The Importance of Being Hip (or Pretending To)

By Rebeldad Brian Reid

Today, my wife and I are boarding a plane for Miami for our second annual long weekend away from the kids. My suitcase is packed with the usual South Florida essentials (sunscreen, swim trunks, sunglasses and, um, maybe a flashlight and some extra batteries). But I'm also bringing along what passes for the hippest pieces of clothing in my wardrobe. I have a vintage T-shirt or two, a pair of the "nice" denim, the leather sandals. It's not the usual uniform for me.

The idea will be to spend 72 hours shedding the usual trappings of a life split between kids and work, where I'm either wearing baggy corduroys and a sweatshirt or a pair of pressed pants and a jacket. I'm sure we'll spend some time sipping silly cocktails made with exotic booze and maybe even throw caution to the wind and hit a club or two (if you've ever seen me dance, you'll know why I have to be cautious). In short, I'll do my best to be as cool as an Elmore Leonard protagonist.

In my day-to-day life, I don't have the time to even think about acting cool. I'm a parent, after all. Trying to keep up with fashion or TV or pop music ranks somewhere below clearing out dryer lint and checking the mousetraps. It's not that I think Fall Out Boy and Speed Racer are somehow frivolous topics. I just don't get the chance to dwell on them very often.

So, in my perpetual quest for balance, these weekends away are an incredibly important way to get beyond the to-do list. I get to remind myself that the concert-hopping, out-till-four-in-the-morning, twentysomething part of me is still there, below the surface.

Don't get me wrong: I love my kids. I like my job. But life can be a grind. It's nice to be reminded that even though I grow older and more out of touch with each passing year, that even with the kids and the mortgage and the bill from the dentist, I can still be cool. Or at least pretend.

How about you all: Is it important to your sense of balance to hold on to that part of personality forged when you were footloose and fancy-free? And if so, how do you pull it off?

Brian Reid writes about parenting and work-family balance. You can read his blog at rebeldad.com.

By Brian Reid |  February 28, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Conflicts
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I was a geek when geeks weren't cool.

What's that you say? Geeks still aren't cool?

D@mn!

- Cliff Clavin

Posted by: ArmyBrat | February 28, 2008 7:35 AM

"Is it important to your sense of balance to hold on to that part of personality forged when you were footloose and fancy-free? "

Yes, but it has nothing to do with being "cool".

Posted by: chittybangbang | February 28, 2008 8:00 AM

Brian

" I have a vintage T-shirt or two, a pair of the "nice" denim, the leather sandals"

Hip people(even in Miami)don't wear socks with leather sandals.

Posted by: chittybangbang | February 28, 2008 8:05 AM

The bar for "cool" is far, far lower now than it ever was. basically, a shower and high heels equals cool now. but i think the core of this issue is that for some people, it is hard to have your identity be only as a parent, even though it is an incredibly wonderful part of our lives.

Studies have shown that people with "multiple identities" (not in a schizophrenic way) are happiest. Mom, volunteer, daughter, wife, knitter, employee, etc -- these various identities bring more stability and happiness than just one self.

Also, Brian -- bravo on sneaking away. I know how hard that is. 72 hours goes a long, long way. Hope the weather is great and you have a fun time with your honey.

Posted by: leslie4 | February 28, 2008 8:05 AM

What is this, another case study in the death of the grownup?

My parents never took a vacation from me, and I don't feel any need to take a vacation from my kids (yet, anyway... they're not yet teenagers). Still less do I regret no longer being a feckless 20-something. My life is better now, for all that I have more responsibilities!

Posted by: mucus99 | February 28, 2008 8:28 AM

Feh, what is this psychobabble about multiple identities? I only have one "identity" and I am perfectly happy!

Posted by: mucus99 | February 28, 2008 8:29 AM

I am always unsure of how "cool" I am or will be to my kids or their friends when they get a little older to even consider whether or not I'm cool.

So, in the meantime, my honey and I steal the moments we can together and enjoy them. And then the moments we spend with our kid are precious too.

