I could fill many pages with the profound truths of the parenting experience. The second I held my newborn daughter in my arms on August 23, 2004, I felt both empowered and daunted by the task at hand. Most of us would agree that we are not adequately prepared for the role of PARENT and we sometimes question our decisions along the way. The first lesson the new parent learns is that few issues are of the clear-cut, black or white variety and raising a child is not as easy as expected. However, children are precious gifts from God and we pour into them our love, time, resources and occasionally a little wisdom. In turn, they love us unconditionally and embrace us as both Superman and Mother Teresa.
And then they turn on us. Regardless of the relationship we have with our children, at some point they will become utterly and wholly embarrassed by us and we will begin a dreaded free-fall from our esteemed perch. We will be relegated to a category of “uncool” which will encompass our words, appearance, music choices, wardrobe, the way we walk, the way we breathe….you get the picture.
When I was a teenager, my mother’s crimes against humanity involved her use of odd or slightly “off” words for common items or acts. For example, instead of “throw up” she would use the not-so-easy-on-the-ears term “urp.” There was nothing that made me red in the face more than hearing this word roll off her tongue in all its onomatopoeia glory. As I write this, I’m struck by the question of why my mother would ever need to refer to the act of regurgitation in front of others outside our family but c’est la vie.
I also remember the devastation of seeing her in a bright yellow blazer which taunted me with its humiliating, well, yellowness. I remember getting reprimanded by my father for criticizing my mother’s clothing choices (although I secretly think he hated that blazer as much as I did). I, however, thought I was advancing her fashion aptitude by picking her apart each morning.
Of course, I blame my temporary rudeness on a not-yet-developed frontal lobe. I wouldn’t change a thing about my childhood and have long since pardoned my mom and dad for offenses that existed largely in my own insecure head. Now that the shoe is on the other foot, I can only imagine the ridicule I will face in the years to come. And, trust me, I already feel like I live with a 15 year old so I’ve given up hope that we will be spared tumultuous teenage years.
In fact, Bailey is developing a critical eye which seems to be largely focused on me. About a year ago, Bailey told me she didn’t like one of my outfits as it made me look too much like a boy. While I scoffed at the idea of a 6 year old telling me what not to wear, I’ll admit I’ve never worn it since.
Yep, I am starting to believe that our cool days are nearly over, it’s just a matter of when our children will notice. I told Jason just last week that he may have set the crushing events in motion by resurrecting his 1992-purchased Doc Marten boots for snow-play and then subtly adding them back into his daily wardrobe. I argued that if he doesn’t nip this behavior in the bud, he is mere months away from debuting black socks and sandals. As for me, I try to keep up with pop culture but find myself more and more concerned with the negative messages that seem to permeate current music, TV shows and movies. I also find myself criticizing shoe or clothing trends and gravitate toward the safe and classic choices rather than the “what’s hot right now” looks.
So, you see, we are simply waiting and wondering when we’ll enter start to experience the assault and how we’ll handle it. Whatever the future holds for me, I hope to endure with the consistency and sense of humor that has sustained me through difficult parenting moments thus far. I remember being crushed by my then 4 year old’s announcement that she was running away. I felt as though her desire to leave negated every blissful moment we’d spent together up to that point. I wanted to cry, but instead I simply helped her pack a suitcase and lovingly inquired about where she would stay and how she would get there. Of course, she never even made it to the front door and my ability to calmly and coolly call her bluff helped us both get through that momentary challenge. I realize adolescent challenges will put this incident to shame, I hope to similarly keep my head in the game and my focus on the big picture in order to avoid inadvertently enabling problematic behavior.
What I WILL not do is compensate for my own hurt feelings by molding myself into a friend instead of a parent. When it comes right down to it, I’m okay with being uncool. I’m okay with being embarrassing. I’m okay with being the parent who doesn’t let my kids do “anything fun.” I will stand my ground until we all emerge on the other side of the journey as happy and smiling adults. The day will come when we’ll be cool again. This cool may not be the same kind of cool as in our adolescence, but will be made of genuine respect and affection.
With a pre-schooler and a first grader, I may be getting ahead of myself in worrying about where I am on the road to uncool in their eyes. However, I like to be prepared and have my game plan ready so I recently asked my daughter to describe for me the most embarrassing thing her dad or I could do. She thought for a long while and finally responded with “I would not like it if you ran naked through my school.”
Well folks, I think we might be safe for a little while longer. But I do have my eye on a yellow blazer that will look great with Jason’s Doc Marten’s so check back with me next year.
I leave you with this cartoon which rings so true to life. Enjoy!