What's the most cringe-worthy thing you could do to a teenager in public?
Lick your hanky and clean that spot of jam off their cheek?
Pick them up from school in your PJs?
Loudly remind them that bedtime was nine o'clock as they trooped off for a sleepover?
Having recently become Embarrassing Dad to my newly-teenaged son, I find public displays of affection particularly effective.
There are times, of course, when my mere existence is enough to plunge Ben into paroxysms of shame. At those times – at the skate park, for example, or when a clutch of pretty girls pass by – he communicates solely by nod or grunt.
I'm used to it by now (and I remember my own blushing adolescence so vividly that I cut him a lot of slack) so I take it on the chin. The thing I find really hard is remembering not to hug him. He gets a kiss on the forehead at bedtime and a goodbye hug after his weekends with me.
But I just know hugging is Not Cool in most social situations. Ben doesn't even need to tell me, I just feel the please-don't-hug-me-here-or-I-will-die-of-shame vibes, and try to respect them.
But I miss hugging him all the time, that gorgeous small-boy smell of his hair, the lovely feeling of him falling asleep on my shoulder as I carried him home, then carefully tucked him up in bed.
It's partly a boy-thing – some of my mates are not good with physical affection. Give them a man-hug and they go all stiff and awkward, so we stick to brief handshakes and mutterings about football and beer. Also a Brit-thing – we're not exactly renowned for our public-affection-displaying, are we?
But I would like more hugs from my lad. Luckily, being Embarrassing Dad, I'm not overly bothered about being embarrassing – after all, that's sort of my role at the moment. So I'll keep on hugging. Ben will be glad when he's older...
Dan has proved too much of an Embarrassing Dad, so sadly this is his last column for Parentdish.
But you can catch up with his work as a wellbeing coach here.
Read his previous columns here
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