Have you ever been in the midst of a great conversation, two-stepping with a dance partner, or laughing uncontrollably with someone and thought, “wow, this person used to be a kid”?
I think about it all of the time. This became part of my deductive thought process in 2001,when I became a mom for the first time. I already had a skewed lens—I’d taken an extended leave of absence as a doctoral candidate to pursue my dream of stand-up comedy and acting—but becoming a mom shifted everything. Being a mom meant that I would be expected to teach my kids how to . . . be! Well, I’m 13-plus years into motherhood, and I now have three kids, but I’m still no expert. I do know that there are some people I prefer to engage than others, and it makes me wonder, what makes a cool kid cool? Here are a few tips from my quasi-research and amateur anthropological findings on how to raise a kid you would want to hang out with when they become an adult.
1) Let them cry! I mean really cry, like, until a vein is protruding from their little foreheads. When they are infants, if you run every time they wince, it becomes a template, the gift that keeps giving and translates to them as: whatever, whenever, however . . . they will come! The kid will be hardwired to become an asshole.
2) Assume and maintain your position as an adult. A cool kid knows that there is a distinct difference between grown-ups and kids. They actually like it this way. It gives them permission to remain a kid. The best grown-ups to hang out with are the ones who had genuine childhood moments, full of kid activities, kid conversations, and wonderment. Not hanging out with adults who they referred to by their first name and shared a cup of coffee with after a full day of pre-K (awkward).
3) Boundaries. Not a dirty word and certainly not antiquated. So many parents allow their kid to express themselves ad nauseam. I was recently at a home and the kids of another guest were climbing on the furniture, standing on the living-room couch and leaning their butts on the back, where a head is inclined to be. The parents of these children said nothing and offered them a juice box while they stood on the couch. What in the ham sandwich is going on? Butts are for sitting. Translation of a kid walking on furniture: “I will do what I want, when I want, how I want, and I expect no questions. But feel free to make me a martini, shaken, not stirred.”
4) Find places to venture with your kid outside of your neighborhood, family circle, faith, culture, and ethnicity. The most interesting kids are ones who have had the gift of life show up in the beauty of diversity. Above all else, kids should feel safe and nurtured. Yet when their entire existence is inundated with clones of themselves, their homes, food, and culture, how will they ever fare in the world outside of their constructed vortex? Simply expose and welcome difference in their social and educational space. Be deliberate about stepping into spaces that are obtuse to what they see daily. Take a kid to a community garden to volunteer and hand-deliver the produce to a homeless shelter. Sign them up for a class like “The Origins of Hip-Hop” so that when they hear Sugarhill Gang, they can sing along at the karaoke bar as an adult (you’ll be surprised at the solidarity it engenders).
5) Go to sleep. A designated bedtime is a gift from the universe, if instituted in the life of a kid. A sleep-deprived kid is like a terrorist poised to destroy the inner sanctum of a home and family. Kids don’t know what they need, no matter how they try to convince you otherwise—they have only been breathing for three years. If they haven’t mastered the proper removal of bodily waste, how can they possibly know that they are not tired? Create a bedtime ritual/routine that celebrates the gift of sleep. Equate it with every magical, beautiful person, thing, and experience in life—or master the weight and dosage ratio for Benadryl. Rested beings are cool adults, filled with confidence and security.
6) When all else fails, scrap the mission and run to the hills for counsel. Seriously. We will have epic failures as parents and, full disclosure, that makes for some of the best parenting ever. Kids that have witnessed the rise and fall of their parents develop empathy, compassion, and a resilience that can not be manufactured. Reading all of the right books, climbing the social ladder—all of it is contrived and void of authenticity. The coolest kids learn that disappointments are a part of life and, with a good attitude and tons of support, great lessons are learned and character is cultivated. That kid becomes an adult who may feel like the sky is falling at times, yet knows that a good prescription and a night at the comedy club can fight back the astronomical downpour.
#ValiumIsSometimesGREAT #JustKidding #XanaxWorksToo #StillKidding
See info and upcoming shows for Meshelle, the Indie Mom of Comedy, at meshelle.net.