When I finally admitted out loud that I wanted a child, I could barely believe myself.
Carlo wanted a child since I can remember, but I was the one not feeling “ready”.
I have always loved children, but I wanted to be a cool untie.
All of the sudden, there I was, having to admit to myself that I wanted a baby. And so I decided I would have done my best to become a cool parent.
Breaking the chain
Both my parents had to wear many hats at the same time during my childhood and good part of my adult life. They had a demanding family business to run while living and working with my mum’s strict parents and a super lively little one.
Balancing the delicate relationship of our extended family was a daily challenge that led to some pretty dysfunctional dynamics.
The good thing is that breaking the chain is possible. Generations of disciplinarian upbringing can be undone.
I understood that to become a cool parent, I had to sort my issues to leave space to make my own mistakes as a parent.
Being a cool parent
is that I have been learning from my son since the day he was born. And thank goodness for mother nature that makes our children teenagers only after you had time to practice being a parent!
Being a cool parent takes time and effort. My son constantly tests my limits and pushes me over the edge, and I lose patience. I get impatient. I want to scream and shout exactly as I am trying to teach my son not to do.
When that happens, and I see it, I know that despite my best intentions I do not have it together. But love takes you to a place where you will try your best to be a better person for yourself, but especially for your children.
Being a cool parent is always going to be work in progress for me. I see being a cool parent not as the destination, but a journey. And a pretty bumpy one.
1. Act with the end in mind
Let me steal this idea from 7 Habit of highly effective people (awesome book, by the way!).
Imagine your funeral.
Imagine your grown up kids speaking about you at your funeral.
Imagine your kids going through their memories of you and telling what you meant for them.
How would you like to be remembered? Compassionate or tyrannical? A supportive person, or someone too busy with their job?
To be a cool parent we should make an effort to forget about your phone, get away from the computer, switch off the TV, put the newspaper away to be with our kids.
Easier said than done. Life gets in the way, and we all need to cool off and relax. Our sanity depends on it.
The good news is that there is no need to do 1000 activities together or buy the latest, most expensive toy to feel a cool parent. More often than not we do that out of guilt, but all our children need is to know we are there for them, and we love them no matter what.
Make a conscious effort to take the time to sit next to your children and just give them a hug.
Make your time with them count. Make it meaningful.
Remember that you are helping build your kids’s future as well as their memories.
2. Do not take yourself too seriously
Being a cool parent means having fun with your kids and smile. There is no excuse not to smile to them.
I would have loved my parents to smile more.
Forget the tie and the smart suit out of the door when you come home.
There is no stress at work, no upsetting episode, no life problem that should prevent us to enjoy our children.
Smiling will help them have a positive attitude toward life that will help them bounce back when difficulties arise.
It is not about teaching them to be naive, it is about teaching them resilience. Shit happens anyway, it is how we react to it that makes all the difference.
3. Be age appropriate
Children are building their experience of the world, so the way they see life is simpler than ours, and it is an “all or nothing” kind of approach.
In fact, the meaning adults give to words and actions are not necessarily the same as our children’s.
The other week our 4 years old son “spit water” towards his teacher during his swimming lesson. The teacher got upset because he saw it as an act of disrespect.
When I asked Ethan why he did such a thing, he replied that the Saturday swimming teacher showed them to do that not to breathe water. I had to explain to him that spitting water was an inappropriate action, and that the teacher got upset because of it.
Ethan was mortified. He genuinely believed it was a fun and ok thing to do.
Incredible how we can easily misunderstand our kids’s intentions, uh?
For them, most of the times, things are just what they are.
Listening to our kids’s reasons with an open mind takes a hell of an effort, but often the payoff is priceless.
This lesson taught me not to take things for granted, and Ethan that, despite our best intentions, certain actions make people around us upset.
So far, the most important thing that I learned trying my best to be a cool parent is to follow my instinct. I will pass on my values and the beliefs I live by, hoping that Ethan will make the most out of his life, however, there is nothing that makes you feel better than making your own mistakes as a parent and not someone else’s.