I am in my kitchen getting dinner ready. The strains of Bruno Mars' 24 K Magic are floating around in the air, and in my head I am not a mom pushing forty, but in a gold bikini, shaking my backside to that mesmerizing voice.
A few minutes later, I look up and I see my nine year old daughter, Adz, staring at me. "Wassup?" I nod to her, still in my hippity-hop mood. "Uh, Mom … you know that's mom dancing at its best, riiiight?" she says in that drawl that only 9-year-old girls can manage, of course.
And just like that, poof, there go my dreams of getting down with da kids and Bruno Mars, gold bikini optional. Thanks for that, child of mine! (Although, the very fact that I used the phrase getting down with da kids, should probably disqualify me from ever getting down with them.)
Technology lets me attempt to be closer to my kids in a way that my parents weren't able to, but it also creates a different set of expectations.
This exchange — and the fact that Mother's Day is a few days away — has me thinking about my mom and the fact that our lives are so very different. For starters, I've never seen my mom dance. I think the most modern music she knew was Michael Jaikishen (that's Jackson in an Indian accent, and this was the joke in my family). My mom didn't like the same music or clothes as I did and she definitely didn't try to be cool. I don't even think that she knew what being "cool" was all about.
In many ways, I think my mom had it easier when it came to connecting (or not connecting, rather!) with her kids. She didn't have to decide between being a parent rather than a friend. Her parental role was more defined by her generation.
This era of parenting and this generation of kids — a generation at least one-and-a-half times removed from mine – seems harder to navigate as I try to be the "cool mom."
The glaring elephant in the room, of course, is technology. In many ways, the internet is a positive. It's a resource that my mom didn't have and it makes it so much easier to keep up with my kids' lives (thank you, Urban Dictionary!). Technology lets me attempt to be closer to my kids in a way that my parents weren't able to, but it also creates a different set of expectations.
As a digital immigrant, I am awed as my tiny baby boy instinctively knows what to do with a smartphone. My daughter is not just a gamer, but has also been coding her own games, as I watch on puzzled.
There is pressure to know what my kids like (YouTube! Bruno Mars!) and to be involved in my girl's life in a way that my mom never ever did with me. And dealing with that pressure can be overwhelming.
In my effort to be a "cool mom," I find myself expressing my emotions more openly than my parents ever did (as evidenced by this little gem: "Dad, shush, I suspect Mom is in a grumpy mood"). I talk to my girl about her body and her feelings. It is easier for me to tackle taboos from my generation — concepts like consent, sexuality, stranger danger, and emotional and physical abuse. Yes, these are hard topics, but I talk to my daughter about them, and I make sure she understands that I am here for her all the time. In contrast, I don't think I have even mentioned the word "sex" to my mom.
And let's not forget about food. Understanding and experiencing food is a huge part of my own identity. Here I get to be the cool mom, the mom who wants to give her children all the things, and this includes eating and immersing themselves in different cultures through food.
A lot of joyful memories in my life revolve around food. But when I was growing up, food was what it was. It was nothing fancy, and we ate the same things over and over again. My kids, on the other hand, eat a different world cuisine every day. Tonight, we're having fish tacos. Tomorrow is Indian-Chinese. Day after is probably going to be Thai. We'll probably go have sushi on the weekend. I've been playing a lot with Cajun and Acadian cuisine recently. Homemade pizzas, lasagne, and pastas are commonplace. Even my baby gets fancy food, whether it is puréed curried cauliflower or berbere spice roasted carrots.
Every day is a new adventure, and as my kids are taken on a global journey, they have turned out to be pretty adventurous eaters, for which I am grateful.
However, despite all my efforts — the body positivity, the global cuisine, Bruno Mars (okay, I admit it, he's my love!) — in my children's eyes I will always be the dopey parent. But I think it's OK — or at least, I'm coming around to that point of view. It's time for me to own the fact that I am a mom, but I am also the same life-loving, worldly yet naive twenty one year old girl who loved eating Japanese food in London with my Italian best friend. If I want to rock that gold bikini in the face of my girl's disapproving, yet amused, expression, then so be it.
You see, in the end, I will never be a cool mom, but it will be this acceptance of who I am as an individual which will make me a cool person in my children's eyes.