I don’t know why, but the phrase “I wonder what would happen if…” was one that often popped into my head as a child.
All too often, however, the words that followed were ones that were acted upon by my younger, stupid self. Without thought, or reason, or any sense of “Now let’s think about this for a minute and see if it’s a good idea, shall we?”
I also had little in the way of a filter for the cake hole in the middle of my face as a child. Something that shouldn’t be in my meal? Let’s announce it to the whole restaurant. Intrigued by someone’s appearance? Let’s tell them I find it, er, “interesting”. All of that, and more.
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However, I’d like to think that this is a case of kids being kids, i.e. no filter, just honesty (the sort of honesty that I personally feel is wholly unacceptable as an adult). Say-it-as-you-see-it. Immediately act upon those curiosities and urges. Without thinking.
To be fair [to my younger self] I’d bet my bum and a banjo that ALL kids have done something – at least one thing – to have severely embarrassed one or both parents. Or do something that made their parents think, “WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH MY CHILD WHY ON EARTH WOULD THEY DO SOMETHING SO STUPID I DON’T SEE HOW THEY’RE RELATED TO ME #FacePalm” – because, let’s face it, kids are evil, cunning, brazen and absolutely brilliant little humans.
I may not have kids of my own, but having been an auntie since I was 14 and now the administrator of several great nephews and nieces, I love the incredible minds of said pint-sized people and fully appreciate how they think and act.
My family and I recall these stories with great sentimentality and humour (and believe me, my brother and sisters have stories of their own), but at the time… good god, what a drama. Or so it seemed to me back when they happened, or maybe not for me but it was for my parents (depending on what happened). In any case, I urge you to gird your cringing loins and soak up the embarrassment and/or shock at my juvenile stupidity, inability to be rational and general clumsiness.
You have my full permission to laugh at me at my own expense…!
Here are 7 stupid or embarrassing things I did as a kid. I…
1. Got my head stuck between our staircase spindles
A story recalled many a time by my mother, aged about 4 I decided to find out if my head would fit between the (metal) staircase spindles. And guess what? It did. Of course it did.
However, the problems started when I tried to pull my head out, and I don’t know if I had especially large ears for my size at the time(?), but my head refused to go back the way it came. And to add insult to injury, I’d just had my ears pierced (my mum letting me have my ears pierced so young is a whole other story) so there was NO WAY I was going to pull my head out backwards and risk my ears being ripped off* in the process.
(*My theory, not my mother’s.)
The only solution was the classic “Dad to the rescue!” complete with a crowbar or big metal puller-aparter things (honestly I don’t know what he used but they bent metal) – and yes, so that my head could be released, the spindles had to be bent out of shape.
In our rented home. It was rented. I wonder if my parents got their deposit back…
2. Stood watching myself pee on a department store’s rug
This was exactly what it says on the tin. To set the scene, Dad had to go for a suit fitting, Mum took me along. I needed a wee I guess, but if you had a fresh-out-of-nappies child wouldn’t you CHECK if they needed a wee before going in? (Can you see how I’m building this up to blame my mother?)
So Dad’s in a separate room being measured and we’re waiting outside the special measuring room, or whatever you’d call it.
(At this stage I’m giving Kingsman: The Secret Service on Savile Row vibes, but it really wasn’t anything near that stylish or cool in the high street in Croydon in the 1970s.)
I suppose Mum looked away for a few seconds, only to turn around and see me, her darling youngest daughter, with legs akimbo, hands on hips, watching herself doing a wee in the full-length mirror into the undeniably 70s shagpile rug.
As far as I’m aware I was whisked away so fast (Mum did the =ahem= “right thing” by RUNNING AWAY, pissy child in tow) that Dad was left alone to have his measuring done with something sweet permeating the air.
Dad: “Thank you for making my suit; I’ll pay you with thirty new English pounds and the fresh urine of a tiny white female.”
3. Told the whole restaurant there was a caterpillar in my salad
A classic example of “No filter”. And this wasn’t at just any restaurant – this wasn’t, like, Pizza Express in Woking or anything – this was a very, very high-end restaurant in Singapore. My aunt and uncle lived there in the 1960s/70s/80s and we visited in the early 1980s when I was 9. My uncle was fond of fine dining, but let’s just say that this wasn’t the best idea for his gangly, awkward 9-year-old niece who had probably never been to a “posh” restaurant before.
Don’t get me wrong, I had table manners drummed into me as a kid, but there’s a difference between teaching a young person not to talk with their mouth full at home and teaching them how to act in a high-end restaurant in a foreign country. I don’t think my parents had prepared themselves, or me, for that scenario.
So we were all seated and had ordered our starters; I was doing okay, no dramas yet (probably wishing we’d been taken for burgers or something). But then… the salads were brought round. (If they were the starters I’m guessing this didn’t set the tone well for all the rest of the meal so my “doing okay” didn’t last that long.)
I can remember this as clearly as anything: I looked down, and, nestled in between my lettuce leaves, was the biggest caterpillar I’d ever seen. Ever. It was fat and furry and having a fabulous time wriggling amongst my greens.
And of course, I told the entire restaurant by exclaiming very loudly, “OH MY GOD THERE’S A CATERPILLAR IN MY SALAD”.
I think the gasps at our table (and others) were drowned out by the sound of the maître d’s feet breaking the speed barrier to get over to our table to whisk my plate away tout suite. Though I think the shame that my parents felt was so palpable that that was what contributed to the strained atmosphere for the rest of that fun-filled meal. I’ve never seen a maître d so apologetic, then or since.
4. Held my palm over a naked flame
If we’re talking The Best of “I wonder what would happen if I…” Moments, this would be the ultimate example.
We were holidaying in a motorhome somewhere (where doesn’t matter), and for whatever reason we were sitting by candlelight in the motorhome after dark.
