This morning, as I dropped my sons
off at school, my seven-year-old reached his arms up, grabbed my waist and squeezed.
A micro-second later, he was joined by his four-year-old brother, who had my legs in a bear hug. They both then presented their faces with big puckered lips and waited for me to kiss them. Yes, on the lips
This is our morning ritual. I drop my sons off at school, we hug and kiss each other goodbye.
And then at the end of the day, we greet each other in similar fashion. And then we go home for more hugs and kisses, given the slightest excuse. A spelling done correctly; a hug. Some nice handwriting; a kiss. Their teatime plates cleaned; hugs and kisses.
Oh who am I kidding? Even if they do nothing at all except simply exist, I'm all over them like a wasp on jam.
I live for the hugs and kisses of my children (and from their mother, in case she's reading!)
And I wonder if it's because I was deprived of them when I was growing up. Not from my mum, but from my dad
We didn't do hugs in our family, not even manly ones.
I can't remember ever hugging my dad, or being hugged by him. I know it happened, because I've got the photos to prove it, but they were all taken when I was under five years old. After that, there is no record of any Father-to-Son physical contact.
I sometimes wonder if my dad regrets this. He's from the same generation of Lord Prescott, who revealed on Radio 4's Desert Island Discs that he had never hugged his own two sons.
"I was a bit detached as a father – not indifferent, but kind of detached," he said.
"That comes from a background, a culture. I've got two brilliant sons and I love them to death, but to my great regret I cannot somehow put my arms around my sons.
"I don't know where it comes from, but I very much regret that I never had that. I think that's part of British culture and that was reflected a bit in me and I'm sad about that."
It makes me sad that I can't hug my own father. I remember once telling my mother that I wanted to tell my dad how much I loved him "before it was too late".
Her reply was blunt and dismissive: "Don't be ridiculous. You'd embarrass him. Anyway, he knows. You don't need to tell him."
A few years later, my Dad and I stood side-by-side in the front pew at my mother's funeral - and I still couldn't put an arm around him as his shoulders shook as he fought his grief.
Men like my dad didn't hug. It had nothing to do with a sense of manliness. It was barely a deliberate decision. It just wasn't done.
His father was a bricklayer and heavyweight boxer. He brought his two sons up to be tough. And my dad did the same with me and my three younger brothers.
We were introduced to the concept of the Manly Handshake long before we were teenagers. You could hug your mother, you could kiss you mother, but you shook hands with the Man of the House.
But something went awry with my hugging DNA. I'm not afraid to show physical affection to the males in my life, from my sons to my best friends - and even to my new "virtual" male friends in cyberspace on Twitter, where we often send each other Man-Hugs in 140 characters as a demonstration of support.
But funnily enough, I can't hug my brothers. Is it a working class thing? They all work in the building trade. I think they'd clock me with a lump hammer if I gestured for them to "Come here and let your Big Bruv give you a hug". Although they're very happy to squeeze the life out of their pals when their football team scores!
It was after I went into the touchy-feely world of the media after leaving school 30 years ago that I got in touch with my physically expressive side.
Hugging was just a part and parcel of meeting and greeting. Hell, I even KISS my friends when the circumstances dictate (though mainly after a few drinks with the words "I fuggin' love you you're my besht mate").
But never on the lips, I hasten to add. That particular display of affection is reserved for my wife - and my sons.
And, thankfully, it is reciprocated. At least until they become surly, sulky teenagers - and then all physically contact, no matter how manfully motivated, will be out of the window.
I'd better start teaching them how to shake hands!
