David Beckham bent on being a cool dad

David Beckham is suave, sophisticated, a world-class athlete, and a humanitarian. Now all he needs to do is not embarrass his teenage son. That might be the hardest feat of all.

Matt Dunham/AP
ormer English national soccer team captain David Beckham poses for photographers after speaking at a press conference to mark his 10 years as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF and to launch '7', a new fund for children in danger across the globe, in London, Monday, Feb. 9, 2015.

Soccer star David Beckham is finding that it's easier to make points on the field than with a teenager who finds public affection from his father to be a red-card-worthy offense.

Mr Beckham's son, Brooklyn is about to turn 16 next month, just like my son Avery, so I feel a kinship with this soccer dad’s plight.

Beckham told ITV's Good Morning Britain that his son requested that he park around the corner from school when dropping him off so other teens won’t witness dad’s mortifying habit of kissing him and shouting “I love you” after his departing son.

Been there, done that three times now so I think I can help a daddy out on this one.

We have four sons, ages 11 to 21, and my husband and I have attempted every permutation of the embarrassing farewell at the drop-off.

While I admit to publicly hugging a son or two despite their protestations, once they came to me and told me that by disregarding their feelings I was hurting them, I realized that hugs and professions of love are for both parties to enjoy.

Morphing into what my sons referred to at various times as “one of those needy, stalker moms” was not the parent I wanted to be.

However, my husband is an old school diehard dad who will gleefully swoop in and bear hug a son who is shrinking from his touch in front of a girlfriend or teen pack.

Beckham is taking a page from my husband’s playbook by acquiescing to the request of dropping a son off around the corner, but still making the drive-by and shouting, “I LOVE YOU!”

“He's at the age now where he does not want me to drop him off outside school and things like that, which I definitely do anyway,” Beckham told an iTV reporter this week. “He said 'Can you drop me round the corner?' and I wasn’t happy about it because I’d got up at seven in the morning to take him to school. So I dropped him ‘round the corner. As he was walking into his school I opened the window and shouted 'I love you' to him.”

He adds, “So it didn’t go down very well. But made him smile, you know, a few days later.”

Watching the video of the interview, I recalled many times with our four sons that my husband refused to deviate from the pattern by pulling exactly that kind of move.

While teenagers are adaptable and may laugh a few days later, what I have seen most times is the look of fury and mortification they take away.

Later, some teens, my sons included, have told me they feel as if the parent is breaking a deal with them by agreeing to drop them off away from school in order to respect their feelings and then performing the gotcha drive-by.

To share that critique with a parent directly is a moment of risk-taking on the teen’s part because in most cases, they may not want to hurt their parent’s feelings. 

It is also a moment of honesty and an opportunity for a father and son to build some mutual respect and trust.

For some families, humor is a bond. Beckham’s salvo might serve well if that’s the case for him and Brooklyn.

For others it might entrench a feeling in the teenager that his or her parent isn’t respecting their feelings, and they may feel justified the next time in hurting the feelings of that parent.

I have seen that happen in my own home and it has led to bruised egos, choosing not to be open with dad, and, in some cases, confrontation.

In my experience it can also backfire spectacularly when your son gets a girlfriend and is showing affection in public in ways you may wish he would curb.

Be prepared for the reversal of, "Oh so now hugging and kissing in public is a bad thing?"

Been there. Done that argument on multiple occasions with three of four sons.

If ignoring your teenager’s wishes for curbing public affection works for you, and your child is showing no ill effects, that’s a big parenting win.

If, however, you are seeing behavior worthy of a red card coming out of that strategy, it may be time to look at another way to reach your goal of showing affection and getting some in return.

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