Brooklyn Beckham apparently winces every time his old man takes him to school. So embarrassed is he by David's habit of leaning out of the car window and loudly declaring his love for the lad, that he has instructed his father to drop him off round the corner, where no one can witness the regular morning humiliation of being associated with such a loser.

Never mind wondering why a chap approaching his 16th birthday can't make his own way to school, this little insight into the domestic life of the Beckhams is particularly revealing. Not least in its demonstration of the singular truth of parenthood: it doesn't matter who you are, your teenage children will find you ridiculous. This, after all, is David Beckham, the object of a million female (and almost as many male) fantasies. This is the man whose presence in the audience at the Baftas seemed to draw the attention of the cameras far more than any of the A-list stars whose job it is to seize the interest of the lens. This is the man who, despite being photographed mercilessly for the past 20 years, has never looked anything other than chic, slick and handsome. A man, moreover, who clearly dotes on his offspring. If the coolest father in the country is deemed an embarrassment by his children, what hope for the rest of us?

I can clearly remember the moment when I realised that - like Beckham - I had become an intolerable social stigma for my children. With much shallower reserves of cool to fall back on, it happened earlier for me, at my daughter's 12th birthday party. She had a dozen friends round and I suggested I would organise a disco (I think my very use of the word "disco" was enough to send the poor thing into a tailspin of mortification). I said I would man the decks (again, my terminology did not go down well). It was as the dancing began, however, that I realised my lively, gregarious girl wasn't joining in. Rather, she was curled up in a ball in the corner, hoping that if she couldn't see the world, the world couldn't see her.

The problem, I was later informed, was my movement. Appreciating that your father dancing is not the first thing most 12-year-old girls would wish to happen at their birthday party, I restricted myself to the occasional nod of the head. I was not exactly channelling my inner Wayne Sleep across the living room carpet. But even this, what I considered subtle and appropriate appreciation of the rhythm, was enough to reduce my then 12-year-old to a puddle of self-consciousness. Sensing that my presence was not exactly getting the party started, I beat a shamed retreat. It was as I shut the door behind me and heard a guffaw rising from the assembled company that I appreciated quite how badly I had misjudged my connection with the youth.


For my sons, it was even worse. They had the weekly trial of having me on the touchline. At least when Brooklyn Beckham's dad stands there during a match and makes a comment about tactics or the referee's competency, the lad's team mates might recognise that his father probably knows what he is talking about. There was never that reassurance for my boys. Though I never quite reached the level of a fellow parent at a school rugby match I was watching, who stormed on to the pitch and attempted to make a citizen's arrest of an opposing player who had just flattened their son, my vocal interventions clearly had the same effect on the boys as my movement had on their sister.

Though, actually, it was something that happened on the way back from a match that is most indelibly etched on my sons' psyches. Driving past a group of kids, one of them threw a stone at the car. I stopped immediately and leant out of the window to confront the culprit. Apparently my words of remonstration were enough to have the boys in the back quivering in shame. Though my memory is of a manly verbal dusting down, they recall me saying, before winding up my window and beating a hasty retreat: "You better... you better, erm, watch it... or... or... else." An intervention, apparently, which placed them in an intolerable position of embarrassment and humiliation.

Still, they have had their revenge. My daughter is these days a regular on the comedy circuit. And one of the characters in her show is a motivational speaker who issues a lengthy diatribe about the deprivations of her background, blaming her upbringing "in a happy, secure home by a mother and father who loved me" for her failures in life. I assumed when I saw it that she was giving an ironic gloss on the self-improvement industry. But now, having heard Brooklyn Beckham's heartfelt lament about his dad's kindliness, I'm not so sure.

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