You may remember this moment. It may still be part of your life. If it is, I’m jealous. But either way it was/is beautiful. One of the very best things about being a parent…
You’re taking your angelic child to school. Of course you’re holding hands. You arrive at the school gates. “Big kiss.”
“Not a big kiss, daddy. The biggest kiss in the whole world.”
“You’re right, sweetheart. Silly daddy. Biggest kiss in the whole universe. Love you millions.”
“Love you more…”
“No, love you more…”
But one day something happens. Suddenly your angel is uncomfortable with public displays of affection. It’s a sad moment…
“Love you, sweetheart. Big kiss for daddy.”
“Not now, dad. I’m late.”
“Oh… All right then. Bye then…”
“Bye, then.” And ever so gently, she slips the knife into your heart.
A couple of years later, that once-angelic child takes the knife again – and gives it a savage twist.
“Well, if that’s what you need for school... I could meet you in town if you like.”
“What?! Are you mad?! Supposing my friends saw us together? I’d never live it down. No-one would ever speak to me again.”
And that’s it. From then on you can hear the frantic conversation from a hundred yards away. “Oh no. Gross. It’s my dad. Quick, cross over before he speaks to me.”
And that’s where I was with Jessica. Go into town with my dad? Yeah, right. I’ll go to a One Direction concert first.
Until she got into university. Until there was the One Shopping List to Rule Them All. Fortunately most of it fell to my wife, but I was ordered to report to the stationery store and empty my wallet.
“Come again,” the manager beamed as we left, already polishing the Company Person of the Decade award.
We staggered down the high street with our lifetime’s supply of lever arch files. Then we came to a corner. Jessica was taking my car – obviously – while I was aiming at the sandwich shop and a sticky reward for generous parenting.
There we stood on the street corner.
“Bye then,” she said.
“Bye then,” I said.
But she didn’t move. She didn’t move.
And then it dawned on me. Jessica was going to let me kiss her.
My teenage daughter was going to let me kiss her. In the town centre. Where other people might see us.
Suddenly my whole life was rewinding. An alley behind Penny Smith’s house: she was looking at me in a funny way. Oh, God. This was it. She wanted me to kiss her. So much for boasting to my mates. This was real. Nervous? No, petrified…
And here I was on a street corner with my teenage daughter. Nervous? No, petrified.
Supposing I’d mis-read the signals? But could this be it? Could one peck on the cheek signal a thaw in our frequently fractious relationship? ‘Go for it,’ a voice inside me yelled.
So I did. I put my arm round her – so far, so good – and kissed her, slightly awkwardly, somewhere on the side of her head. And then I gave her a sort of one-armed hug.
“Bye then, dad. And thanks.”
“Bye, sweetheart. Drive carefully.”
That night Jessica came into the lounge when I was watching TV. “Dad…” Her nice voice – so no fall out from The Kiss then.
“I’ve been thinking. About going to university. I’ll need some new sports stuff. Clothes and things... I know you want me to keep fit. So I’ve made a list.”
She handed me a sheet of A4.What?! I appeared to be equipping Team GB. “Of course, sweetheart,” I stammered. Looked like they’d be expensive kisses…