- Mr Incredible, The Incredibles
Bob Par and wife Helen are former superheroes, forced to relocate to the suburbs and live as ‘normally’ as possible with children Dash, Violet and Jack-Jack. Easier said than done, and when Bob, aka Mr Incredible is drawn back into his superhero world, he leaves behind three sad little ones who just want their dad back. Lucky Bob realises his mistake, and proves that to be a real superhero, all he needs to do is make his kids proud.<br />
<strong>Favourite quote: </strong>‘I’m sorry. I’ve been a lousy father. So obsessed with being undervalued that I undervalued all of you.’</p>
- Daniel, Love Actually
Dashing Daniel is faced with looking after stepson, Sam, all alone after his wife, Sam’s mum, dies. He seems clueless, but gets better as time goes on, doting over the little guy and helping him snag his crush at school, learn the drums and come to terms with losing his mum. We challenge anyone not to well up at the end when Sam calls Daniel ‘dad’ for the first time.</p>
<strong>Favourite quote:</strong> ‘This stepfather thing seems so suddenly to somehow matter like it never did before.’</p>
- Alfie Moon, Eastenders
So he isn’t technically Tommy’s dad, but we all saw loveable Alfie’s heart break when he thought the little man had died during the baby cot death swap saga. And when Tommy was returned to Kat and Alfie and he bought him a mini football strip to match his own pyjamas, he went straight to the top of the list for sheer cuteness.</p>
- George Banks, Father of the Bride
Anyone with a grown up daughter will relate to poor George. He's put well and truly through the emotional and financial ringer as he prepares to walk his not-so-little-girl, Annie, down the aisle, facing the reality that his once baby girl is ready to face the world alone.<br />
<strong>Favourite quote:</strong> ‘I suddenly realised what was happening. Annie was all grown up and was leaving us, and something inside began to hurt.’</p>
- Chris Gardener, The Pursuit of Happiness
Chris’ wife has walked out, and he’s skint. Faced with a life where he and his son, Christopher, are broke and homeless, he takes on an unpaid internship at a stockbrokers to learn the trade and make a mint, while teaching his son impeccable moral standards along the way to boot.<br />
<strong>Favourite quote:</strong> ‘I made up my mind that when I had children, my children were going to know who their father was.’</p>
- Martin Crane, Frasier
Down-to-earth Martin likes the simple life with minimal fuss, which is made tricky when he shares a flat with grown-up son, Frasier, who is a fan of the finer things in life, just like his brother, Niles. In one memorable episode, Frasier throws out Martin’s beloved leather chair, which upsets lovely Martin as it has huge sentimental value. Frasier realises his mistake and sets off to make amends, realising his dad isn’t all too bad in the process.</p>
- Homer Simpson, The Simpsons
Hapless but hilarious dad Homer might not always put his kids Bart, Lisa and you-never-quite-know-what-she’s-thinking Maggie first, but he always comes through for them in the end. And you couldn’t help but love him when he worked two jobs and barely slept to buy little Lisa a pony.<br />
<strong>Favourite quote:</strong> ‘Well, it's 1am. Better go home and spend some quality time with the kids.’</p>
- Mick, Gavin and Stacey
The loveable dad to Essex boy Gavin, Mick is the long-suffering husband to Gavin’s mum, Pam, and puts up with long drives to see future daughter-in-law Stacey’s family in sunny Barry. He has, as character Ness would say, ‘a cracking’ relationship with Gavin, cemented in the touching scene where the pair discuss a very sad Gavin’s possible infertility.</p>
- Charles Ingalls, aka, Pa, Little House on the Prairie
The pillar of the family’s small farming community, Pa Ingalls juggled life on the ranch and raising three girls, along with sorting scuffles in neighbouring families. The family didn’t have a lot of money, but were rich in love and respect for each other as they faced a tough old life on the American frontier, with Pa leading the charge.</p>
- Ben Harper, My Family
Moody Ben is dad to hapless Nick, sharp-tongued Janey and brainbox Michael, who is far too clever for Ben and outwits him on a daily basis. All he wants in life is a bit of peace and quiet, and his wife, Susan, to stop cooking such awful meals. He gets his wish briefly when Nick and Janey move out, but in comes lodger Abi, and Janey is never too far away with her son, Kenzo, to disturb the peace…</p>
- Daniel Hillard / Mrs. Euphegenia Doubtfire, Mrs Doubtfire
Poor Daniel seems to attract trouble, and when wife Miranda kicks him out and takes custody of kids, Lydia, Christopher and Natalie, he walks into even more trouble, by dressing as an ageing grandmother and starting work as the family’s housekeeper in disguise. Extreme? Yes. But no one can argue this dad won’t go the extra mile for his children.</p>
<strong>Favourite quote:</strong> ‘I admire that honesty, Natalie, that's a noble quality. Never lose that.'</p>
- Geppetto, Pinocchio
Inventor Gepetto is desperate for his wooden puppet, Pinocchio, to become a real boy, and a real son for him. His wish is granted, and despite Pinocchio lying, sorry, fibbing (children’s film) regularly, his dedicated father, Gepetto, is always his biggest supporter. When Pinocchio finally sheds his wooden body, Gepetto’s dedication pays off, and he is rewarded with an, altogether now, ‘real boy!’.</p>
<strong>Favourite quote: </strong>‘You're alive! And, and you are a real boy!’</p>
- Pete Brockman, Outnumbered
Pete and wife, Sue, struggle - daily - to keep their brood of three in order. Most of time Sue, and especially Pete fail miserably, as children Jake, Ben and Karen outwit and run rings around them, leaving you wondering: ‘Who are the grown-ups here?’</p>
- Professor Henry Jones Senior, Indiana Jones films
He might not have the best relationship with son, Henry ‘Indiana’ Jones, but Henry Senior clearly had a big impact on a little Henry growing up, as he follows an identical career path as his dad. Despite huge disagreements and eye rolling, you can tell these two have a real soft spot for each other.</p>
<strong>Favourite quote:</strong> ‘Oh, yeah? And who's gonna come to save you, JUNIOR?’</p>