PARENTS

I'm An Embarrassing Parent - And Proud Of It!

01/12/2011 11:21 | Updated 22 May 2015
Embarrassed childRex Features

I was in my element. I'd just scored my third strike in a row at the bowling alley and was so chuffed I started dancing a jig. I sidled over to my rivals and jabbed my finger towards them.

"Who are ya? Who are ya? IN. YOUR. FACE. Loo-zer-ers!" I chanted.

Only to be greeted by the open-jawed horror of a half a dozen tweenage girls – my stepdaughter Daisy and her friends.

And then, to ice the cake of embarrassment, I put my arm around her and belted out a heartfelt 'Happy Birthday' in my finest operatic baritone. I got a round of applause from our neighbours in the next lane but Daisy's toes curled so much I swear they touched her shins.

She shot me a look that mixed a cocktail of mortification, despair and pity. And then fled, hands on hips, yelling: "You are sooooo embarrassing."

Of course, I knew it. I am an Embarrassing Dad – and I'm proud of it.

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It is part of the role of a father. Let's call it a rite of passage. Character-building. Your children will never graduate to adulthood without first undergoing the ritual of public humiliation at the hands of a parent. We don't do it deliberately (well, not ALL of the time). We do it because we want to stay connected to our growing offspring before they leave the nest.

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The things that used to bind us – the cuddle at the school gate; an 'I love you' call from the car as we pass them with their friends; a twist-and-jive at a wedding reception – are now things that create a chasm as wide as the Grand Canyon. And oh, what fun it is to exploit them to their maximum cringe factor!

I have never worried about embarrassing my children – stepdaughter, Daisy, and my sons, Tom, seven, and Sam, four - in public. When we're in the car, I play air guitar on the steering wheel to bands like AC/DC and Iron Maiden. This is especially effective when one of them has a friend along for the ride.

Admittedly, though, I have occasionally overstepped the mark.

At my kids' school summer fair, I donned a giant padded sumo wrestler costume and then launched into an attack on an 11 year-old boy with the words: LET'S GET READ-DYYY TO RUM-BBBBLLLLLLE.

Moments later, I was flattened by the pre-teen and left there floundering like a fish on a slab, My stepdaughter turned on her heel in disgust muttering: "Weirdo."

I have sat next to my middle son, Tom, and his playdate pals during the final scenes of Toy Story 3, sobbing so hard that the mother next to me offered me a tissue. My son found this hilarious until his friends starting mocking him for having a cry-baby dad!

But, surely even I don't compare to my friend John? This 44 year-old former amateur league footballer was so frustrated at his 12 year-old son's inability to get the ball in a Sunday morning football match that he ran onto the pitch, tackled a defender and scored a goal - only to be shown a red card by the referee.

Or Ben, 47, a retail manager: "I was showing my 14 year-old son the BMX tricks I'd perfected as a teenager when I flew up in the air, somersaulted and landed thwack on my back. He was mortified. I was in agony for a fortnight."

Or local government officer Duncan, 50: "My 10 year-old banned me from watching him play rugby after his headmaster lifted him off the field by his ear when he made a high tackle. I rushed over to hug and comfort him in front of his mates - he was horrified. But he went on to play like a demon - as if to prove he wasn't a daddy's boy!"

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I'm pleased to report, though, that it's not just men who are guilty of causing Teenage Death by Parental Faux Pas: mums are offenders, too. And though their humiliations tend to be less dramatic, they're no less embarrassing.

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My friend Jane, 38, who has daughters aged 16 and 13, posted on her blog the best ways to ritually humiliate your teens, lest they needed a reminder of who's The Boss.

These include:

• Kiss them in front of their friends;

• Leave 'funny' comments on their Facebook page;

• Post photos on Facebook of your teenager looking happy with their family;

• Ask them in front of other people if they have a boyfriend/girlfriend yet;

• Use words like cool, groovy and wicked;

• Try talking street, or even better, gangsta;

• Litter your conversations with them and their friends with LOL, ROFL and OMG

• When driving, beep your horn and wave at teenager's friends;

• Learn the words to your teenager's favourite song and sing along while driving the car with your teenager and their friends in the back.

So why do we do it? Well, it's not always apparent that we ARE doing it.

"Children are just too sensitive," says Jane. "Much of the time, my mere existence is enough to embarrass my daughters. It's often hard to read what will embarrass them and, without intending to, I will say or do something that will have them cringeing."

Though she confesses: "I do occasionally take perverse pleasure in embarrassing them, especially if they have been cheeky, in which case I ramp up the embarrassment quota."

My own theory is that what has been inflicted on the son i.e. me, must be inflicted on the son's son. It's a generational thing, a badge of ancestral honour.

We've all at one time or other been subjected to trial by Embarrassing Dad in front of our friends, or worse, girlfriends. My dad took great delight in showing poor girls photos of me sitting on a potty – as a toddler, I hasten to add.

And then, of course, there's the neuro-science explanation: somewhere, in a tiny part of our brains, lies a microscopic cluster of cells called 'Deluded' which cause us dads to believe we're cool.

This summer, my friend Mark went to the Latitude festival with his two teenage sons. On stage, a band called The Vaccines were playing (no, he hadn't heard of them either). At first, he stood with his sons, listening to the music. But as it progressed, he began to nod his balding head to the rhythm, which progressed to him tapping his feet – and then doing that thing that is the hallmark of the Embarrassing Parent. He started dancing. DANCING!

When the song had finished, and the crowd cheered, Mark looked to his left and right to receive recognition of his cool credentials from his 14 and 15-year-old boys. Except they'd disappeared. When he caught up with them they simply said: "Dad, can you just not dance again? Ever? Please?"

On further reflection, they said: "Better still, just stay in the tent until it's time to go home."

We know they're only joking, don't we, dads? We know we're cool. But we also know that however embarrassing we may be, some other kids have it a lot, lot worse.

Yes, dear children, at least your dad's not my friend Peter. He's a nudist.

But can anyone beat this dad who wore a different costume every day to wave his angst-ridden teen son off to school:

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