On the edge of being an embarrassment...
Ellen Widdup’s escape to the country
AT WHAT age do your children start to find you an embarrassment?
Don’t pretend it hasn’t or won’t happen to you.
It is a universal truth accepted by most parents – that somewhere down the line you go from being the cool, fun and hip mum or dad and become one of the most ridiculous and annoying people on the planet.
As far as I can fathom there is very little you can do about it. In fact, according to those who have been there and done that, trying to be “down with the kids” will make the situation worse.
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At age five and two I think my children are a fair way off finding me totally cringe-worthy but there are teeny moments where I get a glimpse of what is to come.
“Mummy, please don’t kiss me in the playground,” came the plea from my daughter on the first day back to school this week. Ouch.
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“Mummy, you dance silly,” said my son during our daily dishwasher-emptying boogie. Crushed.
“Mummy, don’t go and put the rubbish out, wearing your pyjamas. People might see you,” came the refrain from both one morning. Epic fail.
I can remember being mortified by things my own parents did when I was young. But I have to admit that now I am older I actually struggle to pin-point what those things were.
This will not be a problem for the teenage children of Alison Brunton, however.
They will be able to recall the exact moment their mother made them wish the earth would swallow them whole.
If, like me, you are a fan of The X Factor, you might know what I am talking about.
But for those of you who did not witness last week’s episode, I will try to fill in the gaps.
Alison, 51, who compared herself to Madonna and opted to perform Lady Gaga’s Edge of Glory, decided to drag her 16-year-old daughter and 14-year-old son along to watch her audition.
She took to the stage, big blonde hair, tight purple leggings, swinging her hips and screeching the lyrics, and the audience cowered with horror.
But their reaction was nothing compared to that of the teenagers she had brought along to watch. The pain etched on their faces was excruciating.
The boy looked like he was about to be sick while his sister squirmed beneath her thick fringe, terror in her eyes as she looked desperately around her for an escape route.
Their humiliation was tangible but Alison was oblivious.
And despite receiving heavy criticism from the judges, she marched off with her devastated kids trailing behind, claiming her voice just wasn’t up to scratch that day because of her hayfever.
I shudder to think how those youngsters are coping with the playground jeers during their
first week back at school.
But if it makes them feel any better, their mother does not yet hold the crown for “world’s most embarrassing parent”.
According to American news sites earlier this month, this dubious accolade goes to Dale Price.
Dale, father to 16-year-old Rain, has dressed up in elaborate costumes every day for a year in order to wave his son off on the bus to go to school.
His selection of fancy-dress wear includes Wonder Woman, a unicorn princess, Gene Simmons from KISS, the video game character Mario and a Mexican wrestler.
I wonder if Dale started the ruse with the intention of embarrassing his son or if, like Alison, he is just another misguided parent who thought his antics would instill some kind of pride.
Either way, I’m going to set myself some strict ground rules to spare my children’s blushes when they reach their teenage years.
First, I will never use slang. A parent who describes things as “wicked”, uses the refrains “chillax” or “yolo” (you only live once, for those of you unacquainted with this little gem) or ends their sentences with “innit” is bound to provoke sighing and rolling of the eyes.
Second, I will not be a mother who dresses like their daughter. Luckily for me, my days of boob tubes and hotpants are long behind me, so this shouldn’t be an issue.
Also included in my rules – never bump fists, play the car stereo too loudly or chew gum. When introduced to boyfriends and girlfriends, refrain from getting out the baby pictures. Avoid holding hands in public. Don’t try and copy the dance steps you see on MTV or learn the lyrics to the top ten.
I really must pass this list on to my husband.
Yesterday I came into the kitchen to find my two children open-mouthed, watching him tap out a rhythm on the worktop with a wooden spoon while singing top-volume to some rap music he had downloaded.
Both kids started giggling and my husband, taking it as a sign they were enjoying his performance, stepped it up a gear, flinging a tea-towel in the air and dancing across the room.
“I’ve still got it,” he said, as he shimmied past me with a child under each arm.
Obviously I have been worrying myself unnecessarily about when and if I will become an embarrassment to my children. If you ask me, the parent who needs to be most concerned is Daddy Cool.
Email me at EllenWiddup@journalist.com or find me on Twitter @EllenWiddup