Embarrassing one's children still ranks as one of the indefinable pleasures of being a parent. For every time
my preschool son throws a tantrum in a store, I vow to chaperone a future high school prom. When my daughter threatens to
bring home Beavis as her prom date, I will remind her that her father can still give as convincing a performance of inbreeding
as any Academy award winner I know.
I can still recall my own father greeting dates at the door wearing a pair of mustard colored polyester pants,
several inches above the ankle, with a contrasting well-worn wool shirt. My mother was a bit more of an embarrassment. On
the cutting edge of fashion, she was the first on our block (or any block, for that matter) to wear thigh high leather boots
with faux snakeskin gaucho pants. As a family, mine took great pride in attending every concert or talent show in which I
had a part, meticulously rolling up their programs and using them as binoculars to focus upon my starring moment. I, as well
as everyone else, could immediately spot my family in the audience.
I am poised to carry on this tradition with my own heretofore unsuspecting children but,
as an "older parent" of very young children, I am somewhat limited. To my children, "bad fashion statement" is just playing
dress-up. Errant bodily functions are the stuff of laughter. In fact, about the only way I can embarrass my five-year-old
son is by kissing him soundly on the cheek as I deposit him at his school, leaving a big, red lipstick
print for his friends to point at and giggle. And forget about embarrassing a four year old; mine simply outclasses me, as
most anything she does is potentially embarrassing. Hardly the stuff to write home about proudly to Grandma.
I envy my friends with older children, children in their late teens. I’m sure these parents are taking
advantage of payback time. They tell a different story. It seems the privilege of embarrassing one's children on a higher
level comes with a price like, say, driving school. Having already crossed the threshold into driving school, they remind
me that I, too, will eventually experience this hair-whitening landmark. I am equally quick to point out to them that by the
time my kids are old enough to ask for the car keys, I will be too senile to care. Still, I admire friends who will soon have
embarrassed their children to the point of no return, thereby ensuring their desire to live away from home, preferably enrolled
in an institution of higher learning.
It seems that the child going away to college has only one fear: that his or her parents will actually come
and visit to see how their child is doing living away from home for the first time. This, of course, is
a normal fear. After all, what child wants his parent to know that life is one big party, pizza represents the entire food
pyramid and there is a semester's worth of dirty clothes under the bed?
For the parent, this represents prime embarrassment time. What parent wouldn't relish the chance to blurt
out in front of friends and potential mates such phrases as "Honey, has your rash cleared up?" or "I brought you some clean
underwear" and the ever popular "Your uncle Leroy was just released from the institution and he's so looking
forward to visiting you next weekend!"
A friend of mine has been told by her daughter that she has been forbidden to visit her on campus for just
these reasons. I have pointed out to my friend that she could be even more of an embarrassment to her daughter and should
remind her of that. After all, my friend could shuffle onto campus, accompanied by a nurse, wearing only Depends, fuzzy slippers
and a bathrobe, drool meandering from the comer of her mouth, all the while pointing skyward, screaming "It's the end!".
My own parents will be so proud, because that's pretty much what my "late in life" kids can expect when Mom
and Dad visit campus.