When I was growing up, my parents were decidedly not cool. They enforced a strict weekend curfew and never let me go out on weeknights. They gave me chores and responsibilities. They had the nerve to ground me when I made bad grades. And they insisted on meeting every single boy I dated before we could go out for the first time.
I used to die a thousand deaths each time a guy showed up at my doorstep, knowing the poor kid had no idea what he was about to endure. My dad seemed to have gotten all of his meet-the-boyfriend techniques from back episodes of Father Knows Best. He'd begin by vigorously shaking the boy's hand and making awkward small talk. Then, after what seemed like an eternity of stilted conversation, he'd conclude with words that would've made Ward Cleaver proud.
"This party you're taking my daughter to, young man. There will be chaperones present, correct?"
"Y-yes sir. Of course, sir," the poor guy would say, his face reddening. Technically, I guess, he wasn't lying if by "chaperones" we were talking about Jeff Perkins' college-age brother.
"And of course, there will be absolutely no alcohol."
"Oh no sir, of course not."
"All right then," Dad would nod, eyeing the now sweating and shifty-eyed young man. "You kids have fun."
Fun? After that interrogation, "fun" was unlikely. Beyond the hives-inducing Q&A, meeting my parents meant the guy had to drive 30 minutes out to my house and then 30 minutes back into town, where all the "chaperoned" parties were. We had only a few hours left to hang out before the long drive back.
And my mom always wondered why I didn't go on dates more often.
My friend Melissa's mom, on the other hand, was one of the cool parents. She'd been a Playboy bunny in her early 20s, she let Melissa do whatever she wanted, and she insisted that all of us call her Kathy instead of Mrs. Dolan. Unlike me, Melissa didn't need to go behind her mom's back to go to keggers; Kathy hosted them. I decided that when I grew up and had kids, I would be just like Kathy Dolan. Minus the Playboy bunny part — that was a little sketchy.
For a while, it looked like being the cool parent was in my cards. I became a stepmom to 8- and 10-year-old girls at the age of 26, and they seemed to love my Bebe clothes and the Madonna I blasted whenever they were in the car.
"OH MY GOSH, it's LINDSAY!" I remember my then 10-year-old squealing one afternoon when I showed up in a miniskirt and high-heeled boots after her soccer practice. "Everyone! Just LOOK at Lindsay's FALL FASHION! It's SO COOL!"
Unfortunately, my honeymoon phase didn't last long. In what seemed like eight milliseconds, I had two babies, my stepdaughters became teenagers, and my "cool parent" days came to an abrupt end.
Oh, I tried to maintain appearances in front of the girls — but it was hard convincing them I still had it going on after they witnessed me balloon to the size of a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade float during pregnancy. And breastfeed. And get covered in spitup/vomit/poop at least once a day.
Now that my youngest is 3, I've regained my figure. My cool, though, seems to have disappeared forever.
Because according to my teens, a cool parent wouldn't have batted an eyelash if her stepdaughter rolled in at 4 a.m., hours after curfew.
A cool parent would allow boyfriends to come over and "chill" when she wasn't at home.
A cool parent wouldn't mind finding a six-pack of beer in the trunk of her teen's car.
I would mind. I'd mind a lot.
I look around now and from what I can tell, the "cool" parents of my girls' friends are either living vicariously through their kids — or they've given up. But I have my own life. And I can't give up, even though some days I'd really, really like to.
I'm just not cool enough.
Now, I'm wondering how my non-cool status will affect my relationships with my 3- and 6-year-olds as they get older. In a sense, the trouble has already started. I bristle when my daughter's friends call me by my first name, and I've assured her that she won't be getting a cell phone for a long, long time, even though some of her friends already have one.
I'm sounding, I realize, a lot like my parents.
Don't worry; I'm not TiVo'ing episodes of Leave It to Beaver just yet. So far, my parenting style has been a lot more informal than that of the ones who came before me. But I've realized that even though I wasn't blessed with a mother who once worked for Hugh Hefner, I turned out OK.
In fact, it's very possible that having uncool parents was one of the coolest things that could have happened to me.
Read more Suburban Turmoil at suburbanturmoil.com.
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