Part of parenting—the most important part—is understanding your children’s tendencies well enough to avoid, as best you can because it will happen, embarrassment.
I’ll give you a good example of a time when my wife and I actually succeeded in this. It was the only time.
More than a year ago, before our youngest came along, we were shopping at Trader Joe’s with our daughter. Having completed the process of my wife asking, “Should we get this?” and me saying, “No,” only to have her place it in the cart anyway, we made our way to checkout.
As we approached our desired checkout line, we saw at the adjacent line a woman with—I’m not exactly sure how to put this delicately, so please bear with me—an extremely large … backside. I don’t want to harp on the enormity of the backside and I am by no means judging, but I must stress that it was impossible to miss.
Through some sort of parenting ESP, my wife and I, at the exact same time, gently steered both the cart and our daughter back down the aisle. Nope. Uh-uh. Not gonna happen. Not today. Gonna wait this one out.
Our suspicions were confirmed as we looked down at our daughter, who looked back up at us wide-eyed and awestruck and said, “Mommy, Daddy, did you se—” before my wife cut her off with a stern glance and a forceful whisper of “Shush!”
Kids are going to be kids, yes, but we’re also well aware of our oldest daughter’s tendency to revel in being inappropriate. Her mischievous side consistently overwhelms everything we’ve taught her, and results in situations like her asking an adult I’ve just introduced her to if he “goes to the bathroom a lot.”
Our youngest is much more innocent; however, we’ve discovered that it’s infinitely more difficult to prevent such naïveté from reaching Code Red levels of embarrassment. And that is exactly what happened recently.
Our very good friends hosted a fifth birthday party for their son, and their family was in town from Minnesota for the occasion. This included our friend’s dad, whom we had met before and who is super nice despite being an intimidating presence.
A man’s man, barrel-chested and sporting a mustache, he’s not necessarily someone you’d voluntarily approach, unless you boast similar manly qualities. I do not, but I made my way over to him nonetheless, not needing an ice-breaker since we knew each other already. He was wearing a hat pulled low and a cut-off shirt, exposing his massive arms. I was wearing bright green shorts, a Marc Anthony shirt from Kohl's and Old Navy sunglasses. We were both drinking Coors Light, however, so it was cool. You could barely tell us apart! At one point during our conversation, I think I promised him I would ride on the back of his Harley with him if he ever rode it from Minnesota to the Valley. I was drinking Coors Light. Did I mention that?
Shortly thereafter, it was time to go. We had our girls say goodbye to everyone, and our youngest made her way over to our friend’s dad. I did not witness what happened next, but the news spread like wildfire throughout the birthday party crowd.
Our daughter, after hugging our friend’s dad goodbye, looked down at his stomach—which had earned its moderate curvature through hard work and yeah, some Coors Light—touched it and said, “You got a baby in there?”
You got a baby in there?
Previously that evening, I was approached by a fellow dad who informed me that our youngest had just asked him where all of his hair went. Both he and our friend’s dad seemed to get a kick out of their respective experiences, but I can’t say the same for us.
And so much for my first ride on a Harley. I mean, what would I hold onto that wouldn’t open old wounds?
Note: This column appears in the 5/15 issue of The Glendale Star and the 5/16 issue of the Peoria Times.