Someday we won't even be able to stay awake past 8 pm or need 3 naps during the day to make it through. We take it as it comes....cool or uncool.

Posted by: tecatesdream | February 28, 2008 8:38 AM

"Is it important to your sense of balance to hold on to that part of personality forged when you were footloose and fancy-free? "

By Brian Reid | February 28, 2008; 7:00 AM ET

"Yes, but it has nothing to do with being 'cool.' "

Posted by: chittybangbang | February 28, 2008 08:00 AM

True enough. Even during the years I was single, I was not cool. "Cool" means either you don't care, or you're pretending not to care. That's why drugs are cool, and I didn't do drugs. That's why drag racing is cool, and I didn't drag race. Even when I'm having fun, I care about having fun. When I played in the band, or spun records for the radio station, I cared about what I was doing, and so I wasn't cool. In this wonderful world of sights, sounds, tastes, and feelings, cool is stupid. Whom would I be trying to impress by pretending I don't care?

Posted by: MattInAberdeen | February 28, 2008 8:45 AM

"(yet, anyway... they're not yet teenagers)"

Well, mucus99, I am glad that you put in this qualifier.

I would suspect that for most families there comes a time when the children want a vacation from the parents as much as the parents from the children. Gee, once in a while, even spouses may desire a few days away from each other.

We just came back from a vacation without our teen. We all seemed to survive and even enjoy ourselves.

The house was even still standing and clean!

Posted by: fred | February 28, 2008 9:00 AM

"I would suspect that for most families there comes a time when the children want a vacation from the parents as much as the parents from the children."
Posted by: fred | February 28, 2008 09:00 AM

My parents and I found this balance by sending me to one theme-based (gymnastics, sailing, etc.) camp every summer, usually a week or 10 days long, that was a long ways from home. We'd do a family road trip to get to the camp, drop me off, they'd take off by themselves for the duration of camp, and at the end of it we all had a fun summer vacation.

Honestly, now that I'm waaay past summer camp age (but not yet married), it's a lot harder to take a vacation without my now-elderly parents. I don't get a heck of a lot of time off work, my parents live 2000 miles away and aren't able to travel to me, and I don't really have the financial wherewithal to take a vacation separate from going to see the 'rents at holiday times. What I wouldn't do for just one more week of summer camp!

Posted by: northgs | February 28, 2008 9:16 AM

...then a redneck whose definition of cool doesn't match Brian's, and who wears vintage -dhirts not knowing they are vintage gets Brian into a bar fight, and later a girl comes up to him and claws his wife...

Posted by: TheRealOne | February 28, 2008 9:25 AM

My car radio never went "kiddie"

My poor kids listened to my music until their tastes changed and I listened to their music so I could stay modern. When the oldest came home from college with the full Grateful Dead catalog I felt vindicated!

I'm all for a parent-only vacation. But we always found that the next thing we wanted to do was go back with our kids.

That explains why our kids spent a month driving around in Wyoming and Montana one time. It was what we loved, and love-it-or-not, so would they.

So I think dragging your (slightly older) kids along on things that are your interests is the way to go.

Posted by: RedBird27 | February 28, 2008 9:31 AM

There was a boy in my fourth grade class who brought in Simon & Garfunkel (his dad's favorite) for show-and-tell when Elton John was the only cool singer in our minds. Now that boy was cool.

I'm with you -- my radio doesn't go kiddie. My son has an eclectic knowledge of and respect for U2, the Grateful Dead, Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, David Bowie, Queen, The Indigo Girls, etc.

Posted by: leslie4 | February 28, 2008 9:38 AM

I so wish my husband and I were going to Miami without our daughter! She's a 24 hour job, and everyone needs a vacation. And the grandparents salivate over the thought of 72 straight hours of spoiling her, which she loves. It's a win-win-win. I've just now come to this point as she approaches 14 months old. My husband is jumping for joy. We just need to plan the weekend. Ahhhh.

