Keeping the Cool

Mothering Heights - Claire Smith

Mothering Heights - Claire Smith - Credit: Archant

WHEN I was younger I often wondered at what point my parents decided that they would stop listening to music created after 1970.

They were still in their thirties at that point but they moved out of the city, had a couple of kids and made a life in suburbia. They actually lived through the seventies without experiencing the seventies. When I hear stories of the stuff my parents did before they had us children (slept in public toilets, played guitar with The Hollies), I often feel nostalgia for their life before I was born. It was a cool life but they made the decision that once their family started, their coolness would end. That made it difficult for me to relate to them when I was growing up in the eighties because they were so ridiculously conservative. It was like our house was a different country to the outside world and whenever I spoke to my parents about any teenage issues, they turned a blind eye. If it wasn’t happening in the home, they didn’t want to know about it.

These days parents walk a fine line when it comes to being cool. One of the most important jobs we have as parents is to lead by example – it’s also one of the hardest. I want my kids to know that I am cool enough to talk to when it comes to sex, drugs, drinking and other issues but I don’t want to be their mate.

Being a cool parent can mean different things, depending on the perspective. I don’t want my kids to think I’m “da bomb” or “sick” because of what I let them get away with or because of the way I act. I want them to think I’m “rockin” because of the respect they have in me as a parent.

There seems to be a point where we go from being cool to being parental and I’m trying really hard to not let that happen. I have solemnly sworn to never have jeans that cover my belly piercing, which is an easy thing to do since I made the pact to never ever shop anywhere except the teenager department. I am constantly evaluating and scrutinising my behaviour and choices to make sure I am staying steadfast on the cool-o-meter. See, the fact that I just used the word cool-o-meter shows that I slip up once in a while.


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I live in a juxtaposition of being a cool parent without seeming like one. For every time I use the phrase “Because I said so”, I justify it with a pair of skinny jeans and Converse trainers. If I have to be strict about something, I atone by showing them pictures of me in the mud at Glastonbury. Sometimes I get angry looking at Harry Styles’ hair and it makes me fear that I’m losing my touch but then I totally own the school run by blasting out cool tunes. Currently I’m leading by Example.

When my husband and I are joking around, I revel in the coolness we still have. I got a massive kick out of this conversation the other day:

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Him: “I’m about to blow up this laptop.”

Me: “Better than blowing up a lap dancer.”

Him: “Better than blowing up.”

Me: “Better than blowing someone.”

Discussing blowing things up with innuendos is so much cooler than talking about balancing the cheque book and what happened at parents evening. I like to balance the responsibility with irreverence. Every time we have an exchange like this, I’m reminded of how relevant I have remained in today’s pop culture.

I’m actually not very good at keeping my cool when the children are misbehaving, which always escalates the problem. What kids need when it’s all kicking off is a parent who can keep their cool and deal with it in a calm way. Many of the blow ups that happen in this house are the result of me losing my cool, and when the parent reacts at the level of the child, it’s bound to go bad.

I take pleasure in the fact that my kids think I’m cool, because they sure do think a lot of other stuff about me. Hopefully it’s because I can still relate to most of what they experience. Maybe it’s because I’m still a kid at heart but most likely it shows my immaturity and refusal to ‘grow up’. I’m hoping that I’ll be a step ahead in the teenage years because I like to think that I’ve been there, done that. Nobody hid stuff from their parents like me as a 16 year old.

One day I’m sure my kids will accuse me of not being cool and I will reassure them that I’m totes amazeballs by flashing my tattoos and telling them about when I met Eminem. They don’t know cool when it’s right there in front of them – and that’s exactly what I’ll be showing them, because after all, I’m the parent.

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