parents: savor the sweet revenge


If there’s fair chance your tot will have a tantrum in the middle of the grocery store, causing embarrassment and calling into question your parenting skills, good news is on the horizon: you’ll get them back.  

In fact, with absolutely no effort on your part, you will one day publicly mortify them every time you are together in proximity to other human life. Even standing a mile away, your children will notice how you’re blinking too loud and disturbing the peace.

In other words, beginning approximately one minute after the time in which your child thought you could do no wrong, you are loud, awkward and quite frankly, a noxious purveyor of constant shame. 

My worst, most humiliating infractions, according to my children, include having friendly conversations with people waiting in line, asking wait staff for more water, sniffing flowers and breathing wrong. I’ve also blown a bubble while chewing bubblegum, sneezed at a school open house and on several occasions, hummed out loud. Once, I even asked a salesperson if a medium-sized shirt was available in blue. Quite frankly and in their exact words, I have repeatedly scarred them for life.

You might think that some expert out there would know how to fix this embarrassing parent problem many of our older children seem to have. But the fact is, it’s them, not us. This is because as soon as they’re preteens, everyone (in their own minds) is watching them and judging. They must always lie low without attracting attention, lest you “ruin their life” and cast doubt on their new, independent identities. 

I find the whole thing mildly disconcerting, especially since I have always tried to play it cool, acting as aloof as possible in public – no nicknames, no talking about them and no physical contact. One day in a restaurant parking lot, I tripped on a rock and fell on the ground. “I’m OK, don’t worry,” I called out. They stepped over me and hurried to the car.

Not long ago, I received a “four” rating out of 10 for my behavior while helping move the kid into a college dorm. This was mainly because I asked someone where the cafeteria was. I also sanitized the exterior doorknob of his new home when I thought he wasn’t looking. “You promised you wouldn’t embarrass me,” he said, victorious. “I knew it was too good to be true.”  

If I’d known I was going to be scored, I might have tried harder to act more like a statue. I did, however, manage to bump up my score to a “six” by taking him out for some fast food. I would have received a “seven,” but I talked too loudly when ordering.

In any case, although they might not always admit it, I know that both of my kids really think I’m a 10, even though I bring great disgrace upon them on a regular basis. Or at least a nine, but only when I’m misbehaving a little. 

Pam J. Hecht is a writer, instructor and mother of two (but not necessarily in that order). Reach her at pamjh8@gmail.com or pamjhecht.com.