Quite frankly, I was/am cool by my definition of cool, and so were/are my friends. Cool people are approachable and interesting and engaging, so we like to get out and experience the world and connect with other people. This used to mean skiing in Austria and playing in bands and seeing big acts in small venues because you have the hook-up (the standard "cool"). Now it's chatting up other parents at the playground and planning a big picnic with all the kids when the weather turns. I try to stay interesting by reading and keeping up with the news, because goodness knows I have no idea who's playing at the Black Cat and I'll probably be pregnant next ski season.

Posted by: atb2 | February 28, 2008 9:48 AM


Leslie, wait until your kids are teens. I have my entire family on a single iTunes account, and have the songs on their iPods and a couple of computers. It's really interesting to see some of their tastes. I learn a lot about new music by looking at the receipts and listening to some of the songs.

It's been fun to see my son (who plays trombone and drums) download Wynton Marsalis tunes, and the recent Grammy awards saw several Herbie Hancock tunes enter the house.

Let's see, the last songs downloaded included "I'm Still Here (Jim's Theme)" by John Rzeznick and Maroon 5's "Won't go Home Without You" (by middle DD); Arctic Monkeys' "The View from the Afternoon" and Metallica's "Fuel" (that would be DS); Sum 41's "We're All to Blame" and Motion City Soundtrack's "Everything is Alright" (youngest DD chiming in). Oldest DD last got Atreyu's "Becoming the Bull."

A lot of it is trash, but there are some really good songs in that collection. And all four of the kids recognize that the Beatles are the best band that ever existed. Now, if I can just convince them that Bruce Springsteen is a deity. They all hate him, as does their mother. Gotta get a paternity test on those kids. :-)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | February 28, 2008 9:50 AM

Now, if I can just convince them that Bruce Springsteen is a deity. They all hate him, as does their mother. Gotta get a paternity test on those kids. :-)


Posted by: ArmyBrat | February 28, 2008 09:50 AM

ArmyBrat - you made a grave, grave error when you married this otherwise wonderful (I'm sure) woman. Shouldn't you have uncovered this character flaw before it was too late?

Just kidding, of course.

Posted by: mn.188 | February 28, 2008 10:17 AM

MN, like many other people entering into marriage wearing rose-colored glasses, I was convinced I could change her given the opportunity. :-)

Sadly, she still prefers ELO. :-(

We've just learned to accept each other the way we are. :-) (She does worship the Beatles, and cites them as one of the reasons she spent a year in college studying in England. So it's not all bad.)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | February 28, 2008 10:24 AM

This blog is rapidly moving toward
Bolgia 6...

Posted by: chittybangbang | February 28, 2008 10:30 AM

Took my kids downhill skiing at a real mountain this weekend. It proved to be a little too much for them but it gave me a taste of my old self to schuss down a steep incline in style!! I do wish I had more time to reconnect with those parts of myself that have been subsumed in trying to be a responsible parent and employee but I'm surrounded by a lot of folks whose children are in college or almost in college. So I try to remind myself that the intensive parenting is finite and if I just keep in reasonable shape I can get out and tear up the slopes in just a few more years.... Hey great topic today Brian. Have a wild time in Florida!

Posted by: anne.saunders | February 28, 2008 10:38 AM

"This blog is rapidly moving toward Bolgia 6..."

That's a little extreme; I'd say no worse than the 5th circle.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | February 28, 2008 10:58 AM

"This blog is rapidly moving toward Bolgia 6..."

"That's a little extreme; I'd say no worse than the 5th circle. "

Wait 'till the "Attachment Parenting" nutjob shows up...

Posted by: chittybangbang | February 28, 2008 11:03 AM

"'Cool' means either you don't care, or you're pretending not to care."

btw, this is a classic straw man approach. Define a positive word in a way that is only negative so that, when it does not apply to you, it's a good thing.

"Cool" doesn't mean you don't care or are a poseur. It means you exude confidence, truly like and value yourself, feel no need to be judgmental or put others down, are a leader not a follower, and don't get side-tracked by detritus. A cool person "owns" the world and her own choices, takes reasonable risks in the pursuit of life, rarely checks in with the peanut gallery or anyone else before making personal decisions. As a result, she has more to talk about then work, the kids, and whether the 2 for 1 special at BJs is worth the hassle.

