“Just Because You’re A Parent Doesn’t Mean You Have To Be Lame”

Posted by Uncle Jesse

I’ve seen this Toyota ad several times recently. It definitely hits close to home in our family. I like it because based on this kid’s definition of “lame”, I am the lamest uncle/parent in the world:

Two preliminary observations: 1) these kids can hate all they want, but that is a fantastic song (more on that below) and 2) I respect how the parents toss in some pretty strong harmony on the “just touch my cheek before you leave me” line.

The Tanner girls know this scene all too well. When I first moved in with the family Danny and I were usually splitting mornings driving the girls to school and driving Lisa to the hospital for chemotherapy and other various treatments.

And most of the mornings I drove to school, I would try to get a loud, upbeat, thumping song in queue on my iPod just in time for the pull-in to the drop-off line. Despite the fact that it was winter, I’d roll the windows down. Everyone at the school knew when the Tanner family was being dropped off.

The girls hated it, or at least acted like they did. But even as they rolled their eyes and moved briskly away from the minivan, I could see a few smiles–at least from their friends.

Anyone got the code to my lame car's lame stereo system? I've got lame songs to sing.

In the Fall I had to get the battery changed in the minivan, which triggered a security measure in the super high-tech 1999 Honda Odyssey’s stereo system that locked it up until someone entered the code. Only one person knew the code (and she’s laughing at me from heaven). Danny has tried, I have tried, the radio is still locked. The car is silent.

But I need to get that thing fixed. The girls have been getting off way light on the embarrassing starts to the school days when I drive. Their Dad, for the record, is like the parent in the other car in the ad–calmly driving his fancy car with DVD and TV screens in the back, so it’s not like the Tanner girls have it that bad when it comes to getting around.

See, my philosophy as a parent (or “parent” or pseudo-parent or whatever I am) is that taking great care and effort not to embarrass your child is worthless, because ultimately you’re going to slip up–or they’re just going to change the rules as to what counts as embarrassing–and your kid WILL be mortified. So I do the opposite. I ALWAYS embarrass the Tanner girls. I wear goofy clothes. I play my music loudly and sing along over top of it. I call out to them from across crowded spaces. I dance when I should just be walking. I try to make hip-sounding references around their friends that I know are tragically un-hip.

But it works in my favor in a few ways. The first is that by continually being unabashed about abashing them, I water down what it means to be embarrassed. They’re used to it, they expect it. They’ve gotten over it, accept it’s going to happen and don’t get very flustered when it does. Sometimes they even smile. The second reason it works is because on the rare occasions I do exercise a little class and dignity around them and do my best not to embarrass–like when we had a bunch of kids from the 8th grade over for dinner before a school dance–it is actually appreciated.

And the third reason? Well, DJ clued the other two into this one early on during the “loud music in the mornings” routine. As we would make the turn into the school driveway and the girls would see my hand go for the volume knob, they would play their part.

“Noooo, don’t play the loud music!” Stephanie and Michelle would dutifully cry, bound by the rules of childhood to fight any efforts to be noticed because of something their parent (or uncle) was doing.

“Why do you guys even bother,” DJ explained to them, bookbag already on shoulder, ready to sprint for the nearest buidling. “You know he’s just going to do it anyway.”

And she’s exactly right. I do it because I want them to know that it’s not going to stop, and that I’m not going anywhere.

Oh yeah, as for “Angel Of The Morning”–it IS a great song, and here’s my favorite version of it (sorry, Juice Newton fans, this one is waaaay better):

And here, as far as I can tell, is the original one. Pretty risque for its time now that I think about it. Also cool how the military-like “rat-tat-tat-tat” to start each line survived to the Juice Newton/Pretenders versions:

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