Two school-bound teenage brothers flop into a car. Just as the older sibling maneuvers to the end of the driveway, the younger one notices their mother running out of the garage. He alerts his brother. The car stops.
The mother’s arms are flailing. Attached to each hand is a lunch bag, both of which had been forgotten on the kitchen counter. She makes it to the car, breathless. The first-born rolls down the window to retrieve the carefully packed whole grain sandwiches, organic apples, fructose-free drinks, nicely folded napkins, etc. His expression is blank. A real poker face.
I should probably mention that mom was me, just a few weeks ago. And, I was in my pajamas. To sweeten the deal: Other high school kids live on our block.
It’s official. I am a dork parent.
Any inkling of cool I ever had is gone. Totally gone. How did this happen? And why are these horrifying incidents occurring with more frequency? For years I thought I was safe by avoiding minivan ownership and training myself to never, ever dare hand either boy an umbrella. Apparently, passing for hip is not as simple as avoiding a Dodge Caravan purchase or letting your kids get wet.
Here’s the most recent clue to my uncoolness. A few paragraphs back I wrote, “rolls down the window.” Seems I’m old enough to remember car windows were once rolled down, and phones were dialed and stamps were licked. I even catch myself explaining to the kids, “Googling back in my day was driving to the library and thumbing through a three-dimensional card catalog.” They don’t want to hear it, though, because it’s a tedious story that takes way longer than a game download.
Yet every day I put up a good fight to fend off the dork demons. I’m fairly sure I don’t look like a 1972 Sears catalog model in “stylish slacks.” I don’t wear mom jeans, either. At least, I think I don’t. And when I get really angry, the words “golly,” “darn,” and “shoot,” never make the cut. I get more colorful. Plus, I was born in New York, which is now the official capital of the hipster nation. Doesn’t Brooklyn on the birth certificate grandfather me in for some kind of edgy something?
But who am I kidding? I’m afraid if my sons were asked to draw a Venn diagram of my collective behaviors, I’d land in Aunt Bea’s quilting circle. Allow me to present more disturbing evidence:
1. Lately, I have been gripping the steering wheel in the 10-minutes-till-two position. Exclusively.
2. Also, while driving, I catch myself leaning forward.
3. After I totally messed up a cell phone recording of a recent high school event, my youngest asked, “Were you being old again?”
4. I often check the extended weather forecast, and then spread the news to my kids. More poker faces.
5. When stories of teen mischief circulate, I gasp in genuine shock. The genuine part is what’s most alarming.
6. Sometimes I say the word “Rolodex.”
7. Every night, I announce to my family, “I’m starting the dishwasher now.” Not sure what this means, but in my heart I know it’s not good.
8. Last week I convinced one son to wear a collared shirt and khakis to a volunteer orientation. When he texted me about the horrific humiliation — “Everyone else is in jeans.” — I grinned like Jack Nicholson.
9. Some of my shoes are comfortable.
10. More than some.
I suppose the solution to all of this would be to go back to my roots. Maybe hang out with my younger brother in New York for a few weeks. I could manage his band, get a tattoo, slam down some shots and all that. But then, who would make my sons a healthy lunch? They could easily default to Doritos and Mountain Dew.
That would not be cool.