Can Uncool and Fun Coexist?

I came to the realization the other day that I think I really need to take more time to just have fun with my kids.  I mean, yes, I’ve planned some great vacations in the past, and we did all just go to the zoo recently and have fun staring face to face with a gorilla (behind glass, of course) and jump out of our skin when he started banging on said glass, but…

I’m still seen as not only uncool by my kids, but un-fun.  I realized recently I was in a pretty sad state when my teenager said to me in the car, “You know, Dad and Emmie and I are going to the U2 concert in May, at the new Cowboys stadium!”
I thought about that for a minute as she yakked on.
“Why didn’t you include me when you said you were going to the concert?” I finally said.
“You? I didn’t think you liked loud concerts like that,” she said.
Huh? “I’ve been to lots of ‘loud’ concerts,” I said.  “I don’t really like to pay big bucks for concerts in large stadiums, but it’s not because of the sound, it’s because you have to watch a video screen in order to see the show—what’s the point?”
“Well, it’s just fun to say you were there, to be a part of it,” she said.

If that’s what I have to do to be more fun…I think I’d rather stare down a gorilla.  Maybe almost 15 years of being in Mom mode has made me too practical and well…too MOM-like. As my 10-year-old, Emmie, would say, with a silly grin on her face, “Mom, with you, it’s all about nutrition, sunscreen, and bike helmets!”…since I’m the parent who shops organic and makes sure to serve balanced meals, reminds my kids to put on sunscreen when they’re outdoors in the summer, and reminds them to put on a helmet when they go bike riding.  (Emmie even made up a nickname for me: “Nutritious Patricia”, or “Nutrish Patrish” for short!) I’m the parent who always seems to be nagging, admonishing, lecturing, reminding, pleading, yelling, ordering…sometimes at the end of the day, it seems like that’s all I’ve done! (Believe me, when that “Mom Song” first started circulating on the Internet, I got tears of joy in my eyes at knowing I wasn’t alone!)  I’m the parent who makes sure to ask if they have any homework to finish when they get home from school (so that I’m not granting TV and computer time unknowingly), I’m the parent who insists the younger child practices piano…the one who asks her to please brush her hair before leaving the house and keep her fingernails trimmed (which she detests), the one who looks at the shoes she wears to school to make sure they are not three sizes too big (yes, I’ve actually seen that, since there are so many hand-me-downs in her closet!)…who makes sure the teenager cleans her room before having a friend over, gets her homework done before watching American Idol, and stays out of the potato chips (“We’re saving them for your lunches!!!” I remind her.)  And it’s not that my husband doesn’t “take charge”—he’s just not around as much, since he works 9-10 hours a day outside the home
(Would that be a WOTHD? Or just a WOD?)  If the roles were reversed, I would hope that he’d naturally care just as much about stuff like sunscreen and homework, too (although sometimes I imagine my 10-year-old, beet red, hair matted like a rat’s nest, fingernails long and curly like Howard Hughes, teeth blackened and full of silver fillings from eating junk, glued to the TV in a catatonic state, sent home from school since she showed up in a bathing suit and plastic dress-up shoes… J )

So basically, in our family, the parenting dynamic has turned out to be that Mom is the “home manager” and Dad is the person to have fun with. When Dad comes home, he’ll practice volleyball with you while Mom cooks dinner.  If Dad has to run to the store and you go with him, he’ll always buy Oreos from the checkout line for you while Mom will usually say no, no, no, no, final answer- NO!  In the car, he’ll blast loud classic rock on the radio– while in Mom’s minivan, it’s usually an all-70’s station or a book on tape.  On the weekend, he’ll take you to his workout class and on a long bike ride while Mom tries to catch up on all the stuff she didn’t get done during the week.  And after he mows the lawn, fixes the car and paints the upstairs window trim, he’ll take you on another bike ride. And for some reason, society doesn’t think Dads spend enough time with their daughters so it made up a bunch more ways they can have fun together, which I unknowingly encouraged them to sign up for long ago– like the YMCA’s Indian Princesses (oops, I mean “Adventure Guides”), or the Daddy-Daughter Valentine’s Dance held annually in our city.

