Sunday night, I spoke at my daughter’s baccalaureate service, and I’m sorry, but the joke is begging to be told, “Before I couldn’t even spell baccalaureate speaker and now I are one.”
It’s true. I really couldn’t spell it, nor could I guess at the spelling well enough for the spell check to correct it.
Spelling wasn’t nearly as hard as choosing a topic, but I managed, and now, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, I’m attempting to translate the speech into a column.
I know most fathers would use the opportunity to brag, but at this age the smallest things embarrass our children. Nevertheless, I decided, who cares? Maybe it’s about time for a little payback.
This is a great opportunity to talk about how our kids embarrass us. However, you’ll need to understand my definition of embarrassment may be a little different.
First of all, our kids try to embarrass us with their smarts.
They think they are so smart. I was helping my fourth-grade daughter multiply fractions. We’re struggling with it. I’m learning. My sixth-grader walks in and says to her, “Don’t ask dad, he won’t know. Ask big sister, she takes calculus.” Can you imagine my embarrassment?
Some weeks ago, I found my old SAT scores. I proudly posted them on the door of our upcoming graduate so she would have a benchmark — something to aim for. She scored a good 150 points higher than mine. Embarrassing!
I tried to pass along my talent for writing and singing, but she didn’t get it. How embarrassing! She doesn’t sing at all like me, and her competition judges seem oddly grateful.
We have an ensemble band at our church. Don’t you think they would ask their pastor to sing? No.
“Ask his oldest daughter,” they say. “She’s going to be a music major.”
Then there is that whole energy thing these kids have going. What’s with that?
I got a call from her college. “Is your daughter there?”
“No, she’s out.”
“I’m looking over her activity list she sent us.”
There is some rattling of paper, then a reluctant question. “Do you ever see her?”
“Oh, yes,” I reply with embarrassed confidence, “Thursdays, between 4:15 and 5:05 . Call her then.”
The girl makes me look bad. I started jogging last year. I can jog 3 miles. To accomplish that feat, I need only 11 hours of sleep the night before and after. Whereas, my daughter, Rollerblading until 2, awakens the next morning ready to go jogging and ace a calculus exam. Embarrassing.
Kids today show us integrity.
I can’t tell you how many times a ticket taker or waitress was just about to be give us the kid’s discount at a movie or buffet only to have my daughter cry out, “No, dad, we’re paying adult prices now.” Thanks a lot, kid.
Recently, she questioned whether we would legitimately qualify for her college’s pastor’s kid scholarship. “You’re no longer a pastor,” she reminded me. “You’re a chaplain.”
At her urging, I called the college and said, “Hello, this is Norris Burkes and this phone call better not cost me a thousand bucks!”
Our kids have faith, and even that can be embarrassing.
My daughter sees me as a walking concordance and has a habit of quizzing me in front of her friends or my colleagues, “Where does it say in the Bible that . . .?”
I usually have to make something up.
Since my pastor father hauled us to church three times a week, I’ve tried to shelter her from that expectation. So, what does she do? She joins three youth groups. The girl knows more ministers than I do.
Biblical tradition relates the story of a boy who also made a choice that resulted in a little family embarrassment.
A boy named David took a care package to the deployed troops who were facing one man — Goliath. Goliath drew a line in the sand daring the Expeditionary Force to fight.
David wanted to know why all of Israel was cowering in their tents. He volunteered to step over the line carrying nothing but a slingshot.
What an embarrassment! How cocky! How vain!
Well, if you don’t know the rest of the story, pick up the “Veggie Tale” video.
David’s brothers, ashamed they had not stepped forward, may have been greatly embarrassed. They had cowered in their tents with the rest of Israel while the runt of the family beat the giant.
Parents, this is the generation that will kill the giants. They will slay the giants that made us cower, paralyzed with fear. These were the giants we were perhaps just not smart enough, or brave enough, or loving enough, to overcome.
This generation will conquer stars and diseases, prejudices and poverty, and other unimaginable challenges. So, parents, why don’t we let them “embarrass” us, just a little?
Graduates, using my definition of embarrassment, I leave you only with a question, How do you plan to embarrass your parents?