Welcome to Best Dad I Can Be – a weekly look at the funny side of family life from a Dad’s point of view. This is a blog that answers the questions all parents are asking themselves…

  • What do I do if my seven year old is arrested as a terrorist?
  • How do I react the first time my teenage son comes home drunk?
  • And – inevitably – is she really going out with him?
  • Best Dad I Can Be covers nine years of family life – from nativity plays and party bags to teenage angst and slamming doors. The latest posts – and some of my favourites from the early years – are below…

    Should I Kiss my Sons?

    photo (13)Sorry about this, but I’m going to have a rant. I know this blog is supposed to be light-hearted; five minutes mild amusement in the middle of a stressful day and all that. But I need to have a rant.

    And the rant is about kissing. Specifically, men kissing their sons.

    I went into town on Saturday. Popped in to Ben before I went. Quietly, obviously. Can’t disturb a man when he’s killing aliens. “See you later,” I said. “Just going into town.” And I bent down and kissed the top of his head. “Love you lots,” I said and went.

    I came home and did some work online. And somehow I stumbled across an article on a site called Babble. It’s something to do with Disney, so you’d assume a few people read it. Its basic premise was simple: American men stop kissing their sons – as the article put it, ‘by the time the kid is barely old enough to pee in the potty.’

    I can honestly say that I’ve simply never thought about kissing my sons. I do it all the time. But the more I thought about the post, the stronger my feelings became. And the next time Ben came downstairs to re-fuel (I didn’t have to wait long) I kissed him again.

    Ah, you say. That’s all very nice – but it doesn’t count. It’s in the privacy of your own home.

    Fair point. Then again I gave him a lift to school the other day. Drove into the school car park. Put my arm round him, pulled him towards me, kissed him on the top of his head. “See you at teatime,” I said. “Have good day. Love you.”

    Tom? He’s a bit more reticent than Ben but hell, he’s an engineer. He doesn’t really do emotion. He does equations with that big, squiggly F at the front of them.

    But if he walked into my office right now I’d simply stand up and hug him without thinking. I might kiss him as well – and I’d do that without thinking. Tough to kiss him on the top of his head though – damn it, he’s taller than me.

    Let me tell you what else I’m prepared to do with my sons. Cry.

    Three years ago Tom applied to Cambridge University. This was the little boy I’d taken to nursery, the child I’d read stories with, the teenager who’d caused us to march up to school and explain that no, he wasn’t falling behind – he was so far in front he was bored to tears.

    So when he got his offer letter I hugged him, I kissed him and I burst into tears. What else was I going to do?

    What about my Dad? I know he loved me. Now I’m a Dad I know he loved me to the ends of the earth. Did he ever say ‘I love you?’ No, of course he didn’t. Because his generation didn’t do that.

    At the end of my second year at university I went to Germany to see my girlfriend. Dad took me to the railway station. It was the first time I’d been away on my own. Suddenly we both realised we had to say goodbye. Significant goodbye. We’d never done it before. Of course we didn’t hug. We shook hands. I’d like to think ‘shall I hug him’ ran through my Dad’s mind. I know it didn’t.

    But our generation of Dads is lucky enough to be able to say ‘I love you’ to our sons, to hug them without thinking about it – and yes, to kiss them. It’s a precious gift. Don’t you dare waste it…

    Thanks for reading this post. If you enjoyed it, you can buy the ‘Best Dad I Can Be’ sample book with 27 of my favourite posts covering all the years I’ve been writing: it’s all of 77p on your Kindle. Alternatively the first chronological book, ‘Half Dad Half Fish’ which covers the time when the children were 9, 7 and 4 is available here

    In Praise of Scabs

    My wife eventually decided this was the best medicine...

    My wife eventually decided this was the best medicine…

    Let’s start off with the good news. My wife can still eat. She can still focus on the X-Factor. Her ankles seem to be working.

    That’s pretty much where it ends. She doesn’t feel well. Coming down with something: head, shoulders, back, stomach… They all ache.

    Of course, I am the very embodiment of the solicitous carer. I flutter back and forth with cups of tea, painkillers and those pillows you whack in the microwave and then wrap round your neck.