"Cool" doesn't listen to ELO. (couldn't resist, ArmyBrat).

If you're not cool, your life isn't over, but to be cool is not a bad thing. Your 13 year old never thinks you're cool, but how would he know? It takes a certain amount of living before we are able to distinguish between "cool" and "desparately striving to appear cool".

Posted by: mn.188 | February 28, 2008 11:11 AM

Paid maternity leave at law firms:

http://www.abovethelaw.com/2008/02/featured_survey_results_matern_1.php#more

Posted by: chittybangbang | February 28, 2008 11:22 AM

"whether the 2 for 1 special at BJs is worth the hassle."

I almost read "at" as "on" which would definitely put us in Bolgia 1.

Bad ArmyBrat. Bad, bad, bad ArmyBrat!

Posted by: ArmyBrat | February 28, 2008 11:52 AM

We aren't really cool. I gave that up years ago. Don't really care all that much (wait! Does *that* make me cool?).

I do like to get away from the kids a little bit, though. I schedule our au pair saturday nights a lot so we can. I push it, my husband doesn't think much about it, really. But we do need some alone time some time to regroup. I'd love if we could actually get away overnight sometime, but that's doubtful anytime soon. But maybe, if we coudl drop the kids off at the grandparents...

Posted by: atlmom1234 | February 28, 2008 12:11 PM

The Hallmark of Cool

Being cool has nothing to do with the music we listen to, drugs we did (or do), the clothes we wear, the car we drive, or the people we know.

Cool is an attitude. Only people that have a remarkable ability to accept the truth, especially when it involves defects in others, are deserving of its label. Cool is patient, non-judgemental, and yes, requires an intense ability to care for our family, friends and strangers alike. Rarely do cool people get upset. That's because they has acquired wisdom, often through personal suffering, and have learned the difference between the things they can change and the things they accept. They are models of serenity. We all like cool people because they love us for who we are, not for our appearance, money, or talents. They are refreshing to be around, and so trusted often their friendship is taken for granted. Rooted in truth, hated by the wicked, their forgiveness granted just for the asking, they will be there in your greatest time of need.

If your teenager can say this about you, congratulations! you qualify as a cool parent!

Posted by: DandyLion | February 28, 2008 12:42 PM

I pretty much wear clothes from Target on the weekend. Is that hip? I'm into comfort and affordability. Hipness is not really a concern.

Posted by: cliffmerrell | February 28, 2008 1:10 PM

Sadly, she still prefers ELO. :-(

Posted by: ArmyBrat | February 28, 2008 10:24 AM

Dagnabit, now I can't get that song out of my head...

Don't bring me down, Bruuuuuuuuuuuuce!

Posted by: mucus99 | February 28, 2008 1:25 PM

"It means you exude confidence, truly like and value yourself, feel no need to be judgmental or put others down, are a leader not a follower, and don't get side-tracked by detritus."

Posted by: mn.188 | February 28, 2008 11:11 AM

"Cool is an attitude. Only people that have a remarkable ability to accept the truth, especially when it involves defects in others, are deserving of its label. Cool is patient, non-judgemental, and yes, requires an intense ability to care for our family, friends and strangers alike. Rarely do cool people get upset. . . ."

Posted by: DandyLion | February 28, 2008 12:42 PM

An interesting manner of argument. Define "cool" the way the Apostle Paul defines "love," and of course everyone will want to be cool. Consider:

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." -- I Corinthians 13:4-8 (NIV)

Patient = patient, non-judgmental = keeps no record of wrongs, rarely upset = is not easily angered, etc. Why not go all the way and add, "Cool never fails"?

Posted by: MattInAberdeen | February 28, 2008 2:23 PM

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." -- I Corinthians 13:4-8 (NIV)"

From "Saul of Tarsus - The American Tribal Love Rock Musical"


Posted by: chittybangbang | February 28, 2008 2:41 PM

Matt, I think all kids aspire to be "cool" and they all wish they had "cool" parents. So, if us parents can define "cool" in a positive context for our kids and teach them how to be sincerely "cool", I think it's a good thing.

