Now I was never the popular kid in high school, but I was excited for this moment. College was my chance to hit the reset button. To finally make it into the inner circles of the “cool” kids. The morning of move in day the welcoming faculty host an event. They gather every freshman on campus and their parents into the school’s basketball arena. To kick off freshman orientation, they serve up a breakfast buffet and bring in some of the better known faculty to speak to the new class. My dad and I were one of the last few to shuffle into the building among some 10,000 other people. The arena we entered holds some 15,000 occupants. They roped off one half of the seating sections so everyone would sit facing the speaker’s podium. The breakfast buffet sat at the top of the arena for us, but the seats were filling up fast. My dad offers to grab breakfast for us both while I go save us some seats. The dynamic duo divide and conquer.
I wanted to be able to scope out my competition, and see what I was going to be dealing with. My to be popular reputation was on the line. I got a good couple of seats a little off to the side of the podium in the middle of a row. As soon as I sat down, the seats surrounding me had just about filled up. Dad wasn’t back from the buffet yet, but I had his seat saved. I took the time to start scoping out the rest of the freshman class. Who were the cute girls, which guys were going to be the unpopular nerds, who were the future frat guys, etc. It was too crowded to make any sort of judgement, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t try.
The speaker started to walk up to the podium to prepare herself. Still no dad. I start to wonder what happened to him , but as I turned around to look up the stairs, I saw him walking down in typical Gorrell fashion. A plate in each hand, and by some impossible means, two cups of Orange Juice hanging from his mouth. Not the coolest look for my dad, but we are off to the side far enough that I figured the social damage would be negligible.
By the time he got to our row, the ten seats between me and the end of the row had filled up. My dad, acting as a cunning problem solver, noticed the seats in the row below us were much less filled. Starting with navigating around a couple people in the lower row, he needed to step up and over the row of seats to join me. Now I could have helped him out. I could of offered to grab the plates from him. I could have helped clear a path for him. But I didn’t
Dad slowly began to unfold one stadium seat with his foot to step up on. He put his weight on it, and quickly stepped up to match his other foot on the next seat over from the one he unfolded. The second seat was already folded out. His next move was to lean towards the row I was sitting in. He tried to step up and over the back of the seat and into our row, but before he could, both of the seats he was standing on folded up around his feet. My dad’s legs shot through the back of the seat. Orange juice,cream cheese covered bagels, and mini donuts rocketed into the air like the 4th of July. Parents and fellow students became pelted with ariel breakfast treats. My dad was folded over backwards in agony yelling my name to help him up. His ankles were still caught in the chairs. By now every parent, student, and attending faculty member was aware that the Griswalds had made it to college.
No doubt that was an incredibly embarrassing event for myself. It was an equally embarrassing and much more painful experience for my father. My delicate reputation as the perfect cool kid was shot before I even could make a go at it. For the first couple weeks in college I was the kid who’s dad almost broke his ankles. But somehow that event never became the devastating event I feared it to be.
Humiliating your kids in little ways is one of the fun parts of being a parent. Perhaps not when you’re folded backwards with your ankles in a chair, but it is one of the rare times it is ok to take pleasure in one’s pain. It can be entertaining to see them freak out and think that what you did could ruin their lives as they know it. Lord knows they have done it enough to you over the years. Humiliation is actually an important part of raising a successful kid. It’s not the act that is important, but the mental roots you help them grow afterwards are critical.
Embarrass them, but show them that the world isn’t ending afterwards. People get so worked up about what people think of them, that they never realize that most people don’t care. Most people are quick to forget the majority of your actions, even the ones that embarrass us. Fear of the what if is one of the most limiting factors to any person’s success. It stops us from taking any sort of risk. It keeps us from connecting with people. It makes us dishonest with ourselves. Humiliation, especially in public is a great way to force someone to face their fears.
My personal favorite way? In the old Richard Pryor Movie “See No Evil, Hear No Evil,” Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor are in a park eating ice cream. Gene’s character is afraid of humiliating himself in his acting career. He says this fear is why he stopped acting. Richard’s character tell’s Gene’s he can fix all his problems in less than ten seconds. The next thing you see is Richard Pryor squishing his ice cream cone into Gene Wilder’s big fluffy head.
At first Gene was upset at the whole situation, but Richard showed him that the fear was just in Gene’s head. Embarrassment wasn’t anything as bad as he imagined it to be.
So when’s the last time you embarrassed your kid? Maybe it’s time you took him or her out for a little ice cream treat.