Parenthood isn’t for everyone. For Al and me, it’s been a wonderful experience and we love our two daughters more than anything. There are many ups and downs in parenting, and not every day is peaches and cream. It’s best to concentrate on the positive and forget the negative. And one of the perks of parenthood – nay, one of the DUTIES of parenthood – is to drive your children nuts by embarrassing the crap out of them. This prepares them for adulthood by teaching them perspective and humility. It also forms fond memories for you, the parent, to dip into when they start dating members of the opposite (or same) gender, get a bauble implanted in their nose or other non-earlobe fleshy parts, or “forget” to tell you they are, in fact, giving a speech at their high school graduation when they told you they weren’t even GOING to it in the first place.
There are a few rules. Nothing cruel or dismissive, or damaging to fragile pre- or post-adolescent egos. Nothing that would cause their therapist to gasp in disbelief. Other than that, anything goes.
Here are the three basic food groups. If you’re a parent to a child over the age of 9, you’ll probably already know these, but it’s nice to learn new techniques.
Show up unexpectedly
Al and I would frequently arrive unannounced at the school playground where Younger
Daughter would be hanging with her pals, just to say “Hi Honey! Who are all your little friends? What’s your name, young man?” This had several advantages. First and foremost, it drove her crazy. Secondly, it made sure all the little sinvergüenza slackers in the nabes knew that the parents were circling like vultures. An added bonus is that it taught Younger Daughter sharp-eyed vigilance at all times. She very quickly developed a ninja-like ability to spot parents at 50 yards, and a track-and-field sprint that meant she intercepted us well in advance of her home base. It became almost impossible to get the drop on her. This will serve her well in preparing for a future career in law enforcement or as a corporate minion with an eye on the boss.
Act like they’re still 5
Be sure to call them things like “honey bear”, “pander-wander”, “silly boo-boo-kins” and whatever else you used to use while they were still cute. Toddler nicknames like “jo-jo”, “tay-tay” and “moo-gees” are great.
Next, give them stern commands in front of their friends, in order to enforce health and safety standards or societal norms. Example:
(In a museum) “That’s a Monet self-portrait, so don’t touch it!”
(son) “Mother. I’m a 45-year-old tax accountant. I’m not going to touch the Monet.”
Mom: “Well, I’m keeping my eye on you, Tay-Tay.”
Act like you’re still 18
Having a parent who is youthful and carefree at any age will help maximize the “I just want
to sink through the floor” moment for all children over the age of 3 and under the age of…80? Not sure when this one ends, as I haven’t seen it totally spun out on either end of the generational spectrum. You can take it very far, but don’t do any permanent damage (to yourself). There are two steps.
Step One: Get a tattoo. I don’t want one, but you might! Make sure it is visible and maybe just a few years out of date. Tramp stamp, anyone? American flag on your forearm? Celtic knot around the ankle? Go for it. I hear you can get some realistic temporary tattoos that last for weeks. An elaborate henna piece is also a reasonable substitute. Pierce something that probably shouldn’t have a hole in it. Again, make sure it’s visible with all clothes on.
Next up, it’s time to par-tay! Here’s some phrases for you to practice.
“Say! Is this where all the cool kids hang?”
“You guys like Grunge, right?”
“I’ll never forget the time I saw Billy Joel at the airport. He gave me his autograph!”
“I bet you didn’t know your old Dad/Mom was still in a band!”
Live in the past
This one just keeps getting easier. You can become your own private Amish outpost, as you steadfastly reject anything that was invented after you turned 40. Good, bad, useful, problematic – it doesn’t matter, as long as you didn’t see it before 2007 (or 1997, depending.) You won’t even need to practice these, as they’ll spring naturally to your lips without your conscious intervention.
“In MY day, we didn’t need no stinkin’ augmented reality /fitbits /cell phones /internet /personal computers /cd players /color television /radio /telegraphs /eeee-lectric sewin’ machines /Iron Horses /personal hygiene.”
“Are you a boy or a girl, dear?” (alternate: “Tay-tay, why is that young man wearing a dress?”)
“Call the bank! I mailed a check and have to cancel it!”
“Call the theater! Let’s get tickets for a Broadway show!”
“Can you help me print my boarding pass, please?”
“Let’s talk about ethnicities, races, and nationalities of the world!” (note: predominantly for white folk, but not exclusively. No indeed.)