Self-help: Deal with embarrassing parents


As in childhood, adolescence and young adulthood, parents never stop being embarrassing. In my family, it’s most probably my Dad who holds the throne. Due to living about 8,000 miles away, my parents – until last week – missed my choir concerts. This year they made a tremendous effort to come, even with the national strike causing disturbance to their travel. The concert was set in a beautiful, ornate hall and the audience tended to be some of Brussels’ most sophisticated choral fans. My choir conductor is brilliant, but with brilliance comes great demands of concentration and focus from both his chorus and his audience. To make matters worse, our set was mostly a capella, with the audience forbidden to clap between songs.

So imagine my absolute horror when my Dad, seated in the front row, so proud of his 33-year-old daughter and having not yet mastered the silent mode of his phone, starts taking photos of me during the quiet bits of the songs: click… flash… click… flash. Then comes the unwrapping of a bonbon because he has a bit of a tickly cough: ssccchh… ssccchh. Unfortunately, the sweet doesn’t quite hit the spot so he then has trouble controlling his coughing fit: splutter… splutter.

Whilst all of this is going on, I start blushing and find it hard to suppress giggles out of sheer mortification. My Mum, who is sitting next to him, slants her head down in shame, covering her side profile with her hand to block him from her view. My choir conductor is getting increasingly infuriated by this old man.  Later in the programme, my Dad manages to move to the back of the hall, only for me to hear him snoring in between songs, which he later apologizes for.

A Chinese proverb says: “Govern a family as you would cook a small fish.” Perhaps in my younger and jumpier days, I would have got extremely worked up by my Dad’s behaviour and resented him for it. Last week, even though I was mortified, I just took it all in my stride. Today, I have a good old chuckle about it.

Parents do have their moments, but if their faults lie in being embarrassing then life could be a lot worse. Harry Potter’s friend Ron Weasley may get infuriated by his Mum sometimes, but Harry would choose the Weasleys over the ghastly Dursleys any day. I have come to understand and appreciate my family’s quirks and as the proverb recommends, the best way to treat your family is with care.

As I finished this column, Father’s Day was almost upon us. Happy Father’s Day, Dad.