They all go have a ball while I’m home scrubbing the floors like Cinderella…

What’s an uncool and un-fun Mom do? The very nature of being uncool means that whenever I try to sing or dance along to a CD, my daughters will cry out in agony—“Mom, STOP!!”  And the kinds of things I like to do to have fun on my own, like decorating the house or going to a dance exercise class called Nia, make them yawn.  What I probably need to make more time for are the things I enjoy that they also enjoy, that my husband doesn’t enjoy—things that can be uniquely ours, like making chocolate chip cookies, watching a movie, or reading (my daughters and I used to have “book parties” on my bed or at a park, where we’d all bring books and just hang out together and read). Because if I do something he usually does with them, I’ll probably be too un-fun in comparison– a couple of weeks ago, Emmie and I biked to the library, and I got an earful of “When Dad and I ride bikes, he never makes us stop at every corner and look both ways like you do, when Dad and I ride, he always rides in the street, when Dad and I ride…”


Is There a Mom in the House?

Lately, when someone gets sick in our household, it seems that everyone else soon gets sick as well—except, miraculously and mercifully, me. Is it thanks to all those antioxidant-filled blueberries I’ve consumed in the past year?  Or maybe God saw that playing nurse is not my husband’s favorite thing to do and decided I should do that from now on…

Whatever the reason, I got to spend the last two days of my Spring Break staycation (and the entire following week) sticking thermometers under tongues, buying large amounts of Gatorade, chicken soup and Saltine crackers, washing soiled underwear and towels, driving 20 miles to the doctor’s office and back, administering antibiotics, Benadryl, acetaminophen, and sore throat lolly pops, getting out all the blankets I’d just put in storage, mixing warm salt water, and preparing cold cloths for feverish foreheads. Oh, yeah, and losing sleep on two nights since my youngest woke me up to tell me that her nose wouldn’t stop running.  Good thing I had stocked up on Kleenex and toilet paper–my husband and teenager have had some sort of stomach bug and my youngest has bad allergies.

Of course, when you’re a WAHM (I just found out that acronym—it’s Work At Home Mom, not George Michael’s former duo) who is used to being alone most days (well, other than communing with the dog), having everyone else in the family staying home can be a little unsettling— it’s like that episode on Seinfeld about “two worlds colliding”– having to get my husband off the phone because I’ve got a conference call in one minute; yelling at my teen to turn off Spongebob (“I can’t think straight—please, your brain is going to turn into a sponge!!”) while I’m trying to write.  But at the same time, it’s good to be needed as a caretaker.  And uncool moms will take whatever bone is thrown to them…

I’m In Good (Uncool) Company

If you’ve been trying really hard to be a cool parent, give it up. You could be a rock star and your kids will still think you’re uncool.  Just look at Bono. 

Did you hear last week that his kids think he’s uncool? Bono, you know, lead singer for the band U2, tireless crusader for Africa and third world countries, Nobel Peace Prize nominee…who’d of thought he’d be my first inductee into the Uncool Parent Hall of Fame?!  He has not one, but (God have mercy on him) two teenage daughters, both who think he’s uncool,
according to an interview he gave to London’s Daily Mail (click to go to the article). So I’m going to bestow that honor on him.  I hope he stops by to claim his prize– a ride in my trashed-out minivan!!!

