The Art of Embarrassing Your Kids

 

Let’s face it boys and girls, the whole parent/child positive outcome ratio is horribly skewed in favour of the young’s. They get free food and board for at least the first fifteen years of their lives (longer if they happen to be my kids), their transport to their chosen leisure activities are taken care of, education is all sorted for them and sometimes they even get pocket money for doing diddly squat.

And what do us parents get in return? Nothing, bugger all, sweet FA, nudda, not the rough end of a pineapple. No, all we get is the pride and satisfaction of seeing your DNA carriers growing into happy, healthy and well-adjusted human beings and knowing that you’re partially responsible for that. It’s disgusting I tell ya.

And that is why we need to find other ways of exacting some kind of positive outcome from parenting, and the thing I found to provide the best parental benefit is embarrassment. Somewhere in that great universe, whether it’s through God, Allah, Karma or just plain fortuitous providence, parents the world over have been blessed with the ability to embarrass the bejesus out of their kids with little to no effort.

In the vicinity of when they hit double figures, age-wise, the cunning little savages learn the terrible truth – as parents we actually have no authority. Up until that point it’s all been bluff, as they believe we hold all the power in the world. But when they discover that we don’t, then all we have is the threat of embarrassment, therefore it must be used wisely in order to replace all the threats we used to make. This may sometimes involve making a spectacle of yourself in public, but that slight humiliation pales into insignificance when held against the embarrassment of an errant teen.

Of course the best method of delivering this armament is what I like to call the ‘daggy’ parent method. Nothing embarrasses a teenager more than a parent who tries to use whatever ‘cool’ lingo the kids are using that day. But it’s not that simple, my friends. A true devotee of the ‘daggy’ parent approach knows that if you actually use the current ‘cool’ lingo, you’re in danger of losing all dagginess and inadvertently becoming a cool parent. No, no, no, far better to use the words that were cool six months ago.

I myself like to greet my kids’ friends with a casual ‘Yo homie, waddup dawg’ as they walk through the door, complete with those weird hand gestures you see them do from time to time. If you want to double down you may like to throw in a ‘what’s the four one one’. The friends may look at you funny, they may even join in fun, but you know that deep down inside your son/and or daughter has just died a little on the inside because you’ve just shown them that you’re not afraid to bring out the ‘daggy’ when the situation demands it.

What works even better than former cool lingo, is inventing your own. Oh the pleasure it has bought me over recent years to see Kertrude cringe every time I use the word ‘verg’(pronounced ‘verge’). This is a word I have used as a shortened version of ‘very good’, which is shortened to ‘very g’ and then to ‘verg’.

Imagine if you will, a giggling gaggle of mid-teen females listening to the latest tune from the latest pop-music idol. An excited Kertrude turns to me and says “wasn’t that great Dad” and with all the gangsta cool I can muster, I reply “veeerg”, and put my hat on backwards. Ah the sweet sound of girlish laughter of her friends, mixed with the cracking sound of a young girl’s future popularity shattering to the ground. ‘tis a beautiful thing.

Sometimes the daggy parent approach isn’t the most appropriate option though. Sometimes you need to ‘randomise’, as in do something totally silly, out of the blue and for no other reason than to cause embarrassment. Why, only a few months ago I was accompanied to the shops by Brenda and it was all going swimmingly until we arrived at the crowded checkout. Now you might think this is the best opportunity to have in-depth discussions with your child, ya know, to find out the goings on in their lives. Or something like that anyway. But it was at this moment I discovered a Cosmopolitan magazine on the racks. An opportunity for ‘randomisation’ if I ever saw one.

Casually walking over I picked up the magazine and proceeded to flick through its pages of intellectual and informative articles, quite undetected for a good minute or so. But then Brenda saw me, saw what I was reading and responded appropriately with “Daaaaaaad!” Now the game was on.

How to horrify your daughter in public.

Rather than replace the magazine I decided to show that I would not hesitate to provide public embarrassment on a grand scale if required. I casually turned the page and, loud enough for the nearby shoppers to hear I asked casually “have you exfoliated your dry and damaged skin today Brenda” while turning the magazine to reveal the two page spread on the subject of exfoliation. Gold.

But by far, the best opportunity for supreme embaressementisation (if that’s not a word, then it is now) is that golden moment when the first girlfriend/boyfriend is bought home. I waited for this moment for sixteen long years, planning, plotting and occasionally giggling quietly to myself in anticipation of how good it was going to be when the moment finally arrived. When the moment did arrive it was most certainly worth it.

Mortimer was the first victim and the silly bugger actually told me that he was bringing a  young lady home that very afternoon. The fool. The prior warning gave me time to duck inside in preparation and walk outside again wearing a pair of thongs, complete with knee length socks, a pair of shorts pulled up so high my voice rose an octave, and a t-short tucked in. All topped off with a nice terry towelling hat. The moment the young couple appeared in the driveway Mortimer knew the full horror of his mistake.

“Oh Mortimer,” I says, “She gorgeous mate, you’ve done so well for yourself. How are you darlin’? Welcome to the family.”

Now while she walked past with tears of merriment coursing down her cheeks, Mortimer followed along behind bright red and mentioning something about how much he hated me.

But my piece of resistance (is that the term?) was Kertrude’s first boyfriend. Now, the silly buggers walked right past where I worked, right on knock-off time so I knew the game was on. I quickly jumped in Rusty and caught up with them on the back streets. Now a caring father would offer a lift to the young luvers, but I’m not a caring father am I? I slowly trolled alongside, staring intently at their backs while the young buck kept his head and eyes fixed firmly on the ground in front of him.

