Parenting Page: Being ‘Cool’
This is a parenting page, about parenting Page. I am a child psychologist and a mother. So I specialize in children, yet I am human, thus I am full of knowledge and yet as full of emotions as any other parent. So I decided to write this Parenting Page since it might be informative and funny for others to take an insider look at a child specialist raising her child. I also wanted to create a way to show Page when she grows up, if she chooses to have children, a real-life view of the experience. I hope you enjoy these stories and musings.
Recently I have had a few conversations about how cool, or not, I am anymore, and how cool has evolved as I age – the evolution of cool in human development. (This is not going to be as cool as the Evolution of Dance on You Tube.)
The first time I recall Page truly trying to be cool was in an airport in London. It was the middle of the night for her body clock and we had a long lay over and had found chairs to lie down. As usual I had her Dora the Explorer blanket and her bear that she snuggles with. As a family we travel a lot and these were main stays that she uses to get cozy and go to sleep. Page took the items but at the same time looked around and noticed no one else had these. She was three years old. She said under her breath in a slightly embarrassed tone, “Mom, no,” and gave them back. She curled up in a ball, looking as uncomfortable as a person can look, and tried to sleep. She tossed and turned and didn’t manage to sleep at all; her first lesson that cool comes with a price. When I tried to offer the blanket and stuffed bear again, she reprimanded me, again in a whisper, “Mom, stop.” It broke my heart, really, seeing her descent into the need to conform and fit in regardless of the price.
Over the years cool took a couple of distinct forms. One was never being able to admit being wrong. From kindergarten on up, so often rather than admit being wrong she’d say she was just kidding, or hadn’t heard the question right, of course especially when friends were around but even sometimes just within the family. Another form of cool was more similar to the blanket/bear incident, and had to do with doing what others do, wearing what others wore, etc. And for all of these years as parents we were labeled decidedly uncool. In fact if we thought it, did it, supported it, etc., ‘it’ was then clearly uncool. (Side note and hint: This leaves open some pretty good opportunity for reverse psychology and getting your kids to do something you want by acting like you think it’s a horrible idea.)
Of course, we used to be cool, us parents, before kids. Our kids can never seem to comprehend that. They are too young to understand we gave up cool to exhaust ourselves taking care of them. It’s just not cool to focus on kids. I may have to concede that point a little and accept I am not as cool as when I was young, hot, and dancing until the clubs closed down.
But still, I’ve got cool in the bag, the developmentally appropriate cool of a happy, secure adult who can laugh at life and themselves. My daughter is just too young to appreciate that kind of cool. Here’s an example of an email exchange between myself and a friend recently as I prepared to have new friends over for dinner:
Subject: The new cool…
“’Advanced’ cool is when you are so comfortable with yourself that your plan is having new people to dinner when you have zero time between now and then to clean the house (example: dinner has to be at the kitchen table because the dining room table is piled high), and you have no time to shop and cook so dinner will be take out.
We’re talking ** SUPER COOL!!**
Oh, oh, AND, you haven’t bought a new game in 10-15 years so the game night part of the evening is ‘retro’ … Man, I am just ON FIRE!! ”
Right now Page thinks she’s cool and I’m not. I respect that perspective. I also know someday she’ll evolve into being as cool as I am.
Dr. Tina Lepage is the owner of Lepage Associates Solution-Based Psychological & Psychiatric Services, a group practice in S. Durham/RTP. She lives in Chapel Hill with her husband, daughter, and two dogs. You can find her on Twitter at @LepageAssoc, at lepageassociates.com or at Facebook.com/LepageAssociates.