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Awkward moments are good for your children

I recalled an incident during a school holiday when I had taken my children to an amusement arcade. I watched my daughter happily climb the steps to the top of a colourful slide.

As she laughingly descended at top speed, a corner of the slide caught her dress. There was a sickening ripping sound, and when she reached the bottom, her dress remained on the slide, like The Jolly Roger billowing in the breeze. 

I was mortified on her behalf, as her counterparts started pointing and giggling incessantly, not yet established in the subtle art of see-no-evil tactfulness.

Fortunately, I had a long shawl in my bag and was able to hurry and cover her up. 

Any parent would do anything to spare their child that crushing sense of embarrassment, but we can’t pull a rabbit out of a hat and cushion our children from all hardships.

I was aware that she must have been wishing for an invisibility cloak or the appearance of a convenient trap door under her feet. It came as no surprise when she holed herself up in the house for a couple of days. 

While feeling embarrassed can be a good thing because it shows the existence of personal standards, children must nonetheless learn how to cope with it. 

Embarrassment is basically fear of being perceived in a negative light. Our egos want us to think that we’re all snowflakes — each of us is one of a kind, but really, we all want similar things, chief among them respect and acceptance in society. 

Natural

These feelings are perfectly natural, and therefore, it is my responsibility to empathise and understand.

But the fact that I understand my child’s predicament does not give me the right to blow it out of proportion; neither should I dismiss it as one of the inevitable curve balls that life occasionally throws at us. 

I found that her embarrassment dimmed significantly when I, too, related an experience when one day a mad man in our hood chased me down the street which had left me unwilling to show my face in public.

It helped, also, that she and I are so comfortable with each other. As days went by, the incident actually became a source of hilarity for the family, making for great conversation fodder during gatherings, when my daughter discovered that other people also experience embarrassing situations which made her feel better. 

She understood that because all embarrassments take place in the past, if it does not kill you, then it should make you stronger. Experiencing a drawback in one’s life is not necessarily a bad thing. 

Achieving perfection is an impossible goal that we parents may inadvertently push our children towards, which then leads to feelings of embarrassment when they fail to live up to these standards. Everyone is allowed to tilt, as long as we avoid actually falling over.