After a few minutes of this slow torture I took off to prepare the ground for the second part of my grand plan. Out on the front verandah were a couple of old couches which I was supposed to be taking to the tip, but through general procrastination and laziness they were still there on the day in question. I duly occupied one of these and as Kertrude + one came up the driveway I was serenely engrossed in the task of sharpening a machete. As I saw his bulging eyes I knew the moment was right and slammed the machete into the arm of the couch where it stuck, gently swaying in gentle illustration of what could happen to the young gent if he wasn’t careful.

Well it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the young man in question didn’t make a second appearance, and that combined with the look of horror on Kertrude’s face, just about made my decade.

So there you have it. A few pointers and suggestions of how any of you who are currently negotiating parenthood can use your natural embarrassment abilities to keep your youngn’s in line. You’re welcome.

Can I get a ‘veeerge’ my Peeps?

Fear and Terror on the Roads

 

It’s been a while since I’ve risked the wrath of the parenting authorities so, as it appears their investigations have come to naught, it’s about time for another parental post. For any parents with kids entering the mid-late teenage years this is one which will let you know that you’re not alone in the bowel-liquefying endeavour of teaching your teens to drive.

It is a roller coaster of emotion, this whole licence thing, and like all roller coasters it starts on a high. The moment when your young’n turns away from the counter down at the old transport office with a big smile on their dial as they’ve just been handed their learners permit. As a parent your heart swells at the sight of the pure joy that is currently surging through your child. It is truly a wonderful moment.

But like all roller coasters it’s mostly downhill from here, and the first drop is a doozy. From that dizzying high, the fear kicks in as you look across from the passenger seat, yes the passenger seat of your own car, your pride and joy and you see an excited, yet horribly inexperienced driver sitting behind the steering wheel. That life form who you had to teach to use a spoon and a dunny is now in control (hopefully) of a one tonne flying piece of metal and rubber.

On my first time through this process I wasn’t fully aware of the terror awaiting me and so when I picked Mortimer up from his mother’s and casually tossed him the keys to the Hilux, I knew not what I had done. I don’t remember much of the first trip, as my eyes were tightly closed for most of it, preferring the moment of my imminent death to come as a complete surprise rather than watching it approach head-on.

Much to my surprise we actually survived that drive with nothing more than a soiled pair of Reg Grundies. But I wasn’t going to make that same mistake with Brenda and Kertrude, no way Jose (or Hose B, boom tish). No I decided then and there that it was to be a slightly more sedate entry to the world of steering for them. But where, and how?

See I grew up in a small country town and for most teenagers beyond the reach of suburbia, there are a plethora of near deserted back roads to grind their gears on, as most of my contemporaries did. I, on the other hand, got my learnin’ at the Army Truckies School on a purpose built training road, before being unleased on the general populace of Melbourne.

A quick divergence right about here, if you please. Can I just say, in relation to the drivers of Melbourne……. What the hell? So there I was, a young and enthusiastic 18 year old, steering a six tonne Unimog down some multi-lane highway, with a huge yellow sign with black writing stating “Driver under instruction”. So what do the Melbourne drivers do?? They jump in front, cut you off and hit the brakes seemingly oblivious to the fact that the good old ‘mog could quite easily climb right over the top of them in their little rice-burners, crush them flat and continue forth with barely a bump. Anyway, I managed to avoid them so, points to me.

So, sorry about that. Now back to the story at hand. So in the big smoke, with no deserted back roads or purpose built learning areas, where does one take their nervous off-spring so they don’t pose a risk to the general public? There’s only one place really. The Bunnings car park. Yes, I must’ve spent the better part of nine or ten hours going around and around and around and around the Bunnings car park. For at least the first two hours each of Brenda and Kertrude’s instruction, this circuit was done in first gear, with a terrified girl-teen screaming about how they’re going too fast……

Anyway, eventually all three of them gained enough confidence to get on the road and drive alongside the general populace. This is known as the ‘safe period’. Why? Well they’re still inexperienced enough to be uncomfortable and focussing on the road with all the intensity of a roo caught in the headlights. It’s a wonderful time, they leave about ten car lengths between them and the car in front, if the lights turn yellow they stop and they predominantly stay in the slow lane at about ten k’s below the speed limit. This ‘safe period’ is only there to lull the unsuspecting parent into a false sense of safety, before unleashing the most horrific period of instruction – the ‘overly confident, yet still inexperienced’ phase.

This is when they’ve managed to clock up fifty to sixty hours of relatively incident free motoring and for some reason they form the opinion that they are now good, competent and experienced drives. But they are wrong Dear Gentle reader, oh so wrong.

This is the time they start to drive so far up the clacker of the car in front that it’s actually possible to see the terror-stricken, bulging eyes in the rear vision mirror of the unfortunate driver in front. They start to get conversational while driving, complete with hand gestures and taking their eyes off what’s happening in front as brake lights come on up ahead and there are no signs that Junior has even seen them and considered applying their own brakes, and you end up putting your foot through the passenger side floor in the forlorn hope that an imaginary brake pedal will be of any use, but it’s not, IT’S NOT!….Breathe.

And the worst part of the whole thing is that for each sawn-off savage, you have to endure this constant exposure to near certain death for one hundred hours. Multiply that by three and you get three hundred hours. That’s a combined total of twelve and a half days that I have danced with the Grim Reaper, fluctuating from moments of extreme boredom to extreme terror faster than you can say “watch out for that bus!”

I’m sure that with counselling and the appropriate medication, I’ll finally recover and put this horrific period of my life behind me. Maybe if I try to console myself with the realisation that, when it came time for them to be tested, they all passed first time and therefore it was worth the psychological damage. But only time will tell, my friends. Only time will tell.

May the Gods have mercy on us all.