At the school gates the other day my inquisitive four-year-old was sizing up the other mothers, when all of a sudden he asked loudly; "Mummy, do those ladies all have jelly bellies because they've had babies?"
So urgent was my instinct to silence my son that I nearly knocked him off the wall he happened to be sitting on. Not only was I red-faced, but I looked like a violent parent, to boot. And of course the more earnestly I pleaded with him to STOP SPEAKING IMMEDIATELY the more persistent his questions became until I threatened to cancel sweetie day if he uttered another word.
Funny things kids say? More like cringe-inducing observations which make you wish kids came with a mute button.
To be fair, it was sort of my fault. My kids think my very own post-baby jelly belly is just about the funniest thing they've ever seen, which may have been the motivating factor in my recent bid to shift some excess pounds, during which I may have inadvertently mentioned that jelly bellies are the result of having babies.
It never occurred to me that my comments might mean my son would see fit to start commenting on the waistlines of other mothers at the school gate. But it's some comfort to know I'm not alone in my open-up-the-ground-now experience.
A friend who lives in France was recently watching her daughter playing happily with a water pistol in their swimming pool. The idyll was quickly broken when the little girl announced that she was, er, doing something that rhymes with 'missing'. "That's not a swear word I use," Catherine explains. "And my daughter isn't generally around English children so I've no idea where it came from."
Mum and blogger Emily has a four-year-old son and twin daughters, aged three. Her son recently overshared at the supermarket checkout, much to the mortification of his mother. "He suddenly announced to the cashier that his sisters had come out of my vagina," she recalls. "Then he said, with outstretched arms, 'It had to stretch this big,' before adding a reassuring 'But it's okay - it stretched back again.'"
It seems all parents have similarly excruciating experiences etched forever in their memories. "The daughter of a friend of mine once walked up to a very overweight man and asked him when the baby was due," says mum of one, Lisa. And just this week Lisa's own little boy confessed to his friend: "I want to come to your house because it's so much cleaner than mine."
In a similar vein, mum-to-be Anna says: "I know someone who once went to tea at a friend's house and announced on arrival 'Well my mother cleans our house.'" Meanwhile Rachel, mum of one, says she nearly died in the Post Office recently when her daughter piped up with 'Mummy, why is that man brown?'
So why do our kids embarrass us, and how should you play it when your kid leaves you crimson-faced with shame?
Hollie Smith, author of Cool, Calm Parent, says: "It's best not to overact in these circumstances by making a fuss, getting cross, or insisting on a big apology – that's likely to pile on the embarrassment and whoever's just been roundly insulted would probably rather let it slide. They might even be prepared to have a laugh about it, if you're lucky. Otherwise, you may want to offer a quiet 'sorry' yourself to the victim.
"A bit later, when you get the chance, you could have a quiet chat with your errant offspring about how and why whatever they said was not acceptable. If it was something that was downright hurtful, it'll be a good chance to chat about why we don't go around saying hurtful things to people – in fact, a good opportunity to pass on some of those missing social skills. The old expression, 'how would you like it..?' can be a useful starting point."
So best not to nearly knock your child out or issue vicious threats, then. I'll remember that for next time, and I'll take comfort from the knowledge that the opportunity for payback will no doubt come when my kids are a little older, and my every word or deed will induce fits of mortal embarrassment in them.