    But there’s nothing I can do about her knee. [Read more...]

    On Dating. Or Not…

    Old fashioned phoneScene: The Hall. Lounge and dining room opening off. Mid 70’s/early 80’s décor. A bookcase largely filled with Reader’s Digest editions. An atlas. The Bible. An encyclopaedia. There is a telephone table with a two-tone grey telephone. On a shelf underneath are a phone directory and a three inch thick Yellow Pages.

    A boy enters. He is 14 or 15. He wears a mustard polo-neck and brown corduroy trousers. He looks around furtively. Unbeknown to him his father is listening in the lounge. His mother is in the dining room – also listening. Nervously he picks up the phone. He puts it down. He counts to three. Grabs the phone: rapidly dials a number. [Read more...]

    Alone with my Friends

    Red Wine200 miles there, 200 miles back and Tom is safely delivered to university. Jessica went weeks ago – and that’s the last we’ll see of them until Christmas.

    Miss them? Of course I’ll miss them. Astonishingly we appear not to have done what Master Larkin suggested and they’re rather pleasant young adults. Intelligent, witty (yes, obviously with added sarcasm) and good company round the dinner table.

    But sadly, far too fond of my wine. [Read more...]

    The Geometry Set Turns Full Circle

    Somewhere around Year Three, I think...

    Somewhere around Year Three, I think…

    It starts on day one. The day you hold your child’s hand, kiss her, shed a tear, kiss her again and tell her, “You are the cutest button in the universe and Mummy and Daddy love you squillions.” Then you kiss her again because it’s so long since the last one and hand her over to school. But not before saying…

    “There, you’ve got your school bag. And your snack. And your beautiful smile that all your teachers are going to love so much.” And for the next 2,500 school days the die is cast… [Read more...]

    Billy Two Mates

    Welcome to the 20th Century...

    Welcome to the 20th Century…

    I suppose he’s out there somewhere. The man – and it’s an absolute certainty that it’s a man – who buttonholes you at a party, eyes shining with the fervour of the true believer and says, “I’m absolutely passionate about LinkedIn.”

    Along with “I missed my children growing up” that must be one of the saddest statements a man can make. But there you go; there are plenty of them. 500+ connections and a gold star for sending ‘networking messages.’ Or spam, as normal people call them. [Read more...]

    The Shaving Cream Always Rises

    suribachi_shaving_bowl_1tThere aren’t going to be many more of these rite of passage moments so I’d better make the most of this one…

    The shadow on my youngest son’s upper lip has been growing darker. Nope, it’s never going to rival Jessica’s tattoo and tongue-stud in the school disapproval stakes – but it’s time to teach Ben how to shave.

    And I’m determined to do it.

    Somehow, I kept missing out with Tom. How babies are made? School did that one. Dating girls? 10,000 episodes of Friends. And, “Have you started shaving?” I asked one morning. [Read more...]

    “Dad, I’ve Been Robbed…”

    It looked like this...

    It looked like this…

    Our last full day in Nantes. My wife and I are having a discussion: that is, she’s telling me what’s going to happen.

    “So you’re coming to hear me speak at the conference?”


    “Why not?”

    “Because it’s the same speech you gave yesterday. Alright, it’s a different audience but there’s a limit to how much excitement a woman can take.”

    Do I detect a hint of sarcasm? In a word, yes. [Read more...]

    En Francais…

    Yep, one was enough...

    Yep, one was enough…

    We’re in the departure lounge at Manchester airport. 90 minutes and we’ll be in the air. Next stop Nantes. Jane and Ben are looking forward to a really pleasant flight. They’re in 14A and 14B. Owing to a disagreement with the online check-in (thanks, flybe) I’m in 21B. “But you can still pay for our drinks, Dad.”

    Who are we meeting in Nantes? Our beloved daughter. And there she is. [Read more...]

    He’s Back. But She’s Gone…

    Trenitalia“Dad, what are you doing?”

    “I’m cutting some cheese. What’s it look like? And before you ask, it’s my first piece of cheese. And my first glass of red wine.”

    “I didn’t mean that.” Then what can she mean? Jessica is wearing her I’ll-organise-your-life look. It’s never good news… [Read more...]