At the end of Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet’s father says, “For what do we live but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?” Many will join me in observing that sometimes our “neighbors” are also our own family members. What teenager doesn’t find himself embarrassed by his parents’ bizarre attire (think here of Dad’s plaid shorts and dark socks), probing questions in front of friends, or sharing embarrassing childhood memories or photos with the teen’s friends?
But I can safely say that anything the Cap’n and I do later in life to embarrass our children (funny accents, bad grammar, or embarrassing malapropisms in Hebrew, for example) will be no more than payback for the kinds of things we have experienced from our children. Samples of embarrassing public behavior that come to mind include an explosive bowel movement from one of our newborns at a solemn unveiling of a dear friend’s tombstone at the cemetery; loud singing by our children of a culturally offensive, Chinese-themed ditty in a Chinese restaurant; and loud querying of me in the Gush Junction Rami Levi supermarket, “Are those people over there Arabs?” This excludes, of course, the outlandish, Cyndi Lauper-esque outfits and hair-dos the girls put together for school and Shabbat, about which I say nothing and don’t feel embarrassed, since one doesn’t learn to dress and groom oneself overnight, and I’d rather they leave the house looking ridiculous than have to get up half an hour earlier to micromanage their wardrobes and play hairdresser to them every day. Peach often has a half-dozen ponytails in her hair, plus a dozen clips and assorted ribbons, and even after Banana has brushed her hair, she still looks like Beethoven in a wind tunnel. I say nothing.
So I certainly hope I don’t have to hear what an embarrassment I am to my children in another eight years or so. (The Cap’n, however, keeps a stash of dark socks to wear with his deck shoes and plaid shorts for when the girls are teens.) If I do hear complaints, I will simply refer them to this post, and say, “Quid pro quo, my dear.”