My mum had two stock phrases she would hiss at me when I was a child. One was 'don't put me on the spot!' - for example, when I would ask for someone to be allowed round for tea in front of them. The other was 'don't contradict me' – rolled out when I would 'correct' whatever version of events she was relaying to someone.
Lately, I have found myself using the latter almost as often as she did.
Take this recent incident. My son William had been really sick with scarlet fever. As in floppy, feverish, hallucinating sick. He'd been to A&E, was on antibiotics, and spent ages off school.
Given I am of the 'run off a broken leg' school of thought, I do not admit to illness lightly. I am generally an ill health denier, be that my own, or my child's. But he was SO unwell, I was telling people about it.
Bumping into our neighbour, I relayed how the fever had so knocked it out of him, he'd fallen asleep at the dinner table.
"No I didn't!" William piped up.
Neighbour raised an eyebrow.
"You did!" I insisted. "I even took a picture!"
I was aware my voice was getting very shrill and my cheeks were reddening even though I was telling the truth.
My neighbour smiled sympathetically – at which one of us, I'm not sure - and bade us goodbye as I plaintively called after her: "Wait! I'll show you the photos on my phone!"
But she had already retreated into her house, leaving me feeling a total lemon on the pavement.
I rounded on my son.
"DON'T EVER contradict me again!" I shrieked. "You made me look totally stupid!"
"I was going to say I was just PRETENDING to be asleep," William said, furiously back-tracking. "I know you THOUGHT I was ACTUALLY asleep."
I was so embarrassed I was tempted to make him go and knock on said neighbour's door and explain...
"My kids do it constantly," my friend Jackie told me, when I relayed the tale to her. "So much so that if I have friends coming round from work I brief the kids beforehand – no matter WHAT I say, back me up.
When she made mention to a visiting colleague of the 'day off with a tummy bug' she'd recently had, her youngest chipped in with, "Was that the same day you skived off work to go for that birthday lunch with Granny?"
Penny said her children are forever questioning her accuracy of recall in front of their grandparents – particularly my friend's very judgmental mother-in-law.
"There are certain things my in-laws don't need to know – like how much I drink after dinner, or what I do with the ornaments they give me for my birthday, but I definitely do not need the kids pulling me up on what I do choose to tell them."
Once as she muttered a supportive 'disgraceful' when her mother-in-law huffed and puffed that 'some women turn up at the school gate in their pyjamas', her five-year-old son nodded his head vigorously and piped up: "Just like you do Mummy, when you get up too late or feel poorly because of having gone out the night before!"
I am a total food fascist and very proud of the fact that my son really does spurn most unhealthy treats in favour of fruit and veg, and will ask for tap water over squash or other soft drinks.
It is wrong to be smug about these things, but I am. Hugely. So when visiting a pub for the first time with a new friend, I was keen to showcase William's exemplary healthy eating and his table manners.
As we walked there, I was waxing lyrical about how he refuses anything fizzy and any food that is 'crispy'. He would, I said airily, 'just want a glass of plain water from the bar'.
Son, prancing ahead of us, had not heard any of this, and as we bagged a table, my friend made his way to order our drinks. As he did so, my son called after him: "Could I have a large glass of lemonade and a packet of cheese and onion crisps, please?"
He then proceeded to relish both in the most unsavoury manner, blowing bubbles in the glass, and spraying a mouthful of half chewed crisps everywhere while asking for more of both.
I could have happily throttled him.
But the contradictory cup must go to mum-of-two Lucy. When her boys' school phoned her angrily asking why she was regularly sending her sons' in 'hungry' and with 'no money for school dinners', she was aghast – her children were sent to school with a nutritious homemade packed lunch every day.
As far as the school were concerned though, this was not the case. The children had categorically told them otherwise as they had joined the lunch queue every day, starving and with no cash. The school had of course then fed them, and they had run up a £15 bill.
It turned out they had been throwing their lunches away and eating in the school canteen for about a two weeks, telling staff their 'hungry' and 'penniless' tale of woe. And all on the basis they 'liked the school hot-dos more than their packed lunch.
Sound familiar? How have your kids contradicted you in front of other people?