Maybe I was being a bit Daddy Cool. That might be it?
There I was, walking my then 12-year old daughter and my then 11-year-old son down to the bus stop to meet the school bus. We were in good time, the sun was shining bright on one of those pet winter days, and I just felt good. With my kids, a bounding Bella pulling on her lead all set for a good walk on the North Beach afterwards.
Life was beautiful.
I was looking at my gorgeous daughter so tall and blossoming, in her navy Superdry hoodie and skinny jeans, her tawny hair up in a ponytail to stop her fiddling with it in school. And driving her teacher nuts. Coming to the end of primary school and thoughts turning with trepidation and excitement to secondary and the changes ahead.
My son yet again in his soft cotton blue Nike pants with the orange pocket — which picks up the orange Nike hoodie. He swears he doesn’t give a damn about cool clothes and haircuts that have names, even if he can wax forever about the latest Messi boot slash or stripe. He had also dismissed the mint green twill chinos laid out for him this morning as “too girly”.
All was good and I was a bit animated, maybe that was it, just as this lad in his mid-teens was passing us on a pretty swish mountain bike. I’m not sure what I was even saying exactly, just bantering away, but it must have been something to do with the way I was saying it.
After he passed us, both of my kids frowned at me in unison.
“Dad,” said Keelin, “don’t do that!”
“Talk loud like that,” says Oran.
It had to be something to do with Teenage Cycle Boy, something to do with him just being there and hearing me going on.
I had embarrassed them somehow. I couldn’t see how from my perspective. But maybe from their’s … See? I’ was on this: I could feel a timely Daddy Talk coming on.
That’s me, you see. So tuned in, alert and attentive to my burgeoning offspring and their needs, unspoken and spoken. Always ready with guidance and advice at this sensitive time. A life-times’s hard-earned wisdom distilled into a few carefully chosen words.
The Daddy Lecture.
“I embarrassed you did I, because I was talking just as that boy was passing by? But think about it, who is he, do you know him? Do you think he was listening to me, thinking about what I was saying, one way or the other? And thinking I am cool, or uncool? And if he was, why would that bother me? Or make any difference to you …”
“No, that’s not the point,” my daughter cut in.
I already couldn’t even remember what the boy on the bike looked like … short curly hair, black T-shirt, that’s all I could recall.
“Do you know that boy?
“I don’t,” she said, in exasperation, ”but that’s not it .”…
“Why would you be worried what a stranger thinks of you so,” I shot back. “Now if you did know him , or he was friend, maybe …”
My daughter was lacerating me with a look that couldn’t have been more malevolent if it came from Cyclops of the X-Men on full beam.
“You just can’t go on like that IN PUBLIC!” she shouted.
The boy was silent all the while, but the way he looked at me, I knew he agreed.
End of lecture. We continued walking.
At the bus stop, I barely got to rub the back of his head and say “Have a good day” before he was darting up the steps without a backwards glance.
She actually recoiled slightly as I moved to say goodbye and see her off. More embarrassment. This time for me as well. My smiling cherub of yore now couldn’t wait to get shot of Daddy Cool. Daddy Fool, more like.
The unchanging, unflinching admiration of my dog offered some consolation now — but not really — as we headed for the beach.
On the strand I let Bella loose. She did her usual scuttling, shuffling and sniffing and then spotted two boys, they looked about 12, over sitting on the low rock wall near the harbour.
She belted straight over towards them and I knew by her she is going to give them an earful. Now 20 yards from them, she stopped and despite my shouts and calls to come back she was barking in that high-pitched way typical of her majority terrier breed.
I apologised to the boys, who looked at me in that inscrutable way kids do sometimes, that can make you feel a bit naff. And that little exchange of knowing smiles between them and I knew my obsolescence was total.
Maybe my minor embarrassment now in front of these boys with my barking nut of a dog was a bit like what the kids felt when Daddy Cool was doing his thing on the way to the bus stop. Boy, I can’t wait till their teen years really get going. Things could really get embarrassing.