I REMEMBER dreading my mum running into my friends and their parents and telling this or that story that would have me squirming like a worm on a hook.
One favourite anecdote was the time when Sonya, aged six, followed her army officer dad into the gents’ toilets at Puckapunyal and sent a whole platoon of blokes fleeing for their lives.
Then there were the stories about how, from age two to five, I waged a determined anti-underpants wearing campaign; how heartbroken over the death of a goldfish at age five, I exhumed it from its tiny grave and kept it in a matchbox under my bed; how I once buried an overdue library book in the back garden for fear if it were found I’d be arrested for not returning it on time; and the curious fact that I have never been able to pronounce the name of the national flower of Scotland.
Perhaps worst of all, was the story about how my babysitter fried up the dog’s meat from the fridge for my dinner. When my mum innocently related this rather grim tale to the mother of a school friend, the story spread like wildfire with the result that my whole class barked at me for days – my every utterance greeted with “woof, woof!”
To parents, these are war stories to swap around; grist in the mill of parenthood. However, we can easily forget how – under the gaze of peers – these can take on a humiliating bent for our children. And what I had also forgotten was that parents, even when they aren’t telling tales about their offspring’s exploits, are often just plain embarrassing to kids who want to assert their independent, “cool” identities.
I had hoped I would have a few more years grace as my oldest is only nine and my youngest six. But no, of late, my nine-year-old has been casting me those looks that say, “don’t you dare say or do that”. At a kids’ movie recently he gave me a few warning nudges before furiously whispering: “Mum, you’re not supposed to laugh at that. You’re embarrassing me. Don’t laugh so loud.”
Of course, I have my own compendium of child-rearing incidents that made me wish I could crawl under the floorboards. Perhaps the best one is the time my boy, aged three, hid a poo in a kitchen cupboard where it sat, maturing for a few days before it was discovered during a dinner with my in-laws.
I do sympathise with my kids’ occasional embarrassment and promise to try to keep myself in check. But it may be best if they don’t read this column!