Here's a little warning for prospective fathers: if you are the shy, retiring type, you can't expect to be blessed with shy, retiring children. In fact, you are almost guaranteed to end up with a troupe of inveterate show-offs. I think it may be genetic - biology's way of ensuring that each family unit has at least one member who is capable of asking a stranger for directions - but it is certainly beyond your control.
My four-year-old son has been embarrassing me all his life. As a baby he pulled the hair of whoever was sitting in front of us on the bus. A surprisingly high proportion of bus users don't find this sort of thing remotely charming. He also likes a good old-fashioned singsong. Last weekend he ordered me to sing "Jesus's Love Is Very Wonderful" outside the shops. Then he forced me to "do the actions". The other day I heard him singing a ballad of his own composition to the new baby, called "You Will Be The Last One To Die", and I knew it wouldn't be long before I was singing it with him in Pizza Express. If you're not doing anything next Saturday, come and check us out.
The one-year-old already looks set to outdo his brother in attracting unwanted (by me) attention. When we go out he seems to know everyone already. He also has a weird new talent: whistling. I don't know if you've ever seen a one-year-old whistle - I couldn't whistle until I was about 14 - but the effect is rather more creepy than cute, a bit like watching a monkey smoke a pipe. Whatever you think of it, it really pulls in the crowds.
I see other shy, retiring fathers out there, shuffling their feet and staring at the floor as their offspring wipe their noses on the sleeves of strangers or get naked in museums. Sometimes we exchange a look of understanding, but we never speak the way mothers do. When it comes to fathers, it's every man for himself.
Of course, it's only a matter of time before the tables are turned and I become deeply embarrassing to my children. That day of sweet revenge cannot come soon enough. This is an early warning to my elder son: I am going to don a silly costume at your 16th birthday party, and I am going to dance in front of your girlfriend. And when I'm finished, I am going to point at you and shout "That was for making me pray in the queue for the water slide!"Reuse content