Monday, 27 January 2014

Being an Embarrassment

My brother are I are hand-jiving to Bonnie Tyler in the front seats of the Skoda while we wait for a red light to change. We deem it a tribute when we see that two men in an adjacent white van are filming us on their mobiles. The 11-year-old ignores their beaming appreciation. 'Mum,' she shrieks sobbingly, 'You are EMBARRASSING!'

I have always known that there are two certainties about motherhood. One is the guilt that roots itself in the maternal heart from the moment you meet the gaze of your newborn; the other is the embarrassment that your existence causes them as soon as they start school.

I perpetually mortify my children with my wonky red beret, my fastidious consonants, my attachment to pen and ink and my tendency to extract the life stories of check-out staff.  My daughter dies a little inside each time I wear wellies to the school gate. My son ducks out of sight when I try a headstand in the vestry.

What I didn't expect - and what my offspring fail to realise - is how they, in turn, undermine my matronly dignity. When they shut a stranger's arm in a cafe's freezer chest I cower. When they barge old ladies out of the door of Cancer Research, ask what a virgin is during a gospel reading and scratch their undercarriage in the Communion queue, I feel myself diminished.

Sadly, recalling my hot flushes when my mother lodges complaints in restaurants, I realise that this is a torment that is not cured by age. Generations gaze at each other, cringing, across a chasm, and the more like our mothers we become the greater the discomfort they can cause us.

As a treat I agree to buy the 11-year-old a take-away pizza from down the road. I command her to remove the make-up she has layered on, mortified at the thought that people will judge me. She, meanwhile, frets over her own reputation. 'Have you ever been to Dominos Pizza before? ' she asks. 'Never,' I reply. She turns on me a scrubbed face full of reproach. 'Oh my gosh, Mum,' she cries, 'How EMBARRASSING!'

Do you embarrass your children? Or do they embarrass you?

18 comments:

  1. I must say that the image of you and your brother hand jiving to Bonnie Tyler in the front of the car has really cheered me up on a rather glum Monday morning. So thank you very much for that! As for embarrassing my offspring, he's 4 and having been born here in Spain speaks Spanish like a native, appropriately enough. Unfortunately I do not. It's not too bad yet but I am already braced for the harsh years that lie ahead of me of being shushed and corrected and generally forbidden from speaking in public. Meanwhile I will continue to be mortified by his (totally acceptable in Spain) lack of please and thank yous. Sigh.

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    1. I think Bro and I would actually have looked pretty hip if only he hadn't been wearing a tweed jacket at the time. I sympathise with the language barrier. My daughter is cultivating fluency in gangsta slang and I simply can't match her.

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  2. I am a continual embarrassment to my children. When friends of the teenage boy enter our home, the first thing he does is introduce me with, she swears a lot, says whatever is on her mind, etc. I love my teenage boy. Lol

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    1. Goodness, my daughter would be so proud of me if I swore a bit more. I've always pictured you as a most decorous soul!

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  3. Oh dear. It's so depressing. I haven't reached the stage of perpetual annoyance of my children, but it is just around the corner, and then all hope is lost. It's tough being a mum. Then again, it's tough being a daughter x

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    1. If you need tips on how to embarrass them good and proper - a sign of proper parenting - you know where to come.

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  4. But think how terribly BRITISH you're bringing them up to be! No other nation comes near, when it comes to the practice and perfection of embarrassment. You should feel proud of the depth of cultural heritage you are instilling in them.

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    1. That's a very encouraging view which I shall adopt forthwith.

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  5. You make a wondeul point that our children also 'undermine [our] matronly dignity'! I shall remember that the next time my daughter rolls her eyes at something I've said or done.

    I tend to be quite chatty with people at tills when I'm paying for things and I sense this is something that stretches my daughter's tolerance, but she has never felt the need to reprimand me. Instead she puts her hands in her pockets (to reduce her size, I suspect) and slowly moves away, trying to look casual in hopes that no one notices what her mother is doing, or at the least, no onw notices that she was ever part of it.

    I wonder if your hand jive is on YouTube now? :)

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    1. We are full of hope that we are on Youtube, but attempts to search 'middle-aged tweed Barbour Skoda hand jiving' have sadly yielded no results.

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  6. My five year ld begs me not to wear certain clothes to take her to kindergarten. She doesn't know the word emabarrassing yet or even that the feeling she has about this subject has a name and is a well known feeling. She just begs me not to wear that dress with the flowers because she doesn't like it. "I know," she suggests, "why don't you wear something else to take me to kindergarten and then put that dress on when you come back?" Crafty, and a bit sad.

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    1. Wise souls on Twitter assure me that being an embarrassment is a necessity when rearing children to be well-rounded citizens.

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  7. I'm happy you're back! My son has told me 'please don't emasculate me in public'. This is usually when I tell him in a low voice to say hello or thank you etc.

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    1. What a superb response. How old is this child?!

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    2. Not a child anymore, a teenager who apparently has lovelyl manners when I'm not around.

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  8. Loved this! It's something we can never get away from, feeling embarrassed by our parents. Little A, just turned four, has already started asking me to be quiet if I dare to start singing along with her. Love that you ask check outs about their back story, something I've always wondered about too. X

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  9. I take joy from embarrassing mine, particularly the teenager, but you are quite right in saying it is a two way street. The toddler in particular has a fine line in either embarrassing poo related statements at inappropriate moments, or else demanding I sing in public places-oddly one of the very things the teenager most hates!

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