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Why parents can never be cool
I know, I know, we are a cool people and therefore we think of ourselves as cool parents by default. It takes only a kid or two to clear up this little misunderstanding. No one who breeds can remain cool for long. Keep your poise through labour pain by all means because it is all downhill from there.
First of all is the royal snub from the cherub itself. We do things our own moms didn't do - that is, laboriously make crafts out of cute DIY boxes bought from the market. As I baked toy cakes in toy ovens or threaded multicolored beads into necklaces or made small straw ponies from scratch, my kids occasionally looked in and made encouraging noises. 'See what mama is doing, ' they told each other in ad breaks during smurfs.
At bookshops when I show them my favourite books - Richmal Crompton chief among them - they nod politely. After these books have spent a respectable amount of time at our home and the kids have steadfastly not read them, I give them away to other adults of my era. Then we, the adults, animatedly chat on why we love them - the books, not the kids. About the latter we are by now beginning to have serious doubts.
I didn't always start my day screaming at the top of my voice - 'Get up, it is almost afternoon!' This high-pitched howl is now my official talking tone and I can't adjust my volume even if someone's just asking for directions. Also, I am not addicted, I repeat I am not addicted, to repeating myself. And no I am not turning into my mother, who can nag an angel into sawing off her wings with her own harp.
Let's face it, kids are cute only in photographs. In reality they are philistine, unhygienic lispers with little table manners or social skills and, to add insult to injury, resemble your in-laws ! Just when you think you can rely on them to never tell the truth they say that one thing they must not say to the one person they must not say it to, quoting for good measure, 'Mama said...'
When we drop them or pick them up after their silly soirees with other kids, we are instructed to a) dress appropriately (in boring funeralesque clothes chosen carefully by the firstborns) and b) keep out of sight at all costs lest their friends are traumatised for life.
We don't, unlike previous progenitors, harp on high marks or hemlines. We pay due attention to our offspring's woes, be it heartache or acne, and even discuss sex. 'Yes, ' we say ever so mathematical, 'that's right, we had sex twice, which is why there are two of you, sweeties. '
I warned them of all possible types of sexual harassment too till they began to think me the real perv;'How do you know all this?' they ask. Like most modern mothers, I am constantly reading up to upgrade my mommy skills. When I quote from these, the look in my kids' eyes is that of sympathy. Like, 'mom, get a life'.
I do know that as I shout my way through the day I bring great happiness to my family. Spouse smirks as if to ask of witnesses 'see what I go through daily?' and kids bond with each other big time by acting deaf, giggling and doing precisely what I am telling them not to do.
They think I spend the whole day sitting at home thinking up ways to mortify them in public. Nowhere are our notions of cool challenged as at school events where, as far as our kids are concerned, we come out of hiding with one sole intention : to embarrass. By talking loudly, making bad jokes, calling progeny by pet names, and, horror of horrors, humming tunelessly. 'Mom!' our descendants mutter, even before we have done any of the above.
I am banned from engaging their friends in conversation, looking around too much and saying 'dude'. My footwear is regularly inspected before I step out of the door. Sometimes I do escape shod in some worn out jute thingies and I can imagine one kid telling the other, 'It was your turn to watch her!'
There is an upbeat synergy in the air when the brats and their grandparents gang up against me. Like a Greek chorus, they nod and reminisce about the coming of the anti-cool - me! - in their midst. I don't mind being the life of their party but it kills my appetite somewhat when they high-five each other every time I so much as move. 'She bought a curtain once, ' my mother laughs, pulling out 'exhibit A', the curtain. 'Do you know she did her eyebrows ?' the kids fight back, turning me left and right by the chin to show off my two separate profiles: one slightly surprised, the other tragic. I have faked sleep many times waiting for them to steer away from their ha-ha stories to the true tales of my heroism and martyrdom... but always fall asleep before they do so.
I used to worry about this at nights - how to be cool, cooler, coolest to my nearest and dearest - till it dawned on me that 'cool' calls for un-cool dads and moms. Tradition demands that parents by definition not be cool. We can be fun, friend and an ATM, but them funky genes, they are for passing on. The un-cooler we are, the cooler they are.
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