"My life," I said, "was lonely and listless since I last left you. And now that we are together again, I am finally complete."
"Yeah, yeah ... sure," my daughter said.
"Do you think this is a good look?" I asked while positioning a tiny tiara on my head as we got out of the car to go into a store.
"Daddy so pretty," my 2-year-old chuckled.
My oldest disagreed. "Oh, my gosh dad, you cannot wear that into the store. You do not look good in princess crowns," she said.
Well, that's just a lie.
We both know that I look good in princess crowns. Could it be that I am already an embarrassment to her? She's only 5.
With a deep breath, I tossed the crown into the backseat, and I assured myself that all was well. It's all a part of growing up, right? Parents embarrass their kids. And I've seen enough sitcoms to know that efforts not to be an embarrassment will likely make things worse.
I noticed this again when I went to pick her up from a summer program. As soon as I saw her, I gave her a big hug and kiss, and I told her I missed her.
"OK," she said while pushing my head away, never making eye contact.
Her eyes darted around the room. It seemed I was less beloved father and more TV crime drama investigator pressing her for information. "Life on the streets could get very dangerous if you go blabbing to the wrong people," I suppose she'd say while flicking a cigarette into the street. "Take a hike, copper."
I looked around. No one was within earshot, and no one was watching us.
There are a few avenues I could have taken in that moment. I recall the anxiety of being in a strange place, meeting new people. As a kid, I had a thick shell and dreaded moments like those. To overcome those feelings and to discover how great it is to be out and alive is extraordinary.
And it is crushing for a parent to come bumbling in and embarrass you. I remember all of that. It's the worst. It's one of those moments where you think to yourself: When I am a parent, I will never do that to my kids.
But then I became a parent. And I did what any good parent, or TV cop, would do. I made the moment as awkward as possible.
I squeezed her cheeks.
"My life," I said, "was lonely and listless since I last left you. And now that we are together again, I am complete."
Her eyes got big. "Yeah, yeah ... sure," she said slowly pulling away as I hugged her.
After a moment, I relented.
Later in the car, I apologized for being over the top and explained how it was part of my job as a dad.
"You'll be embarrassed by me a lot in your life," I said. "But you shouldn't be embarrassed about love. Be embarrassed about what I wear or my bad jokes, but don't be embarrassed that you have a father who loves you."
"Well, OK. I'll try," she said. "But do you have to kiss and hug me when other kids are around?"
"Yes I do," I replied.
David Manley is a husband, father and an editor at The Canton Repository. Share your stories with him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter: @DaveManley.