I’m big on teaching the kids how to behave in public. How do you behave at the ballgame versus at a restaurant versus a wedding or funeral? But there are moments when I have to remind myself that I have to be as mindful of my own behavior as the kids’. This was especially brought home to me this weekend as I watched a proud father make a complete ass of himself at a school function.
Supporting the kids is as obvious as breathing, but how it’s done gets dicier as the kids age. There’s a wonderful television commercial in which a child – one time on stage, another on a playing field – looks into the crowd of onlookers and suddenly, the crowd vanishes save for the father, who’s now the only one watching. The underlying truism is that the kids both want and need us there and are seeking our approval and pride in their accomplishments.
Now, let’s adjust the commercial for the age of the child. In this variant, the kid is now fourteen years of age and as he looks onto the field, there in the crowd is the father. Dad smiles and nods – as in the real commercial – but the crowd remains. The next version of the commercial shows the fourteen year old on the field looking at the crowd as his proud papa suddenly stands and screams out YOU GO, BOY! MAKE ME PROUD! WOOT!!! In this version, the crowd remains while the exuberant Dad vanishes without a trace.
In the version that I witnessed this weekend, the teen was walking down the auditorium aisle to accept an award when Dad suddenly stood and yelled out her name amidst the silent crowd sitting there. Note that the applause had already finished so it wasn’t as if the child received no applause. Sitting next to my sons, I flinched and looked over to see the eldest visibly wince as well. Were that me, I doubt that I would have made it home alive as body parts would have been tossed piecemeal from the speeding car windows as it swerved down the road.
Kids do become more sensitive of public appearances as they age and there are times when even the presence of a parent can cause embarrassment. Don’t mind him, he always breathes that way. Our presence is a reminder that they really haven’t reached adulthood and aren’t as independent as they think or would like, and acting in a way that publicly draws that to the fore does embarrass them. I understand that father’s pride and am glad that he’s had the opportunity to experience it. But the ride home would have been much better had he kept his mouth shut and stayed seated.