How do you recover when your child embarrasses you by blurting family business to people who shouldn’t know it? It’s every parent’s nightmare, and sooner or later, every parent experiences it. Like my friend and former neighbor, Angela.
Angela and her husband, Will, were hosting a neighborhood 4th of July barbecue. As the evening wound down, Angela and Will cleared empty platters from their backyard picnic table. Will’s parents were in attendance and Grandma asked her 4-year-old granddaughter if she could give her a bath before bedtime.
“Are you going to take a bath with me?” she asked Grandma. [I thought THAT was funny since I tend to visualize conversation. But it was going to get much better.]
“No, I’m going to kneel outside the bathtub and wash you. Then we’ll put your jammies on,” Grandma replied.
“Good,” the four-year-old responded before thoughtfully adding “Daddy takes a bath with Mommy sometimes but I don’t think he really likes to because I hear him groaning all the time.”
Every adult still present at the gathering – about 10 of them – snapped their attention to Angela’s face. At that moment, Will happened to be in the house, leaving Angela to respond to the bemused looks of her in-laws and neighbors on her own. [I’d tell you what she said if I knew. But I’d let out an involuntary snortle that was a lot louder than it should have been. I quickly went to check on my kids playing in the side yard.]
What DO You Do?
Do you know what you would do in Angela’s place? Let’s think it through so you’re prepared for your own inevitable opportunity to recover your composure and dignity.
What you absolutely don’t want to do is go off on your child. It takes years for little people to refine their social skills – able to conform to adult conventions of appropriate conversation and behavior. Simply put, they don’t know better. Besides, if you try to divert the attention from yourself to your child with sharp reprimands and shaming, it has the opposite effect. It makes you look like a jerk.
So much for what not to do. Where do you go from there?
It helps to understand why we get embarrassed. We get embarrassed when the mask is torn off the character we hope to project. We want others to see us as cool, calm, and collected. When a child outs sensitive information about us, we feel undressed and vulnerable. And in that moment, we have two choices.
Our first option is to take our situation very seriously and focus on regaining the respect we feel we’ve lost. This is why some people yell at their kid or walk away from the scene in a snit. It’s a way to take back control. Our second option is to refuse to take ourselves seriously and laugh it off. Demonstrate cultivated maturity and humble grace.The antidote to embarrassment is authentic humility that remembers God made us from dust. Click To Tweet The antidote to embarrassment is authentic humility that remembers God made us from dust. We don’t have to maintain a persona that lives above the daily realities of things like sex, money issues, bodily functions, loss of status, or ignorance. Stuff happens. To everyone.
Every day has its reminders that we are not really in control of our lives. But your dignity is not as fragile as you think because everyone lives in the same world with the same issues. We sympathize with one another.
So when your child announces to your in-laws and neighbors that you have bathtub sex (or whatever), simply turn off your little herald’s conversation fountain with a non-shaming statement like “And that concludes this evening’s episode of True Confessions.” Put a little laugh in your voice when you say it, hug your child as you shepherd them inside, and carry on with life.
When you have a humble heart that doesn’t take yourself too seriously, it’s not so difficult to recover when your child embarrasses you.