It seems to me the development of children goes something like this: Learn to walk. Learn to talk. Learn to embarrass your parents. My daughter started even earlier than that. Age 3 months and in my arms, the doorbell rang. Putting her down carefully I answered the door to take a package from the postman. Despite my efforts to chat happily about the weather he looked at me strangely and made a hasty retreat. Back in the hallway I looked in the mirror to see the big pile of baby sick on my shoulder.
As a four year old my daughter perfected her technique during the walk to school. “Why is that woman so fat?” she said loudly and pointed at the lady in question who was just a few feet away. My friend R’s two children of a similar age went one better. After the loss of a grandparent they spent the next several weeks pointing at elderly people in the street and saying brightly “What about that person mummy, are they going to die soon?”
But recently there has been a development. My daughter has actually managed to embarrass me remotely. I mean from a distance (Nottinghamshire to be precise.)
In the mornings in my house my daughter is expected to do a small chore before school, which is to put away the washing up from the night before. She does this with the care of a guest at a Greek wedding, but nevertheless it is helpful. Just before she went to stay with various family members for half term, I washed up my gym water bottle. The teen put the stuff away as usual, bottle top gone. Vanished; no recollection of it by teen. She looked at me with eyes that doubted such an item had ever existed.
Skip forward to next gym session, when I am forced to use the ‘New Members Joining Package’ gym bottle I found in the cupboard. Apart from the fact that it looks cheap and naff, the lid is a worryingly loose push on type. So there I am on the ‘Excite freestyle’ (the one that looks like you are skiing) and the lid gives way, soaking me and the floor in an outpouring of water. A little like Flashdance, but with worse lighting and more swearing.
Add to the fact that I was wearing a white t-shirt and the gym was full of men and the embarrassment was complete. “Teenager lost my drink bottle lid” I explained to the chap next to me. “You need a new drink bottle” he said. “I need a new teenager” I muttered.
But like a rogue Arab state I have my weapons of mass destruction hidden away for future use, when revenge shall be mine. Most prominent in the armoury is a photo of my little one, just walking, with my friend’s son R. They are both wearing attractive denim dungarees and bright t shirts. My daughter is giving him a kiss on the cheek. We still know the family well and the kids are both in the same year at school. Eighteenth birthday I think. It will look nice in the local paper.