It happens to every parent: those adorable little angels who all too often drove you crazy become moody pubescents striving to find their cool. Many parents live in dread of this day, when a hug is a major offense and parental singing should be banned on pain of death. However, parents, that’s taking the wrong attitude. Your child isn’t rebelling against you. Rather, they are presenting you the perfect opportunity for some good-natured payback for the sleepless nights, colic, temper tantrums and times they embarrassed you by picking their nose while in the church choir. Now, in their tender, raw, self-conscious years, you have a window of opportunity for some payback.
It’s time to embarrass your kids, and we have ten great ways to do it while still keeping your own parental “cool.”
1. Kiss your spouse in public.
Your kids have probably seen plenty of kissing by now, thanks to television and the Internet, but when Mom and Dad do it in public, it takes on a whole new level of “ewwww.” So go for it. Kiss. Long. On the lips – but keep it decent. You don’t need to embarrass yourself or the adults around you with your public displays of emotion. And, let’s face it: by the time you’re old enough to have teenage kids, you’re too old for strangers to be telling you to “get a room.” So express your love, but keep it PG. A little PDA goes a long way.
2. Treat bowling like college football.
The thing about popular team sports is that everyone expects you to get excited. You can holler and hoot and no one gives it a second thought. Take that same enthusiasm to a smaller, more casual setting like bowling? It’s the perfect place for manifesting mortification. So go ahead: Jump, cheer. Get excited. Strikes are awesome! There’s nothing like mom yelling, “My baby got a spare!” to make even the coolest teen want to dive into the gutter from embarrassment.
3. Tell old jokes.
Remember all the times you laughed when your kids told the same knock-knock jokes you were sick of by third grade? How about the forced giggles when they got the punch line wrong? Sure, they were cute, but an adult can only hear, “Orange you glad I didn’t say ‘banana’ again” so many times before he needs therapy, a stiff drink or a couple of hours of Live at the Improv. But now, the kids are older, and their sense of humor has (hopefully) grown more sophisticated. Now is the time to strike! Don’t sink to the level of knock-knock jokes involving fruits, but puns are almost always effective.
Extra points if your spouse riffs off you or either of you can imitate Looney Tunes characters.
4. Sing your songs.
Loud and proud are the watchwords. Don’t worry if you don’t know all the lyrics — making them up improves the eyeroll factor. Love songs are good for stirring a reaction — you can always claim to be singing about their Dad. Of course, nothing draws the shrieks of protest like singing their songs. Unless it’s dancing. By yourself. To their songs. (Dare we say “where their friends will see”? Yeah, we dare. Dance like no one is watching, even though you secretly hope they are.)
5. Ask nosy questions in front of their friends.
“When will you be home?” “Will there be drinking?” “Is your cell phone charged?” On a serious note, these are important things a parent should know, but despite the commercials, kids don’t appreciate being asked, especially in front of their friends. So go ahead and enjoy the fact that you are not only being a responsible parent, you are getting a little karmic payback from it. Just for fun, ask them if they’re wearing clean underwear, too. You know, in case they get into an accident.
6. Hug them in public.
If PDA to your spouse sets them off, imagine what giving your baby boy the big snuggie-wuggies will do. If you’re the religious type, you can get extra points by blessing them. Whatever you do, don’t feel bad about doing it. You never know — this could be your last hug. After all, it’s a dangerous world out there, even if it is “just” seventh grade.
7. Wear your daughter’s outfit.
I have a personal story for this one. My daughter, after dealing with the embarrassment of shopping with her mother at Hot Topic, was hit with a double whammy when we both loved the same pair of pants. She lucked out in that they didn’t have them in my size, but to this day, I imagine myself in those pants, picking her up from the bus.
So go ahead, live my dream and wear your daughter’s clothes… unless you’re the Dad. Then, that should only be reserved for princess tea parties when she’s young enough to adore you for it.
8. Officiate their dating game.
This is an old standby you may remember from your own traumatized teen years, when Mom checked out guys with you, or Dad tried to set you up with that girl running the counter. On the flip side is Protective Daddy. The best-known way is to invite the date in and “question” him on when he’ll be bringing your little girl home…as you clean the rifle or sharpen the hunting knife. No need to threaten, just point the clip (or the blade) in his direction and say, “You meant 11:30, right?” Don’t have weapons or threatening cutlery in the home? A good headshot next to a pole with height measurements will do the trick. “Was that ‘Cad’ with one D or two? For my records, you know.”
9. Facebook Friend faux pas.
Did you know that if you tag your daughter in that adorable poodle ballerina suit she wore at 3, it means her friends can see it, too? Now you do. You’re welcome. While you’re at it, go ahead and comment on her posts. Use emoji, hashtags and L33T if the muse strikes. And ask about homework! Extra points if you can work in the clean underwear question. There could be an accident on the Information Highway, you know. Oh, and friend their friends, especially of the opposite gender. Cyberstalking is, at its heart, good parenting.
Share the story of her birth in his presence. Let slip that he still wet the bed when he was seven. Reminisce about the time when he was two and ran buck naked out of the house and into the weeds until they were taller than he was and he let out the sweetest plaintive cry, “I want to go home now!” (Oops, sorry, Steven.) If you share the stories with his friends, then be tactical. Save the worst ones so that when she protests (and you know she will), you can say, “I could tell about the time when…”
Parents, you have earned the right to embarrass your kids. After all, you’ve put up with years of toddlers dropping their pants, or throwing themselves to the floor in the grocery store and screaming for a treat they’ll throw up later. And don’t be fooled: Even as teens, they will find ways to mortify you, publicly and privately. Get your fun in now. It will give you something to giggle about when at last they’ve flown the coop — and with a little luck, by then, they’ll laugh about it, too.
image illustration via shutterstock / Sergey Novikov