Every parent has been there. Maybe you rolled through a spotlight, or dropped a few f-bombs, or casually said that grandma’s cooking isn’t as good as she thinks when the kids were around but not listening. Well, you assumed the kids weren’t listening. Because weeks, or even months later, in the worst possible scenario, your offspring opens up their mouth and utters something about your curse words, reckless driving, or thoughts on grandma’s tasteless meatballs.
Yes, kids have a way of publicly embarrassing us when we least expect it. These moments can be, depending on the situation, as funny or awkward or costly as they are unexpected. And, as these parents can surely attest, they happen all the time. Here, six parents discuss the most embarrassing things they’ve said to other people that prove one important truth: even when you think they’re not, the kids are always paying attention.
She ratted on me to the cops.
I was driving my six-year-old daughter to school this year, and at one stop sign, I “drifted” through the intersection rather than a full stop. It is well known here as a “California” stop. Apparently, such things had become a matter of course for said stop sign.
A police cruiser had been lying in wait. I didn’t get much farther than another block before the lights lit up the inside of the car. My daughter was sitting in the back and asked, “What did you do Daddy?” (Note to self: must teach daughter concept of due process). Once pulled over, I rolled all the windows down, turned the car off as the officer came to the passenger window. Noticing her in the back, the officer asked, “You on the way to school drop off?” Before I could mount my vigorous defense regarding the roll-through, the prosecution threw a demoralizing curveball in the form of a surprise witness: “Hmm. That’s not the first time. My daddy got pulled over just last week for the same thing. He is not very good at stopping,” my daughter said.
Before I could step in, the officer was already at her window. I don’t remember the exact conversation, but it was a back in forth of “Oh, so he does this a lot does he?” and “Yes, he never stops at stop signs,” and so on. He instructed her to continue her vigilance and make sure that I never again missed one of those stop signs. I was released with a warning, on the condition I listened to my new backseat driver.
— Scott, Los Angeles
He asked a stranger if I would fit in underwear I was about to buy.
I was shopping in a big box store with my three-year-old son. He was sitting in the main part of the shopping cart. I tossed a particularly attractive pair of underwear — a thong, to be precise — into the back corner of the cart thinking he wouldn’t notice. A few minutes later he held them up, asked if they were mine, and told me they wouldn’t fit. I told him they would fit, and to just leave them alone. I thought that was that, but when we approached a man shopping near us, my son held up the thong with both arms outstretched and yelled, “Hey mister! Do you think these are going to fit?” The guy smiled at me, shrugged, and walked away. I left the thong on the nearest shelf.
— Jill, North Carolina
He called us out for bribing him in front of an admissions counselor.
In Los Angeles, it’s really difficult to get your kids into some of the good private schools. When we were applying for kindergarten at one of the schools, I had to write seven essays for the application process. My five-year-old also had to be interviewed privately by the admissions team. We told him that if he didn’t use any potty words during his meeting, we would take him to Toys ‘R Us afterwards and he could pick out a present.
The great news? He didn’t use any potty words during his interview. The bad news? Immediately after joining us in the waiting room, in front of the Head of Admissions, he announced: “Daddy, I didn’t use any potty words! Can I go to the toy store now and pick out my prize?”
— Steven, Los Angeles
He started singing a particularly inappropriate Muppets song.
One of the things we let our preschooler watch was The Best of the Muppet Show. He loved it, and we considered it gentle family fare. Then his preschool called one say to ask: “Do you know why your son suddenly started singing ‘cigarettes and whiskey and wild wild women/they’ll drive you crazy/they’ll drive you insane?’ Over and over?” We could tell what they really meant was: “What goes on at your house?” We were totally baffled. We had no idea where he could have heard the song. Until, one day, he played his Muppet Show DVD, and we suddenly heard the Muppets performing a song called “Cigarettes and Whiskey.” Go figure.
— John, New York City
They talked about our sex lives in the hardware store.
I was at the hardware store with my kids, who are four and five. I was in a rush and trying to just get the stuff through the checkout lane when, out of nowhere, my four-year-old asks the cashier: “Do you know what doing it is? My parents do it all the time!” Where they got that from, I don’t know. It stopped me in my tracks. My face went magenta. The cashier was pretty mortified and just sort of looked at me weirdly. But the guy in line behind me, a huge contractor with plaster on his jeans, was crying with laughter. He eventually said, “Good for you buddy!”
— Brandon, Atlanta
He explained at a family dinner how I dropped an F-bomb.
I also once backed my car up into a pole and then used a few choice words, forgetting my child was in the backseat. I thought I got away with it, too, until months later, during a family dinner party with all my relatives, he decided to share with the entire table that “When you back your car up into a pole, you should yell: Oh, fuck!” Needless to say, everyone had a good laugh and my aunt even agreed that’s a perfectly logical exclamation for adults to use when that happens.
— Steven, Los Angeles