Confession: I have been obsessed with this website I came across from my 13-year-old’s Facebook wall. It is aptly named “I Waste So Much Time“. Unfortunately for my reputation, it is not a philosophical statement born from my existential angst. They omitted “On the Internet” in the name. This website is “curated” for middle schoolers… And I spent two hours the other night reading the posts and laughing out loud to myself when I should have been in bed. What can I say? Deep down I am a 15 year old boy. *cough* (Only that I do not “take long showers”…) Anyhoo, I saw this post, and it gave me pause.
This was of course said with pride. On this website and the others popular amongst the Facebook teen generation, such as My Life is Average, being normal means boring, a conformist; being weird means you know who you are, awesome. In fact, the kids who post on MLIA are so unabashedly geeky, smart with a great sense of humor, (and granted, a bit Harry-Potter-obsessed, but hey, they all hate Twilight and that means a lot to me) that I often read those posts to give myself some hope: “These are our future. Maybe one day high schools will not be dominated by drones of jocks and cheerleaders.” And that makes me want to give all those kids a big giant non-creepy bear hug.
I once thought too I would be the weird, cool parent. How many of you thought the same? I did not even think. I just assumed. No way was I going to be like my parents. My kids are going to love me for how cool I am and we are going to have so much fun together!
The reality is, of course, my kids do not really want cool parents. Or rather, they do not want parents that out-cool them.
They do not appreciate being told that rad was a term popular even before my time.
They do not want you to teach them the correct pronunciation for Meme. (And definitely not the history of it. Who cares that Richard Dawkins came up with this idea in 1976 in his book The Selfish Gene?)
They do not want to admit that you introduced them to Spotify.
They do not want to listen to the cool songs you share with them. But of course they told you about “Pumped Up Kicks” a week after you sent them the song on Spotify.
They do not want your playlists.
They do not want to hear about the latest YouTube sensation from you.
They do not want you to be better at fixing computer than they are. Or to know how to use iTune.
They do not want you to know how to use “I took an arrow to the knee” correctly. (My apology to Skyrim players who are pissed by how this meme has been conveninetly co-opted by those who, like me, have not earned the “right”… Blame websites such as knowyourmeme.com, they have made it way too easy)
They do not want you to know every single Meme or Internet joke or LOLcat, and definitely not before they do.
They do not even want you to be able to say LOLcat correctly.
When you twirl like a crazy child in the living room to whatever music they are playing, they eye you with a bemused expression and possibly even shake their head, and for one moment, they look older than their age.
When you think you are being cool and awesome, you are actually being weird, weird, like really weird, not the cool weird, and you embarrass them.
“Why can’t you be like the other parents?”
They eye you with suspicion or confusion when you slip in a few “youth-oriented” lingo in your conversation.
Do not try to be that cool parent because then you are just a try-hard.
It’s what demarcates the “boundary” between youth and age. We’ve got the experience. We’ve got the dough. We’ve got the authority. Without the coolness factor, what’s left for the young to claim as their own?
I have been pondering on these for a long time now but am not able to formulate a cohesive thought around this subject. As I was working on this draft, my 13-year-old walked by and read it out loud, “Our generation today will be the weirdest grandparents… Yup. That’s true.”
“You know,” I said, “When I was your age, I thought I was going to the coolest parent.” Just to burst his bubble (because that’s how we show love in this household).
He laughed. There was a silence.
“Well, you are kind of a cool parent.” He said quietly.
I was made speechless.
Well played, young padawan. Well played.
On a related note, I saw this posted inside the high school my son will be going to. Somehow I know that he will be ok there.