(Can I just say that having candles burning in a motorhome or caravan isn’t a particularly great idea? It wasn’t the 1850s, electric and gas lights had been invented at that point, so why we were sat by candlelight I have no idea.)
There’s me sitting there, watching the flame flicker, flicker, back and forth. It flickered a bit more.
Curiosity got the better of me, because there was that favourite thought of mine, building up inside me: “I wonder what would happen if… if I put my hand in that flame?”
Who knows how many seconds I lasted, but after maybe 0.8 seconds of holding my palm over the naked flame, a child’s loud scream pierced through the quietude of the campsite. Again, let’s blame my mother because these things always seemed to happen when she took her eyes off me for 1.2 seconds.
Had she learnt nothing after the suit-fitting-mirror-child-weeing-rug debacle? Of course not.
5. Fell multiple times off a ski lift chair
This one I had no one to blame but myself. These are purely the actions of an even more awkward 13 year old – yes, even more awkward than the 9 year old at the high-end Singaporean restaurant – and her inability to “look cool”, be graceful, or possess any delicate charms that would befall a growing young woman.
It really makes me cringe to think of this because I sort of remember looking utterly foolish and clumsy, but I don’t have any recollection of feeling embarrassed. I tried to sit on the ski lift seat thing, but instead of a flat bench-style seat where you’d sit next to other people, there was a single pole that came down with a short bar across the bottom at right angles, like an upside-down T. (Or something to that effect.)
The idea was that you hooked the horizontal bar between your legs and tucked it under your bum and then hold onto the pole, allowing it to pull you along.
What you did NOT do was try to “sit down” on the bar with your weight bearing down on it, because it wasn’t designed to take your weight. It just pulled you up and along the snow without taking you up in the air.
What did I do? I tried to sit down. And promptly fell down and off it. So tried again.
And again, and again… I did this every time another chair thingy came around. I don’t know why but my brain couldn’t seem to grasp that it just pulled me rather than supported my weight. Eventually, a ski lift person came over (probably after howling with laughter at my expense) and motioned to me that I must stand, not sit, and let it pull me along.
I bet you a gazillion quid that there are people today who still remember the awkward English girl back in Zurich in 1985 who kept falling off the ski lift chair things, embarrassing herself to the nth degree. All I can say is THANK GOD social media didn’t exist back then because that would have gone viral.
6. Stuck a screwdriver in a live plug socket
Let’s blame my mother AGAIN, shall we?
A bit older this time – mid-teens perhaps – and being the smart [cough], independent girl that I was, I wanted to do a bit of DIY and rewire a desk lamp in my bedroom. And when I say rewire, I mean forgo the plug altogether and wire it directly into the back of the plug socket. Do not ask me why.
And I said let’s blame my mother because I explained this to her, asking if we had to turn off the electricity for me to do this?
Either she didn’t hear the words “Into the back of the socket” or I just thought that was a minor detail that didn’t need explaining (let’s help Mum out and go with the latter), but safe to say (see what I did there: “safe”, lol) she told me that no, the electricity doesn’t need to be turned off if you’re rewiring [a plug]. I’d had lessons from my dad about plugs and rewiring (he used to be an electrician when he was young) and had always involved his four kids with his DIY skills and projects.
She probably also told me to wait till she could come up and supervise me, but I’m pretty sure I conveniently forgot that part.
On my merry way I went up the stairs to my room. Unscrewed the plate of the socket (you can see where this is going, can’t you). After a quick look I could see what wires needed unscrewing (yes I’m screaming WHAAAAT in my head right now too), and swiftly put the screwdriver onto the screw that needed loosening.
The shock literally sent me flying backwards across the room as if I’d been punched in the chest by Thor’s hammer. Somehow – don’t ask me how – I didn’t suffer anything worse than the feeling of having been punched. No burns, no weird feeling in my arm afterwards… nothing.
And talking of nothing, that’s exactly what I told my mother. I put the plate back and pretended to be just fiddling with the plug on the lamp. And I never ever mentioned it to her – the shock or the intention to wire it into the plug socket. That’s what I call a lucky escape and particularly stupid. Do NOT attempt this at home, kids.
7. Threw up on my mother’s lap before the plane took off
Poor Mum… we lived in Canada when I was little, between the ages of 3 and 5, and as my two (much older) siblings were doing their end-of-school exams in the UK whilst living with family friends, Mum and I would fly back and forth at the beginning and end of the school holidays (Dad had to stay for work which is why we were living out there anyway). So the flights were reasonably long haul between London and Toronto and at a young age I was already a frequent flyer.
(I think only ever having flown on jumbo jets by the age of 5 explains my reasons for being petrified of flying on light aircraft.)
One time we’d boarded the plane and were sitting with seat belts on, waiting for take off. It seems my stomach decided that this was the moment to throw up; you’d think that being a frequent flyer I’d have known to maybe give some warning and throw up into a sickness bag, but no. No, no, no.
I always had to throw up ON something, and the best place at the time seemed like my mother’s lap, right onto her skirt. (Mum, again, I’m so sorry.) She cleaned herself up, but as anyone who’s been thrown up on will know, the smell doesn’t go until you wash the offending item.
Therefore, my mother had to spend the entire eight-hour flight wearing a vomit-soaked skirt. You know how they say the youngest is often the favourite and the most spoilt child? Not that day, I wasn’t.
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I’ve omitted all the random [read: honest, observant] things I said to strangers or family and friends because no one needs to read just how awful those things were. I’m ashamed of myself. But you just can’t stop bold three year olds speaking their minds, can you…?!
Do you have any similar stories about things you did as a kid? Or have YOUR kid(s) done anything that was particularly stupid or embarrassing (for you OR for them)? Let me know in the comments box below!
Thanks for reading
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