317. Reflections

There’s an issue you’ve probably had to deal with, or you probably will.
What if your child makes you look bad? What if people in your community, some of whom have come to like and respect you, see your child looking, sounding, or behaving in ways that don’t represent your view of how people should look, sound, and behave? Some of them may know that your child is not you, and doesn’t necessarily reflect your views consistently, but some may not seem to fully understand that. They may judge you.
Or what if your parents embarrass you? They could treat you as if you’re ten when you’re actually twelve, and if the timing is bad, all your twelve year old
friends could be right there, watching. Soon, you’ll find out who your real friends are – which ones will rub it in and which will be sympathetic. Most of them have parents, too, so they really should know all about what you’re going through, but that doesn’t guarantee that they’ll be nice about it.
We all have the right to have our own identities – to behave in ways that are in keeping with who we are and how we think. And we have the right to choose to go along with the crowd sometimes, just to fit in. But I think we also have the responsibility to consider what effect our behavior has on people we care about. Sometimes, our children’s or parents’ embarrassment about us is their own problem. If they can’t deal with who we are, too bad. At other times, it would be nice to be a little considerate. We could tuck our identities in once in a while.
It can hurt to find that someone who loves you at home doesn’t want to be seen with you in public. But it’s a pretty common problem, and maybe it will hurt a little less if you understand the social dynamics of what’s going on. In our culture, two generations can sometimes be two subcultures, with two very different sets of norms. Perhaps in one, you wouldn’t be caught dead doing what you absolutely must do in the other. And sometimes there’s no way to win – neither by being yourself nor by pretending not to be.
It’s possible to be embarrassed by people who are neither your parents nor your children. You can be embarrassed by your spouse, or your friends. It can even be embarrassing to see strangers behave in ways that don’t seem right. But at least you’re less likely to see strangers as reflections of yourselves.
I don’t remember whether my parents ever embarrassed me, or whether I ever embarrassed them. Probably. I know I sometimes embarrassed my children, and vice versa. It can be sublime to have moments when you can be proud of each other in public. But that’s not the way it is all the time.

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