Little Miss Sunshine is Alive and Well

Just got back from spending almost my entire weekend at a dance convention in a nearby suburban hotel. My older daughter has been taking dance lessons since she was three, and attending dance conventions with her dance studio has been an annual ritual for awhile. For the uninitiated, here’s what a dance convention is in a nutshell: Hip faculty featuring top dancers from across the country travel to dance conventions each weekend, teaching classes to both dance students and teachers for two days, with one or two evenings devoted to competitions, where afore-mentioned hip faculty are the judges.  Trophies are given out, and scholarships to future dance conventions and Hollywood classes are awarded on the last day. Usually the faculty performs in a grand finale on the last day as well as the competition dances deemed “Judges Choice”.  Even a ragtag bunch of parents performs at the finale, thanks to groovy hip-hop moves they learn in a “parents class” earlier in the day (I’ve done that before– what a hoot!).  Dancewear and professional photos snapped just about every minute of the convention are on sale in the hallways.  It’s pretty much the same drill at every convention, dubbed LA Dance Force, Company Dance, and Dance Olympus, to name a few.  In the Dallas area alone, there are hotel conventions and other dance competitions (at high school gyms, civic auditoriums) going on all over the city each weekend, sometimes two in one weekend (and some dance studios try to take their students to as many as they can!). The hotel ones are a lot of fun, albeit expensive, and the faculty is always top-notch and friendly.  It’s good mother-daughter time for Allison and me.  We both love dance, and we get to see some outstanding, creative dances. 

What I dread at these things is what I call the “hootchie mama” contingency.

This past weekend, I saw more pelvic thrusts than at a Tom Jones concert, and enough fast butt shaking going on that I was thinking, “You could strap on a Martini mixer to each of their behinds and serve drinks to the whole crowd.”  Seriously.  In a number called “Shake Your Shimmy”, one group of over-rouged girls danced just like the women in the old 2 Live Crew music videos (didn’t that group get arrested back in the day for lewd behavior??)  And these dancers weren’t women– they were nine years old.  In fact, after the convention was over, I realized that the most overtly sexual moves in the whole competition came from the Petite and Junior divisions, not from the Teens and Seniors. 

What’s wrong with this picture? Am I too much of a prude? As the little hootchie mamas kept winning top award after top award, I seriously began to wonder– then I heard a total stranger next to me say, in disgust, “That was that hootchie studio.”  Ahhh- a kindred spirit! Upon striking up a conversation with her, I learned that even more of her thoughts echoed mine exactly.  “They might as well just put a pole up there and let them have at it,” she added.  I suddenly flashed back to a past convention where I watched girls, who couldn’t even fill out a training bra, dance to “Lady Marmalade” dressed like hookers. (Remember– that song means “Will you F—- Me” in French.)

In this already sex-saturated culture, where girls use drugs and die of eating disorders because they feel they can’t live up to the stereotypes and pressures put on them– why do some dance teachers, most of them women themselves, feed the fire by putting very young girls in this position?  And, the girls are not only being given the message that sex sells, but also that it’s okay, when you’re age 6 or 7 or 8 or 9, to act sexy in front of men.  The audience at competitions and recitals is not made up of just moms.  It’s also Dads, grandfathers, little brothers, big brothers, uncles, and that teenage boy I saw this weekend with a T-shirt emblazoned on the front with the words “Amateur Porn Star”. All these dudes are getting a big dose of come-ons by lipsticked pre-pubescents.   (I half expected Chris Hanson from MSNBC’s “To Catch a Predator” to come strolling in with his camera crew.)  Again, there is something wrong with this picture…

Our studio owner, who abhors sleazy dancing and costumes, told me she thinks the tendency to teach and perform in that way is a  “small town thing”– if that’s the case, I couldn’t help but think that most of the small-town hootchie dancers probably come from very conservative religious backgrounds….  so it’s okay to grab your crotch in a performance on Saturday night in the dance show, as long as you’re grabbin’ your Bible come Sunday morning. 

I’m proud our tiny, traditional dance studio won some nice awards without wearing sequined midriff-baring bra tops and hip-hugging “booty shorts”, without perfect Barbie shapes, spray-on tans, diamond earrings and matching, perfectly pinned-up hair with a “poof” on top, and without bumping and grinding. Our girls looked like real girls up there on stage, some with braces, some with acne, some big boned, others stick skinny.  They may not have gotten the Judges’ Choice award, but I think they’re going to be big winners in the long run, in the more important dance of life.   I just hope that they can see that, too.