When You Are Embarrassing Because Of Who You Are
We expect too much of our kids. We expect them to think we are as cool as we think we are. Not cool in general. Because we are parents, and progressively we get less cool as our kids get older. That’s just a fact, in their eyes.
We expect them to think we are the cool mom or cool dad. We don’t even need to be Brooklyn hip. We just want a tip of the hat from our own child that we are ok. Not like Jimmy’s dad, who is actually dorky. We are different. And we expect our kids to know this.
But the problem is, we are not different to our burgeoning tween. Because we are their parent. And therefore, by all accounts and mathematical equations and philosophy, we are embarrassing because of who we are.
Being a Parent (The Early Days)
We all go through times when we think we have somehow risen to the top of the parenting heap. That we, in and of ourselves, are impervious to the things that other parents “complain” about. Like the terrible twos and teenagers. Until the sh*t hits the fan. And we know nothing. Over and over again.
We say to our friends, “You know what, the twos haven’t been so bad for me. It’s probably because of the organic, non-GMO diet I feed my toddler.” Our friends just smirk. Because they know it’s coming. Maybe not tomorrow or next week, but it’s coming.
Then we say to our friends, “I don’t know what happened. My toddler was perfect at two, but now he is a sociopathic hellion who only wants to ruin my life.” Our friends smirk. They knew all along it would come to this.
Because even when we are having a good streak, it will end. Sometimes unceremoniously and sometimes in a blaze of glory after we have knighted ourselves because of exemplary parenting.
But the whole time, in the early days, our children still look at us with idol eyes. We are their world. We give them food. We clean them when they decide an airplane is the most perfect time for out-the-back of the diaper diarrhea.
And because of their false assumptions about how uncool we will get, they are not yet embarrassed by us. But they will be. And when they are, it will be epic.
Being a Parent (The Middle Years)
As our children start to discover day care, pre-school and school, we get the first chance to drop them off somewhere. For many this is a sigh of relief because it’s time for a break. I mean socialization. All kids need to socialize with other kids.
We get to pass the baton here. But we also get to see just what it’s like when they start seeing what their peers think of them, and more importantly, us.
The middle years usually start with a crying, don’t leave me here type of thing, until they realize that this isn’t really school. It’s basically time to hang out with friends all day and stick their hands together with glue. Even as they age in these years, it’s not that hard to maintain our cool status as a parent.
They still want us to come to class to “assist,” especially because Nell’s mom comes every week and always brings homemade gluten-free, organic, nut-free cacao chip energy bars. Hate her.
We are still fairly cool in their eyes. But it’s waning. We are strong, but every once in a while as this being inches toward ten, we get a glimpse of what’s to come. Maybe it’s at a birthday party where for the first time they tell us, “You know, you really don’t have to stay. Only the pyscho parents stay at this age.”
And so it begins. Our road to embarrassing our children by doing nothing else, but being who we are — their parents.
“Parents were invented to make children happy by giving them something to ignore.” — Ogden Nash
Being a Parent (The Tween to Teen Years)
Kid: You can stop here.
Parent: But we are a block from school.
Kid: I know. I like walking a little bit. Morning exercise.
Parent: But I have to turn around in the circle there anyway.
Kid: That’s ok. You can do that. Just don’t wave at me. Let’s just say our goodbyes here. But like, just with words.
And it’s here. Our children are embarrassed of us. Not because they saw the video of us dancing at the company Christmas party. Someone please help us if they ever find that one. But because we are their parents. And that’s just not cool.
I’ve been the cool dad so don’t start shunning this part like this will never happen to you. Because it will. Just when you think your kid thinks you are cool, you will try too hard. Like when you ask a car full of tween girls about Shawn Mendes. Parent, just stop. Not in front of friends.
We can do nothing right. Even if we are actually cool, we still need to “stay in our room” when they have friends over. After we buy the pizza. And pay for it. And make sure there are enough drinks. And fix the WiFi because all seven friends need to be on the network right now.
It’s just how it goes. Our children still love us. Although it’s harder for them to admit. But they do. And when they need money they will actually tell us so. Or when they want to stay at Jenny’s house. Her parents are gone, but Jenny’s older sister is home so it’s fine. She’s home from college.
Remembering Our Childhood
The one thing I always do when I feel parentally shunned or progressively uncool is I think back. I think back to my childhood. I loved my parents. They were both not only the nicest people in the world, but they were both cool. No, really cool. All my friends loved both my mom and my dad.
Side note: Often times our children’s friends know how cool we are. And that makes our kids despise us even more. Temporarily.
When I look back and really think about it. I was embarrassed too. And my parents weren’t even the type to do things to embarrass me on purpose. They would just drop me off. Barely ask any questions. And I was still like, I would rather go with Danny’s mom. She can take us.
P.S. — Danny’s mom was a total a**hole. But that was his bag. At least I didn’t have to be in a car with my friends and one of my parents.
I was lucky and I still didn’t want my dad to take us to the movies. I wanted to go with my friends. So every time my kids want to get dropped off at a friend’s house and restrict me from leaving the car, I get it. I don’t feel any cooler, but I get it.
We can’t expect our kids to be more accepting of us as parents just because we are so much better parents than our parents. It’s just not in the genetic transference. There will be times when they realize that we are actually pretty decent. And many others where we are discarded just because of our stupid face. The face of a parent.
How to Get Through It
Remember that they don’t actually hate us. I mean some days they do, but not really. It’s just a manifestation of teenage horror and the sole fact that we can restrict them from doing things.
And if we think we are cool, maybe we are. Maybe all the other moms and dads look at us and think, “Wow. They are the cool one. Their kids must want to hang out with them all the time.” And then our kid gets in the car, stares at their phone and reminds us of the “agreement” we made that they could go on an all-girls trip to Cancun at 16. Apparently we are just “misremembering.”
Sometimes you just have to be the bad one. The terrible parent that tries, with every ounce of might in their body, to save our child from any upcoming adversity or upset. To protect them from this f*cked up world that makes even school unsafe.
We get through it by doing our job as parents. And loving them. And knowing what’s truly better for them. But encouraging them. And supporting them. And letting them mess up. And recover. And mess up again.
Because that’s what we did. And our parents still loved us. And we still loved them (most of the time). Except the time that they wouldn’t let us go to a Beastie Boys concert because it was “dangerous” with all the beer cans being thrown into the audience. Still bitter about that.