I remember the first time I became Embarrassing Dad. We were in a skate park in Maidstone (long story), and Ben asked me to sit on a bench nearby – just close enough for security, but far enough not to ruin his cool skater-dude reputation.
I took it on the chin, retired to the bench and read my paper, with frequent nervous glances at the hulking teenagers flying past my eight-year-old lad.
I knew it was a milestone; the first time he felt confident enough to negotiate all those big kids on his own. But it stung a little, because I also knew it would be the first of many mini-rejections on his bumpy road to manhood.
And so it proved...
Last summer, Ben and a mate were obsessed with skating. All he wanted to do, every weekend, was hang out in skate parks. So we did. And it was great, because he always wanted me to take him (and to watch him, of course – kids never grow out of that), but once we were there, he wouldn't speak to me. Not a word.
So I'd have to sit in these ugly, noisy, concrete hellholes for hours. (Have you spent many leisure hours in a skate park lately? No? Lucky you.) Sweary testosterone-fuelled boys milling around me, boards flying past my head, watching Ben and pal out of the corner of my eye, praying no major bits got broken or gashed, failing miserably to blend in with my novel/psychology book/Guardian – and the little so-and-so wouldn't even speak to me!
Of course, I do remember my own Embarrassing Dad, who once stripped naked in the middle of my local lido while changing (the horror – still makes me shudder), wore sandals with socks, and had a particular liking for multicoloured polo-necks and flares.
So he drove me nuts, my old man, especially when I was a hypersensitive teen and wanted the world to swallow me up on a daily basis, as one excruciating embarrassment followed the next. But of course I loved him, like I know Ben loves me.
I just wish he'd speak to me, in public, when other teens are nearby, instead of pretending I'm just some beardy weirdo he's never met.
Is that too much to ask?
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