Sitting on the sidewalk watching the 4th of July parade, we were handed small American flags to wave, compliments of a few local politicians. Good thing, since I was woefully unprepared for the stars-and-stripes occasion.
We watched the convoy of pick-up trucks hauling the little leaguers as they tossed peanuts and candy, and doused parade-goers with their Super Soakers- my son among them. My daughter held on to her flag like a good citizen for most of the parade when, suddenly, she thrust it in my hand. "Here, take this." Confused, I looked up to discover the likely reason: New boyfriend was in the approaching pick-up. "What's wrong? Is it too uncool to wave an American Flag?" I asked. She said she just didn't feel like holding it anymore. Okay ... whatever you say.
I get it. I was a teenager once. I remember working very hard at it. By "it" I mean, not looking uncool. I'll beg forgiveness for the double negative, but it was intended. See it's not important for teenagers to look cool (think The Fonz and his trademark thumbs up), because by doing so, you'd be a "dork." But, God forbid you look uncool, you'll be an even bigger dork. When our teens tell us how tough their lives are, perhaps we should be a tad more empathetic, because that is a challenge.
My most memorable trying-not-to-be-uncool moment came when I was also about 13. My mom took us to The Hurricane House, a historic ice cream parlor with old-fashioned booths and counter-stools. I remember thinking ice cream parlors were for kids; but, I wanted the product. Hence, my dilemma: It looked so uncool, so childish, to hold an ice cream cone in one's teenage hands. So when I got my double dip cherry vanilla cone, I proceeded to stand there, left hand on hip, right hand holding the cone...upside down. See where this is going?
What's worse than looking uncool? Looking like an idiot when your double scoops do a double flop onto the floor, in the middle of a crowded ice cream parlor. Crap! I was so blinded by my fear of being uncool that I didn't see that coming. To add to my mortification, my well-intended mom, not knowing it was my own premeditated behavior that resulted in my ice cream's demise, asked for a replacement. So instead of running straight for the exit, which is what I wanted to do, I had to stand there while one person cleaned up my mess and another replaced it in a new upright cone. I had made the mistake of trying to look cool and it backfired in the worst way.
Even though I am keenly aware of the whole uncool thing (indeed, I had learned my lesson the hard way), it didn't make it easier to accept when I discovered that as "the mom" I was suddenly the number one source of uncool in my kids' lives. No longer will my daughter hold my hand in public: God forbid I even try to extend a hand, because if I do, she'll be walking on the other side of the street. And forget about the public kiss goodbye: My son, who at home is very loving and affectionate, gives me no more than the top of his head when I go to kiss him at the school drop-off. And, when the kids were younger, they loved it when I would dance wildly in the middle of the living room with them; now I'm told it's "creepy" and they beg me to stop.
I have discovered that I am not alone, and my friend Lisa and I have occasionally instituted the counter-attack by exploiting our "dorkiness" just for the sake of embarrassing the kids. We do so by using made-up words like "chillax," or bobbing our heads uncontrollably to the car radio prompting our girls to crouch down in their seats to avoid being seen with us (as if anyone is really watching). A definite survival technique - we've learned that embracing our roles as lame in the eyes of our kids is more fun than lamenting it.
So my fellow-moms and I move forward, proudly waving the American flag for our kids, respecting our kids' need to not look uncool, and embarrassing them when the timing is right. Good times!