Have you ever been trapped in a conversation with someone who goes on and on about their child’s achievements, ignoring every hint from their listener that they need to stop talking, RIGHT NOW? You know what I mean—you’re standing there, looking around the room wildly for help, cornered like a guinea pig in a cage, but you are completely powerless to run away…
I’m here to tell you, it happened to me.
My son started little league recently, and at his first practice I ran into an acquaintance I hadn’t seen in awhile. In fact, in the time since I’d seen him last, his wife and I both had kids, and so at first I was excited to talk to him and “catch up.” That excitement slowly turned to horror when I realized that this guy’s version of “catching up” was an endless stream of boasting about his son. At first I thought his devotion to his child was sweet, until I realized that he was not going to stop– or even allow the subject to be changed– for the next hour. During the course of our conversation, I learned that his child was a baseball prodigy, (and was forced to look at 25 grainy cell phone pictures of said baseball playing as proof of his talent) shown all his son’s homework from that week, and finally, the artwork he’d done at kindergarten. (Bragging Dad just happened to have all that stuff with him.) 20 minutes in, I tried to change the subject by saying, “Oh, my son’s really enjoying baseball, too. Aren’t the coaches great?” Shoom. Right over this man’s head, as if I hadn’t said anything at all. At this point I felt like my ears would start bleeding, so I excused myself and went (ran, really) to the bathroom.
When I got back to the bleachers, Bragging Dad was there, waiting for me like a great white shark with his son’s report card in hand. “Look at this,” he said, gesturing proudly. Then he went through each subject and grade in painstaking detail. (Right about now, you’re probably thinking I’m stretching the truth. The sad truth is, it really happened.)
Do you remember that old cartoon called Peppy LePue? It’s the one where the skunk (Peppy) keeps trying to corner a cat he’s enamored with, while the cat struggles to be free. In this instance, I was the cat, and instead of “amore” this guy was talking about “Jaden.”
Don’t get me wrong, his son seemed like a really nice little boy. And we all are guilty of bragging about our kids from time to time–it comes with the parenting territory. But what’s the deal with parents who brag non-stop? And how do you possibly get them to turn off the faucet? Seriously. Is there something you can say that would help them understand how hard it is to listen to the avalanche of praise being heaped upon the fruit of their loins? Sheesh.
As practice ended, Bragging Dad leaned out of his car window to tell me how many balls his son had hit that day, and then winked. Like, “Now you know my little secret. Jaden is a superstar.”
Sprayed by Peppy one last time on his way out the door.
About Elisabeth Wilkins
Elisabeth Wilkins was the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 10-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood (Singapore), Hausfrau, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.