The Upside of Losing Your Cool
My oldest son turned 9 this past week, and I am aghast over how all the little changes that have been quietly adding up over the past decade suddenly seem to have happened all at once, overnight. Who is this tall boy creating his own video games and animations on Scratch (a topic for another day) and what did he do with my baby?
But here’s the thing… he isn’t the only one who has changed. We all have.
Once you have children, your identity goes through a major transformation. Unfortunately, part of that change is that you kind of no longer get to be cool. I’m sorry to say it. Some may disagree. But living in a place that has become a retreat for aging hipsters, I can tell you that once you have become a mother, it is all but impossible to maintain any uncut level of coolness. You can be “cool, for a mom,” for sure. But not, like, Janice Joplin cool.
As a youngster, I spent a fair amount of time being concerned with coolness.
I made calculations about the level of coolness of the music I listened to. The friends I associated out with. The places I ate and drank. I even spent time thinking about the word “cool.” I always found it cool that no word has ever been able to replace it. The English language is a veritable graveyard of words that were meant to be generational expressions of coolness, only to be victims of their own finite era. Yet “cool” endures. I had a hilarious conversation with my teen nieces and nephews recently where they schooled me on the new words for “cool.” Some I knew. Most were impossible for anyone my age to utter. But “cool” was still cool.
But sorry moms and dads of the world – you’re not cool anymore.
You can hold on to your coolness for a little while when you have a baby. But once you really start to have conversations with these small people, the jig is up. You can’t be walking down the street, asking a little person if they can hold in their pee, and be cool. Basically, if you say anything that you could never picture Janice Joplin saying – you have irrevocably crossed the coolness divide.
But this is not an elegy for coolness!
On the contrary, it is a celebration of the beauty that comes once your kids strip you of those last vestiges of coolness. Because they give you something much cooler in return.
Innocence makes an encore appearance in your life.
Parenthood radically resets your brain. As you begin to relive the magic of childhood, you develop a powerful appreciation for the blinding beauty of innocence. Suddenly you have a need to protect the pure, wholesome goodness that exists in your child’s soul and in the soft little bubble of universe surrounding them. Our precious snowflakes, to borrow one of the more charming derogatory terms I’ve ever heard. When you have small kids, you get a mind-blowing window onto how a child sees the world and suddenly you want nothing more than for the world to truly be as they imagine it.
It’s a beautiful, moving spectacle. Sarcasm and cynicism, the whole currency of cool in your previous life, no longer resonate. They have zero value. Little kids are moved by wonder, laughter, honesty, silliness, love… kindness. Once you relocate to their world, you realize what an absolute relief it is, what a refreshing reprieve from irony and vanity. It is a world of sweetness that you get to revisit for a magical decade or so.
But then, the real world…
Protecting your child’s innocence is more than a challenge. You can’t do it forever. Eventually they come to know the world as it is, not as they imagine it to be. Now, more than ever, the I wish I could hide the reality of the world from my children. But that is not possible. So instead, my dream is that fostering and protecting this sense of rightness as long as I possibly can will spark my children to one day make the world a better place, for real. I want to plant inspiration deep in their childhood consciousness so that, one day, they will have that special sauce that people who actually make a difference always have. Like little sleeper cells… only in a not evil kind of way. But most important…
I will never tell them they are naive.
I will never mock their idealism.
Those sweet memories and feelings from childhood – they are powerful threads.
I remember a moment at Christmas dinner a few years ago when all my nieces and nephews were anxious to be done with dinner and make their escape from the table. My brother-in-law said in passing “Take a moment to remember what this feels like, kids… you’ll be trying to get this feeling back your whole life.” It’s rare you hear someone drop that much wisdom so casually. It has stayed with me ever since.
We do call back to those memories, those ideals. They are dormant for a while, seeds waiting for sunlight. But eventually we seek to wrap ourselves in those warm, cozy values again, if for nothing else than to usher in the dawn of our own children’s Peter Pan years.
One thing I know… I believe this generation will be better than mine. I just need to get my kids safely from 12 to like 24. Then it will be full steam ahead… world changing coolness, I have absolutely no doubt.
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