My cousin’s wife once told me that the true goal of parenting was this: you don’t want to embarrass your children… you want to thoroughly appall them. Originally, I found that to be funny. I thought that I had the upper hand. I soon learned otherwise.
My earliest memory of embarrassing my kids was when they would have friends over and I would attack them with a water pistol or sing or deliver their clean underwear to their rooms while they were entertaining guests. These were simple. They were effective. But soon, both my son and my daughter learned how to get around them. I would pull practical jokes on them, but when they attempted, futilely I might add, I merely told them that I had taught them everything they know, but not everything I know.
We always sat down to dinner together as a family. It was really the only time we could be together considering work, school, club and team schedules. Having extra kids at my dinner table was a regular occurrence. This naturally provided another opportunity for me to achieve my goal. All we had to do was reminisce and tell baby stories.
By the time they were teenagers, I came up with a way to humiliate them in public when I would drop them off at school. When they had gotten far enough away from the car, I would shout, “Do me a favor, while you’re here… learn something.” The first time I did it, they both turned around with knowing smirks on their faces. The next few times, they groaned. Finally, they learned to jump out of the car and run.
Later on, my creativity began to wane. I then would ask them if they dare me to… jump in a puddle… or tell the waitress I have an imaginary friend… or sit down at someone else’s table at a restaurant and start to eat off of their plates. There were times when they would dare me, and I would do it, much to their chagrin.
My daughter finally grew weary of this game, and said to me, “Mom, I dare you to behave yourself.” So, my endeavors to thoroughly appall both my kids came to a screeching halt. She finally informed me, having reached her early twenties, that “Mom, you’re not embarrassing us, you’re embarrassing yourself.”
They are both now married, and I imagine they will soon start families of their own. It is then they will know the true joy of driving their kids crazy. It becomes, if you will, a quid pro quo, and they will appreciate the value in it, but I imagine, too, that they will do it with love, as I always have.
And always will.