Embarrassing our kids for our own good

Life is tough when your parents live to embarrass you ...
Life is tough when your parents live to embarrass you ... Photo: Getty

Oh, it’s the classic, old fashioned ‘good dad vs bad dad’ scenario. 

There you are with your gorgeous little offspring, you’re out, and then, right in front of you, or across the road, or at another table in the same café is somebody fabulously famous. Your kid doesn’t notice them, but you do, and it’s very, very exciting. 

Lots of “oh, oh, oh’s” lead to even more “OMG’s” and end in the inevitable, ‘You know what you should do, you should get their autograph. I’ve got a pen here somewhere! And get a photo, too. We can Facebook it. You have to ask if they mind. Oh, My God! James Reyne in our favourite cafe! Who knew?’ 

That’s generally the moment your offspring roll themselves into a tiny, horrible embarrassed ball and try to physically disappear. 

‘Go,’ you say, trying to drag them up by the ear and guide them toward the famous one. But you stay seated, of course, so it looks like the whole thing was the kids’ idea. The funny thing is, you know how much they’d like the autograph or the photo, but you also know most ten to fifteen-year-olds aren’t interested in going through the pain of actually getting it - unless it’s a proper signing and there are loads of people in a queue.  

Kids, generally, don’t want to stand out; they don’t want to look like an idiot. Even if you offer them what they don’t know they want in a one-on-one situation, there’s every chance they’ll turn into a three-year-old and try to hide behind dad’s hairy leg or mum’s billowing summer dress.

But we knooooooooooow how much they’d love to meet that famous dude, so we push and they pull and eventually we drag them to the celeb and apologise because they’re being all shy and silly and ‘they’re never really like this.  Not ever.’

It’s the best, isn’t it?  Who’s looking like an idiot now?

And when our kids say they have no idea who James Groin or whatever his name is, we laugh and pretend they’re being silly and push even harder whilst singing their song Reckless or Hammerhead or something else that has found new life on Smooth FM. 

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Obviously, we should let the kids be, trust their instincts, and that they really don’t want the photo or the autograph, even if it is Taylor Swift or the bloke from One Direction who was dating her.  If they really do want the picture, they’ll ask, and be prepared for them to drag you along.  My daughter made me come with her to ask Lucinda Dunn (Australian ballet legend) to autograph her program a little while ago. 

Well, the other night I was out at a function and guess who was there – you’ll never guess, so I’ll tell you. 

Mark Richards. 

THE Mark Richards (MR). The Wounded Seagull. The surfer of all generations, the bloke who was so good, but surfed awkward and gave us hope that we could all surf, if only just a bit.

He’s a four-time world champion and was just named Australia’s most influential surfer for the past fifty years.  And he’s the world class shaper, who changed the sport by modifying the twin fin and he’s a Newcastle boy and he’s bloody great!

Get the feeling I’m a fan?

There he was, and I was watching him and giggling and doing very subtle seagull impersonations when I knew I just had to meet him and get an autograph. But how? I was kidless. Who the hell was going to ask him? Oh God, how embarrassing! I’d have to do it myself! 

I watched him for a while – not stalking, just watching, to see if anyone else was going to go first, but it was a pretty cool SurfAid kind of crowd and they were showing the great man mucho respect!

And he’s listening to everything. He’s paying attention to whatever’s happening on stage, including the auction.  And everyone knows that once the auction starts you can start to tune out a little if the item’s not your bag.  But not MR, he’s paying rapt attention to everything. He’s returning the mucho respect to everyone. 

He’s a living legend. An icon, and he’s sitting right there!

I had to have his autograph. I’d love my son, the emergent surfboard shaper to have one as well. That would be cool, wouldn’t it, to have an MR autograph under the resin on your home made surfboard? If only he was here to ask for me.

And the penny dropped. We shouldn’t use our kids to do our daggy bidding for us. If we want an autograph or a photo or anything from someone famous, we should have the chutzpah to ask ourselves. And, if we think the kids would like that moment and they knock us back as we try to cajole them toward short-lived Facebook or Instagram immortality, they can learn from the very large history book titled Missed Opportunity.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Very logical.

But I still wanted my little scribble of history, so I did what every self respecting parent would do. I asked for one for my son. Called Andrew. And one for his cousin, called Felix. 

Smart, eh? And MR, Mr Gentleman, signed both.