I am not cool.
My teenagers have declared it so. In case I had any hopes of being "in", they assure me I am, in fact, not. I suspected as much when they insisted I drop them off away from the entrance of the Catholic high school on the first day of orientation and stiffened when I reached out to give them a quick kiss before they left. My comment in the store that a particular sweater is cute is the certain kiss of death for any possibility of my daughter buying it. My sons are less worried about my approval, but I do have to temper my enthusiasm about a certain outfit if I want to see it worn. After all, who wants to wear something that Mom might wear or might put on Dad? No sir, not here.
Let me interject the assurance that I do not dress like a reject. I have not worn "gauchos" since junior high and gabardine since 1978, but no matter. The kids must have seen a shoulder-padded dress in my closet (I promise I haven't worn it in 15 years) or seen my Dr. Scholl sandals hidden behind my Candies pumps. So what if I like my blouses to actually match my skirt? Un-tucked used to mean unkempt, but apparently not anymore. Why their aversion to my opinion of clothes? Did they see pictures of me with a perm and a headband? Leggings and a long sweater from the '80s? Did they find my mood ring? At any rate, I am told that my lack of 'coolness' has more to do with my actions than my appearance (thank goodness the kids aren't shallow). I am told that "Everyone" has a later curfew. "Everyone else's parents" let them drive two hours into Michigan for the evening, on the winding highway, in mixed company, with a two day old driver's license. Yes, I am definitely not cool. But do you know what? I don't care.
You see, my job is not to be their friend. They have plenty of those and, believe me, they are not offering my kids sage advice, teaching them to cook, helping them study for their SATs, proofreading their college essays or marching them upstairs to change when a shirt is too tight or pants are too sloppy. I'm secure in my role as nerdy parent. I take pride in the fact that I know where my kids are all the time. I like to call parents before a party and ask if my kids can bring some Pepsi and chips, even if I might hear "Why would we need Pepsi and chips? My husband and I are going out for the evening."
"I am everywhere," I like to tell the kids. "Whatever you do, good or bad, will get back to Dad and me. Please make us proud."
I have to admit I do want the kids to like me, because I really like them. In fact, I really, really like them. Why else would I endure two hour excursions to different sports stores to find "just the right" football glove? Or spend entire Saturdays in a hot, humid YMCA, waiting for my swimmer to swim her three events, which, if done back-to-back, would take only 15 minutes? Why on earth would I, in the early years, choose to spend weeks planning and then months executing intricate home-school plans, teaching the same subjects year after year, if not for love?
I enjoy my teens' company in the evenings, after the younger ones are in bed. We discuss life. We discuss politics of the world . . . and of the team they happen to be playing on. Just the other night my daughter, who was baking, called me into the kitchen to offer me a beater of batter and a spoonful, too. As we stood there licking delicious cream cheese chocolate chip dough and ruminating about various aspects of high school life (I being simultaneously happy that I was not in charge of the clean up and not back in high school), it hit me. Friendship is in the future for us. There are snippets of it now. But my primary job is to help launch. And a parent's failure to parent is a parent's failure to launch, and one of the greatest failures of all.
In the kitchen that evening, my daughter and I laughed over a silly comment someone had made in school, and savored the moment along with the cookie dough. Then I glanced at the clock, and my "Mom hat" was placed firmly back on. "Honey, it's late. Don't you have a test tomorrow? " Of course she rolled her eyes. After all, I am a nerd.
Some things you just don't understand until you experience them. When my teens have teens they will know instinctively why I do what I do and why I don't what I don't. In the meantime, I'll take these precious moments of understanding and friendship, and continue, until necessary, to be un-cool. Actually, it's what I do best.