Topics & Perspectives

Embarrassing Our Kids — It’s Generational

I taught in the high school both my kids would eventually attend. At first, they didn’t understand that it was MY high school before they ever walked through those doors as freshmen.  I had already staked out a solid reputation and presence with the many kids I taught, and they would have to get used to the shadow I cast.  

I silently laughed when my daughter, Amanda, asked me not to acknowledge her on the first day only freshmen students attended, so I obeyed her wishes.  I stood off in a corner when my freshman homeroom waited for their pictures to be taken when my daughter’s homeroom entered.  When she came running across the open space to yell, “Mom,” and hug me, I guess she learned my shadow might not be so terrible after all. I wasn’t an embarrassment, and she might survive four years with her mom lurking in the background.

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However, embarrassing our kids (at least from their perspective) is a tricky proposition throughout our lives. Being adorable babies and toddlers makes us want to eat our kids up because of the joy we experience.  Then, when they turn 13 and roll their eyes at our very being, we wish we had.  

You probably remember some of your kids’ feelings of self-consciousness they laid at your feet over the years because you just weren’t cool. 

You could chicken dance and crow like a rooster when they were in preschool, but heaven forbid you do so when waiting for them to get off the bus during fifth grade.  

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Then came high school with a long list of egregious behaviors. Don’t tell jokes (especially dad jokes) in front of their friends.  Don’t hint that you have had sex more times than when creating them. Don’t sing in the car when friends are present.  Don’t sing, period. Don’t complain in public or send food back when at a restaurant. Please don’t make them late for ANY practice (extra laps are earned along with teammate laughter). Don’t dance the Electric Slide or any other ancient dance. Don’t rap or “hashtag speak.” Don’t wear mom jeans or spandex, and don’t wipe food off their faces or rearrange their hair in public.

But what about today when it comes to embarrassing adult kids who may have a version of dad jokes of their own? 

Can we still embarrass those we have raised to have good jobs, marriages, and a future in selecting excellent stocks in the market? 

If you think about it, embarrassment most likely morphs into irritation at this stage of life.  

Eyes still roll if our feet hit the “brakes” on the passenger side while they are driving, but mostly out of irritation that we aren’t impressed with their skill set.  

Your kids will also heavily sigh if you ask the same question more than twice, so don’t ever argue you forgot the answer the first time. That’s a no-win for sure.

Then there are the “let-me-do-its.” 

They take the remote to type in the search words for a streaming program on TV because you are too slow.  They find what you want quickly on page 10 of the menu and order for you.  They set up the phone or computer because it’s easier. 

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They Google the information because you can’t find your phone again. They might not be embarrassed by your less-than-virtuoso display of agility or ability, but that doesn’t mean a minor annoyance doesn’t seep into the relationship.

Of course, their greatest irritation is when we voice some advice without their asking. You are no longer the parent who entertains them with the Chicken Dance, so stop being the parent compelled to share great thoughts.  

In fact, they often see themselves as the parent who needs to take you to the church of “What’s happening now” so you can stop singing “Give me that old-time religion.”

So, are we an embarrassment or parents who need to take a deep breath? Learning that “he who laughs at himself last” is necessary.   


Beverly J. Graves

Beverly Graves is a retired high school teacher who now writes curriculum and articles for the Ohio State Bar Foundation. She also presents that curriculum to students throughout Ohio.

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