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In Praise of the Not-So-Cool Mom

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I am not a cool mom.

This isn’t a surprising statement. Personality traits like coolness are usually the result of flawed genetics or a skewed environment. On both counts, I entered parenthood with a distinct deficit.

My mother was not a cool mom either. I never had a chance to meet my grandmother (her mother), but I’d bet a C-note that she was equally uncool. My childhood surroundings, and I’m putting this delicately, were considerably less than nurturing.

Like all children, I vowed to correct the mistakes of my parents by being a different person altogether. I was going to be attentive and loving, and offer my kids endless kisses and hugs. I was never going to force my children to do five hours of homework a night or spend weekends pulling weeds all day in the hot sun; I was never going to embarrass them by measuring for a training bra on the outside of a t-shirt in the middle of a crowded Kmart; I was never going to rush into the house of my daughter’s best friend and accuse him of getting her pregnant (an especially specious accusation considering I was still a virgin). Nope, I was going to be a cool mom.

Growing up in the late ‘60s and ‘70s, I don’t remember friends with cool moms. Maybe all moms were uncool back then, or maybe I ran with the wrong group of people. Most of my friends’ moms I considered thankfully normal; mine was extraordinarily weird.

After growing up and having children of my own, I discovered that to be a cool mom is an admirable, yet completely unattainable goal. Thanks to movies and TV, we are inundated with the appearance of so-called cool moms, an image as unhealthy as the rail-thin models who nonchalantly gaze back at us from the pages of Vogue. “Cool” moms like Carol Brady or Shirley Partridge, or even Forrest Gump’s mom or ElastiGirl – there’s no way a mere mortal woman can live up to that kind of perfection.

Sensible moms know this, and eventually will shrug off any intention of building a façade of coolness. At some point, a mother must make her own decisions and blaze her own trail through the jungles of parenthood. Sometimes the trail goes straight through Uncool Territory.

I’m not a Tiger Mom, but I was close. While regular music lessons were part of my children’s lives, I’m only half Asian, so my fervor could be worn down, and it was. I believed in homework and sports. I insisted on regular teacher meetings above and beyond scheduled conferences, and would side with the authorities if my kids got into trouble. I worked, and made my kids work with me. I even (horrors!) forced them to pull weeds.

Compared to the other moms, who were (yes) ex-strippers with closets full of stilettos, or cheerful beauticians who fed the masses cupcakes for a mid-afternoon snack, or stay-at-home moms who were always available for field trips, I was an ogre. For the longest time, I made boring lunches of a sandwich, fruit, and carrot sticks, while the other kids got interesting snack cups, newfangled fruity leathers, and Lunchables. I committed the Cool Mom sin and got angry and screamed in public, sealing my fate as Uncool. Although my kids and their friends are now grown, they still hold images of me as a mean, strictly unbending, scary, and humorless warden, one with a notable lack of style.

Of course, none of this is true, and all of this is true. For all the times I appeared a tyrant, I’ve made just as many mistakes by being terribly permissive. I’ve paid crazy cash for prom dresses worn once, taken my kids to classes and camps my parents couldn’t have afforded to give me when I was I young, and been supportive of their college endeavors halfway across the country when they both could have gone to school (cheaply) in Michigan.

This Mother’s Day, what children of both Cool and Uncool Moms should realize is that for the most part, parents have only the best intentions for their children. Even the Tiger Mom deserves sympathy – she just wanted to raise good girls. Moms of all types are flawed, even the supposedly Cool Moms. We can’t help it. We’re human. Life’s a roller coaster, and we reflect the wild ride. We moms have bad habits as well as admirable traits. We’re not perfect. We might be openly disappointed and critical when you make a mistake, but when the door is closed and we’re alone second-guessing our parenting skills, we still cry our eyes out.

So kids, cut your Uncool Mom some slack. Despite her shortcomings – and yours – she loves you.

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About Joanne Huspek

I write. I read. I garden. I cook. I eat. And I love to talk about all of the above.