On the contrary, if "cool" is defined as uncaring, rebellious, or [fill in the blank]in a negative context, and then want kids to be "uncool" because "cool" is undesirable, well, let's just say, it's not my style of parenting.

Posted by: DandyLion | February 28, 2008 2:57 PM

"This blog is rapidly moving toward Bolgia 6..."

"That's a little extreme; I'd say no worse than the 5th circle. "

Wait 'till the "Attachment Parenting" nutjob shows up...

Posted by: chittybangbang | February 28, 2008 11:03 AM

Wait 'til the humorless, arrogant, finger-wagger from yesterday shows up to chastise anyone who benignly suggest that some parents and/or MILs are pills and that it will all be different when they are grandparents or MILs. Not.

DandyLion: spot on, my friend.

Mucus:

It's a livin' thing.
It's a terrible thing to lose.
It's a given thing.
What a terrible thing to lose.

Matt, Do you agree that ELO is decidedly uncool?

Posted by: mn.188 | February 28, 2008 3:03 PM

"It's a livin' thing.
It's a terrible thing to lose.
It's a given thing.
What a terrible thing to lose.

Matt, Do you agree that ELO is decidedly uncool?"

Posted by: mn.188 | February 28, 2008 03:03 PM

"Making believe this is what you've conceived
From your worst day,
Moving in line when you look back in time
To your first day"

On the one hand, we could say that ELO is being uncool because it is being critical of "making believe," just as I am critical of "cool" as "pretending not to care." On the other hand, that's too tenuous a connection, because there's lots of "pretending" besides "pretending not to care" or (Brian's title for today's blog) "pretending to be hip." It's not my job to label anyone "uncool" -- especially not on the basis of one song.

"Matt, I think all kids aspire to be 'cool' and they all wish they had 'cool' parents. So, if us parents can define 'cool' in a positive context for our kids and teach them how to be sincerely 'cool,' I think it's a good thing."

Posted by: DandyLion | February 28, 2008 02:57 PM

The problem with this is, ¿where do "all kids" learn to aspire to be cool? Are they born with iPods? Or do they learn this from either the media or the kids they hang out with? And if the latter, how do they distinguish between the positive context ("sincerely 'cool'") that their parents teach them, and their hoodlum friends inviting them to "smoke this, it's cool"?

Posted by: MattInAberdeen | February 28, 2008 3:26 PM

I gave up trying to be cool when I decided to live my own life, not the one my (a) parents; (b) siblings; (c) grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins decided was best. Funny enough, my nieces and nephew think I'm the cool aunt, since I decided on a career, season tickets to MLB, traveling, and education. Cool is in the eye of the beholder.

Posted by: babsy1 | February 28, 2008 4:04 PM

My son was looking thru my MP3's on the computer while talking to his friend.

"Hey, my dad has some Led Zeppelin! Wow!"


Guess, I might have been "cool" at some point in my life.

Posted by: fred | February 28, 2008 5:20 PM

"How about you all: Is it important to your sense of balance to hold on to that part of personality forged when you were footloose and fancy-free? And if so, how do you pull it off?"


I sure do feel that way, Brian. I think it's a healthy urge. We're not just parents. We're people. I think it's really important to keep that love connection with your spouse, so your relationship doesn't become just about the kids. And I think it's very healthy to define yourself by more than just being a parent.

Happy mom and dad means happy kids.

My husband and I have only been away for one overnight without the kids (ages 5 and 8), but we go for frequent lunches and dinners out. We try talk about stuff other than the kids. We try to talk about music or books or politics, the stuff we connected on before we got married.

We even went to a "Journey" concert together. Not really hip anymore, but it was in our day.

Good luck on your trip.

Posted by: gchen | March 4, 2008 10:06 AM

http://geo.ya.com/kotimare/ bleper

Posted by: duchos | April 15, 2008 9:20 PM

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