Mother of THREE teens Shona shares her rules on how to be an embarrassing parent
I’m not sure exactly when or why it happens, mamas, but I’ve recently discovered what it means to be an embarrassing parent. To be honest, I never believed I’d ever turn into one; in fact having had one myself I swore I’d never do it to my children! But it’s such fun I now understand exactly what my parents were up to (well, my mum really — my dad was never the liability she was). And once you’ve got the taste of it, mamas, it’s hard to be anything else!
I expect the phenomenon is something to do with parenting teenagers. Whilst techniques can be tried and tested when children are younger, generally littlies are far more forgiving than their teenage counterparts. An under 10’s street cred in front of their peers is far less problematic than it is for those in the 12+ bracket.
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Although I promised my boys I wouldn’t make reference to them by name or age in this article, as that in itself would clearly be embarrassing, it is important to mention that I have three teenagers – two are fully fledged and the youngest, although officially 6 months away from the big milestone, acts like he’s been one for years – so I write with an element of personal experience. I have also been heartened by other mamas who have gleefully confessed how much they enjoy being an embarrassing parent, too. It’s always a relief to know you’re not the only nutty one out there!
If you’re yet to enjoy the pleasures of embarrassing parenting, below are a few top tips and suggestions to get you started. And if you have ‘been there, done that’ please do share any other ideas you may have and send us examples! (Please note, photographic evidence to support any claims may be requested but content will only be published if it’s deemed to be embarrassing enough.)
If you are new to embarrassing parenting, dancing publicly is definitely one to try. Be it at a friend’s party, an impromptu flourish in a shopping mall to a tune you recognise, or simply wherever music’s playing – this is always going to be tricky for kids to handle.
To be truly embarrassing, however, throw in some of the latest ‘hip’ moves such as flossing or dabbing. If you can’t do it, it doesn’t matter, just give it a shot as that will look suitably silly. If you can do it, the implication will be you’ve been practicing at home, which can add even more complexity to the awkwardness of it all.
Adding some 80’s classic Dirty Dancing moves are a real winner too, or anything remotely sassy and sexy. Choosing the right partner to do this with, however, is key. You don’t want to give anyone the wrong idea and it’s hard to get out of an awkward moment saying all you were trying to do was embarrass your kids!
Using words such as ‘cool’ or ‘hip’, lingo which may have been perfectly acceptable back in our day, is now firmly out. Saying that, if you try to use words that are currently ‘in’ – such as savage, lit or peak for example – you’ll be embarrassing, too. This can be because you are using it incorrectly or with the wrong emphasis on the word. Or it can be simply because you’ve spoken. It’s near impossible to ever be sure at times.
Speaking in a funny voice or with an accent can be very embarrassing too, and can take using the wrong word factor to a whole new level. And using your hands too much when speaking, i.e. making things “cool, dude” (using hands) or making an L shape for “loser” with your thumb and first finger, can take embarrassing parenting to giddy heights.
It is also important to know that almost anything you say can be deemed as embarrassing, without even trying! And if you talk to your teenager’s friends in public and try to be ‘with it’ in any shape or form, or simply just friendly and chatty while other people are around to witness it, be assured you’ll have totally nailed it.
Dressing the Part
There’s always a risk that this can backfire (accusations of ‘mutton dressed as lamb’ are the ones to watch out for), but choosing the most embarrassing clothes to wear can be priceless. I’m not just thinking outrageously over the top fashion as championed by Jennifer Saunders and Absolutely Fabulous (which can, and often does, work a treat if you’ve got the style to pull it off), I’m thinking printed t-shirts with slogans such as “I love you, son” or “Missing you already” for moments such as school drop-off. Badges with similar slogans would also be worth trying.
Parenting teenagers is a roller coaster experience that no one can quite prepare you for. It’s similar to childbirth really: there’s no way to explain the highs and lows and, even if you did, no one would believe you! But one thing’s for sure, mamas, wherever you are in your parenting journey being an embarrassing one every now and again can offer a perfect tonic to it all – long before giving way to the gin!
Whilst embarrassing parenting is a skill that is continually evolving and changing, there is a serious side to it all. Teaching our offspring the importance of laughing at oneself is a life skill that should not be scoffed at! And handled sensitively, the resulting giggles can be infectious, hopefully uniting all the generations, one way or another!