The other day, my Brooklyn-ite brother sent me a photo of a local cafe, knowing it would be right up my alley. While I have no idea why they call their place “Baba Cool,” I was more than happy to assign the label to myself, regardless of how true/aspirant the title might be.
It got me thinking about whether “Cool Parent” is an oxymoron or something one can actual attain – and does it really matter?
Is it cool that I love my shiny rocket ship of a minivan and will proudly talk it up to anyone who will listen? Cool that as parents, we sing loudly in the car, cranking up Roxette’s “Dangerous” as O oh-so-seriously sings along? That we consider the public library an exciting destination or that I believe in instilling in my family the virtues of the perfect slice of pizza? Is it cool the kids and I Viennese waltz around the basement or play by the light of our disco ball? I think so – but then again, my opinion of what’s cool likely differs from that of my kids – or really, from most people.
I am not afraid to admit I was a “late bloomer”. Even as a child, I marched to my own beat which thankfully my own parents supported. Not every mother would be thrilled her 5-year-old daughter dressed herself as an 1890’s-style “Newsie” way before Christian Bale made the concept cool. Before the phrase “hipster” even existed, I thought suspenders, a Hanes white undershirt and a newsboy cap were just my type. As I grew older, the thrift store became my main outfitting source and my own personal brand was something my mother once (affectionately?) described as “a little bit off”. I was doing cuffed jeans and grandpa sweaters, saddle shoes and Members Only jackets back when every other girl was wearing tube tops and shrugs. My siblings used to tease that you can tell a fad is dead when I started to embrace it — but maybe I was just (a few decades) ahead of the curve.
So while pop culture’s orbit may have (however temporarily) synced up with mine, I still don’t know I would ever claim to be “cool”. Esoteric jokes crack me up, and nothing beats some good word play. I can be nerdy and cheesy and dry. I’m a sucker for choreographed dancing, get emotional when I hear the perfect chords together or see the vibrant hues of winter sunset. When O and I get our makeshift Rube Goldberg contraption to work, I don’t know which of us is more excited. I own four (4!) t-shirts with cats on them. So….like I said, not cool.
But does it really matter?
Do our parents ever seem cool to us? Probably not. My parents famously embarrassed me at every turn, whether it was my mother marching on the front lawn with the giant American flag to celebrate the first day of school, my father wearing one of his too-small monochromatic Fruit of the Loom sweatsuits around town or my entire family dressing as the Adams Family to watch me run the Marine Corps Marathon.
I like to think that no matter who you are to the rest of the world, you’re still an embarrassment to your children – even Madonna is probably uncool to her own kids. But in the end, kids don’t care if you’re a global icon or grocery shopping in your pajamas. They will remember that you dressed as a clown on your own wedding anniversary just to bring a joke full-circle with the neighbor down the street. They will remember putting the “Off the Wall” album on and doing the moonwalk with you on the living room carpet. They will remember that you took the time to really engage with them, to show them how not to take life – and themselves – so seriously.
Here’s to another generation of parents embarrassing their kids because who wants to be cool, when you can be fun?