“I want to teach my kids about strength, so I expect resistance….I want to teach my kids about endurance, so I keep going when I want to call it quits…I want to teach my kids about identity, so I make sure to have one apart from them.” Kristin Armstrong.
Last week, I took my oldest, an eighth-grader, to the high school open house for the fall. As I parked and he got out of the car, he started taking big strides towards the high school. “Slow down,” I ordered, “I can’t walk that fast.”
“You’re the runner,” he mumbled without looking back, “you’ll catch up.”
But I wasn’t in my running shoes, I was in a dress; and I thought I looked pretty cute for a 41 year-old mom of three. I realized that he is walking fast because he doesn’t want to walk into the high school side by side with his mom. He is embarrassed of mom, or wants to declare his independence, or likely some of both.
I thought back and couldn’t remember going to my own high school’s open house, but I certainly recall those first days of high school….and planning out my outfits for them….believing that those first few outfits would define how my four years would play out.
As I walked through the hallways of his school, I realized that these halls were really very much the same as the ones in Mt. Lebanon High School in Pittsburgh, PA, where I was a freshman in 1987, almost 28 years ago. I wasn’t cool then, and obviously I’m not cool now as my son is trying to navigate these new hallways without me. It probably didn’t help that I kept trying to take a selfie of him and me in the hallways, before he would catch me and groan, “Mom, stop! You’re so embarrassing.”
Just a few days before that, I was again reminded of how un-cool I am. We were walking as a family in the outdoor mall, when the same son suddenly darted into a store. Again, on this day, I thought that I looked pretty cute. I was wearing a paisley-printed jumper (I am jumper obsessed) that I saw on my friend and basically told her that she must give to me. She wore it a couple of times and did. (I’m no longer shy about going after what I want.) I thought I looked like an updated Bohemian Mrs. Roper from Three’s Company.
About 30 seconds later, my son came out of the store. “What was that?” my husband and I asked in unison.
“I just didn’t want a couple of people to see me.”
“Are you embarrassed to be seen with us?” my husband asked. (He was also surprised, making the false assumption that he is way cooler than his dad was at his age.)
“Well…..it depends who’s walking by.”
“Actually, Mom,” my 8 year old daughter chimed in, “I didn’t want to hurt your feelings, but what you’re wearing is really ugly, and I didn’t want to walk too close to you either.” OUCH!!! I guess updated Bohemian Mrs. Roper is not cool.
The truth is, I’ve had this fantasy of being “the cool mom”, whether to make up for all the years of being un-cool, or just to be able to be “friends” with my children as they grow into their teens and young adulthood. At first this realization of being un-cool was a little upsetting….so basically they see me as I saw my mom when I was their age.
Then I recalled a conversation that my son and I had in the car about a month ago. Once in a while, I’m lucky enough to be driving him somewhere without his siblings, and we have the best conversations in those few minutes of alone time. I was driving, and spontaneously he said, “you’re a cool mom.”
I immediately switched off the radio. “Why do you say that?”
“Awe…..can I just say something without us having to talk about it?” he groaned.
“I want to know what makes you say that,” I demanded.
“Well, you mostly let me do what I want……and your punishments, they’re mostly within reason…..and…..I guess….none of my other friends have moms that run and blog…..I think you’re the only mom I know that has a blog….so that’s cool.”
Keep the tears in your eyes….I commanded myself….or he will never talk to you again. I replied with a nonchalant “Thanks.” End of conversation.
Why did that simple statement make me teary-eyed? Because it was the last thing I expected him to say. I thought that the whole running and blogging thing is the very thing that he would consider un-cool. But it wasn’t about whether it’s cool or not cool. His statement shows that he sees his mom have her own identity, her own life, her own thing that she does besides being mom, wife, and pediatrician. And if what I’m doing is showing them to grow into adults that have an identity separate than everything else that defines them…an identity that is all their own, then I’ve done my job….the most important job that I will ever have…..well.
And although this week I’m no longer cool, I’ll take that five seconds of cool in the car over being cool for a lifetime.