My journey as a father has reached an interesting point. What’s the issue? Well, I live in perpetual fear of embarrassing my children.
According to the stereotype, dads are supposed to be embarrassing. I have no wish to live up to this.
I recently wrote about how I don’t want to be a cool parent. While I stand by that statement, I don’t want to be the mortifyingly embarrassing dad who can’t be trusted to say something stupid in front of his kids and their friends and, looking to the future, their boyfriends.
While I use the plural children, my particular concern at this point in time is with embarrassing Helen. At nine years old, she’s hurtling towards the tweenage years and that is, unquestionably, a sensitive time.
Once upon a time, this simply wasn’t an issue. Young kids seem to have a completely different level of self-awareness.
When they’re young, you’re there to change nappies, clean up their mess, play Duck Duck Goose, provide food and go to the park. When they’re a bit older, you’re there to set up tech devices, drive them around to meet friends and provide money for clothes shopping trips. Yes, with older kids, you’re playing a different game and the opportunities for showing your kids up are considerably greater.
I have learned that public displays of affection should be used very sparingly. A kiss on the forehead at the school gate has been replaced with a quiet word and a blown kiss a couple of hundred metres down the road.
As for telling the kids off in front of their friends, oh my word, this is surely the biggest no-no of all. Discipline is best done in private, so a public telling off is something I’ve only ever done sparingly if there’s a safety issue or something like that. Even so, I’ve discovered the hard way that you pay a price for telling an older kid off in front of their peers.
I’m also finding that I have to give greater consideration to my appearance. As a busy dad, I can’t do the school run in a suit and Liberty-print shirt every day.
Okay, that’s happened about twice in all the years I’ve been doing the school run, but you get the point. Historically I could have done the school run in a clown suit and it wouldn’t have been questioned. I can’t say the same these days.
As it happens, I recently turned up at school in my running gear a while ago. It wasn’t exactly disapproved of, but it was certainly commented on by both Helen and her younger sister Izzy. It was an interesting response considering how many mums turn up on the school run in Lycra pretending they’ve been to the gym.
Tilly Ramsay, daughter of infamous TV chef Gordon Ramsay, once took to Instagram wearing a t-shirt with the slogan ‘please excuse my embarrassing dad‘ emblazoned across the front. Apparently Ramsay senior had been asked not to attend parents’ evening because he’d asked for a selfie with the headteacher. Now that’s embarrassing and, I like to think, completely off the scale compared to anything I have done.
I don’t think my kids will be following in Tilly’s footsteps any time soon. Even so, as we start down the path of the tween years and prepare for the teens, I’m learning when to keep my mouth shut, keeping up with the latest dance crazes and ensuring I don’t dress like the proverbial clown.
To my daughters, I’d like to say this: I won’t get it right all the time. Nonetheless, I will do my best not to show you up. This I promise you.