Families can be horribly embarrassing and it works all ways – children can make their parents blush fuchsia and parents can make their children’s toes curl with the things they say and do. Having canvassed my friends old and young here are the things the generations find so blush-making about each other…
Very small children tend to be embarrassing without knowing it. They’re curious about the world and that means they want to ask questions. The trouble comes when they do it loudly and in public.
The worst tend to be about sex. My favourite came from my daughter, Sophie, who when she was around four-years-old, asked where babies come from. We were at home alone at the time, so I took a deep breath and told her that mummies and daddies who love each other very much have a special cuddle and, if they’re very lucky, they have a baby.
This seemed to satisfy her curiosity and she moved on to pulling the cat’s tail. Later that day, at the queue in the supermarket, however, she loudly asked if I was going to have another baby. “Perhaps one day,” I said, loading bags into the trolley. Sensing she didn’t have my full attention she then shouted: “It’s just when you have a special cuddle with daddy I want to watch, so I’ll know how to do it when I want a baby.”
I still flush when I think of it.
The other things small children do well is ask personal questions about people in a very loud voice. “Why is that woman so fat?” is a popular one. “Why does that woman have a beard?” is another I’ve had to deal with. Also, “Why is that lady so naughty?” (this came after a woman shouted at her child using very colourful language when we were in the doctor’s waiting room).
As they get older children become embarrassing in other ways. Table manners are a big one when they’re around seven or eight. Teenagers, though, are perhaps the worst. They seem to adopt some seriously odd habits. Boys take to wearing jeans that expose not only the waistband, but they’re entire boxer shorts and girls take to dressing like pole dancers. Plus, they completely eschew the Queen’s English and begin talking in a strange patois that only their peers can understand. It really is rather vexing.
Children of all ages think their parents are embarrassment-proofed and are fond of asking awkward questions in front of others, such as “why are you going to see the doctor?”
Still, at least parents get them back…
Rather like Victorian children, parents should be seen and not heard, according to any child over the age of about eight. Actually, scrap that – unless they are acting as taxi driver or serving food, parents shouldn’t even be seen. According to my young friends, the following are among the most shaming things they do:
Wearing awful clothes – what they mean by this is anyone’s guess. Sophie and her brothers were always hopelessly ashamed of Charlie’s running clothes, pronouncing them awful. They also couldn’t abide me wearing anything above the knee or with a neckline that exposed any flesh whatsoever. In fact, could they have dressed me in a nun’s habit I’m sure they would have done.
Speaking – any time a parent opens his or her mouth and there are other people around, then they are bound to embarrass their children. “Hi Tom, how are you?” addressed to a teenager’s best friend can have your child blushing to the roots of his hair.
Trying to be down with the kids – picking up teenage language or using text-speak when sending them a message is bound to drive them crazy.
Trying to kiss them when you drop them off in full view of their friends is another no-no.
Walking with them in the town centre is another issue for teenagers. My son once followed 10 paces behind me as we went to the cashpoint so I could get him some money!
Being too friendly with their mates is another thing that makes them cringe. It’s OK to ask what they’d like for supper, but anything else is pushing it in a teen’s eyes.
Singing in the car is also a way to torture your child, particularly if their friends are with you.
Bad jokes that take an age to get to the punchline are ultra embarrassing.
Calling a teenager by their nickname, or using endearments such as honey-bunny, are just plain cruel, as is telling them off in front of their friends.
So, there you have it. Until everyone in the family is an adult, there are bound to be lots of blushes. Having said that, I’m 52 and my mother can still embarrass me, so perhaps there is no cut-off point…