Growing up, I had a childhood filled with instances when injustice, bad judgment, or generally stupid behavior presented itself. In each case, I knew I could count on my parents to speak out against the infraction in wanton disregard of their daughter’s embarrassment.

“Rock the boat,” was their mantra, and I spent years wondering why my parents always had to make us stick out, when all I wanted was to blend in.

Today, I officially eat crow. It is tough, it is bitter, and I get the feeling it’s going to be on the menu from now on.  I recently took Jamie to the mall to see the Easter Bunny. It seemed like a fun idea, and I had spent weeks eagerly anticipating the chance to dress him up in a little suit and necktie so I could zealously photograph a moment in his life he will never even remember.

Suffice to say, things did not go according to plan. Without delving into a much longer story than space allows, a misunderstanding occurred at the bunny kiosk. I instantly spoke up, and before I knew it, had quite an audience watching in interest as I argued heatedly with a mall employee – right there, in front of God, the Easter Bunny, and my own baby boy.

In retrospect, the mall employee was just a kid, barely sixteen if she was a day. This was probably her first job, and likely even her first day at that. I can’t really fault her for poor customer service skills, even if I do resent her temper around children. In the end, she probably just didn’t know any better.

I however, did. Admittedly, I did not think twice about telling her a thing or two at the time that the argument ensued. It wasn’t until much later that a terrible thought occurred to me: I had rocked the boat. And I had done it in front of my kid. I joke with myself that my baby boy has received his first lesson in civil protest. The truth is, however, that I am secretly relieved that he is much too young to have been aware of anything going on that day, other than that he was being held by some big, furry white thing that desperately needed some Febreeze and a Mentos.

I suppose it’s only natural that becoming a parent comes with a heightened sense of social responsibility. I’m surely not the first new parent to march into battle at the drop of a hat, but that doesn’t make me feel any better. Mostly, that’s because I have this horrible, sneaking suspicion that it’s not the last time it will happen. 

I realized this week that no matter what I do, the inevitable is bound to happen: Somewhere, someday, I am going to embarrass my child. And he’s going to wonder why he had to get stuck with me, instead of someone else’s parents who never rock the boat. And in some sick, twisted way, I’ll believe that I’m doing him a favor.

I suppose I need to apologize to my parents for all the grief I gave them when I was growing up. Maybe the boat does need to be rocked from time to time. And now, it appears my folks have passed that duty down to me.

In the meantime, I’ve got a favor to ask of them in return. I’m sort of hoping they won’t mind taking my son to see Santa Claus next December.

Better safe than sorry. 

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