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My Family and Other Freaks

Carol Midgle

If you’re a child I’m prepared to guess something: that sometimes your parents really, really embarrass you. It’s OK if you’re nodding. This is perfectly natural. One of the reasons parents were put on the Earth is, sometimes, to make your toes curl and your face screw up in pain while you say in a high, teary voice: “Mum, Dad — STOP it.”

Maybe your mother spits on a hanky to clean your face (as mine did)? Or calls round at your friend’s house on your first sleepover and says, “Matthew forgot his blankie”.

I have written a book about a 12-year-old girl whose parents (she hates it when they kiss and tickle each other) continually mortify her. It begins with the dad winding up his horrified children by pretending to ring Britain’s Got Talent and book himself on the show to perform something quite rude.

I will admit this is based in truth — it’s exactly what my husband did until one of the children, not realising it was a joke, burst into tears (yes, we can be quite sick like that). All parents should know their very presence is sometimes excruciating for their children. So here’s a guide to what mothers and fathers can do to stop their children wanting to put coats over their heads with shame.

Feel free to stick it on the fridge to help your parents behave better in future.

1. Never sing in the car to modern pop songs, especially if your child’s friends are getting a lift. This is child cruelty.

2. Never show affection to each other in public. No flirting, no holding hands and definitely no snogging in front of children. This is disgusting.

3. Never wear clothes that are too young for you, too old, too tight, too colourful, too dowdy or with any type of writing on them. In fact, if you could stay out of sight altogether that would be great.

4. Never ever dance in front of your children. Dad dancing at weddings is a crime and your children may not be able to look you in the face for at least a week.

5. Never go on any type of karaoke machine, especially as no one’s even heard of Frank Sinatra, whoever he is.

6. Never use your child’s cute pet name in front of their friends. And never say to your eldest child, “How’s my big boy/girl today?” This may a) make them vomit and b) make them want to leave home.

7. Never try to “get down” with kids by using text speak or teen language. Hearing a middle-aged person in slacks say “Dude” or “ROFL” is just desperately, desperately sad.

8. Never shout in public when your child is going to use the toilet, “And don’t forget to wipe properly, darling!”

9. Do not shout more loudly and swearily than other dads at football matches. It looks like you’re attention-seeking.

10. Never ever come into the kitchen and ask your child’s friends, “And do YOU have a boyfriend/girlfriend yet?” Your kid might have to phone ChildLine.

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