I grew up in a Kool-aid-mom kind of household. Our house was the hang out, and mom was involved enough in our lives to be up to date and informed without being over-bearing. There were always extra kids around. Friends often stayed until dinner time or overnight, and mom would magically have enough food for however many mouths needed feeding. When we had get togethers or parties, invariably some of our friends would end up hanging out in the kitchen talking to mom and dad.
I have not reached that level of Kool-aid status. However, I’m fairly confident that I land somewhere on the scale between totally slammin’ (ie: way cool & hip) and hopelessly awkward and embarrassing. I’ve determined that my best defense against becoming one of those old ladies who sits in the corner dazed and confused is to make sure I continue to listen to the best resource: kids.
This is not as easy as it may seem. As time goes on I find myself around young kids less and less. We have a couple of preschoolers in my extended family, but they are several hours away. Beyond them, the youngest of that generation in my family are now teenagers. In the blink of an eye, I’ve gone from a young mommy of a toddler to a middle-aged mom of a middle-schooler.
As any mom, aunt, or family friend would agree, each phase of child-rearing conveniently provides us with a form of education… after all, it is not just the child that is learning from us. We learn from them all the time as well. And by virtue of being involved, participating, and especially listening, we have a chance to stay young – at least in heart and mind.
Since my son is moving into his ever-so-cool teen years, one of the ways I attempt to stay in touch with those who are still shorter than me is by volunteering to teach Church School at our Church. We have children there ranging in age from preschool to 5th grade and I am constantly amazed by their energy, innocence and sponge-like capacity to absorb all that is around them.
I get to hear about what the kids enjoy doing, what makes them happy, what worries them, what is important to them. I get to hear the phrases they use and see their imaginations at work. It does my heart good to experience the fact that even though they may be excited about a planned vacation, or a friend’s party, or a recent gift they received, without a doubt, hands down, family is still the most important thing in their lives. They may fuss and argue with a sibling in class, but they are at the same time fiercely loyal to any and all family members.
As far as attempting to stay trendy… well, I have my son and his friends to attempt to help me through that jungle. My son is a Gamer, which means that at least ¾ of what he says to me sounds like a foreign language, or like some futuristic bizarre movie about another world. But when I do get him on other topics, it is helpful and educational. He and his buddies will give me glimpses into that pre-teen to teen environment, and what is cool (err, sorry, “sweet”), and what is not. Phone calls are out, Skyping is in. Music is still cranked, but it is downloaded, not played from an album. News doesn’t come from the newspaper – it comes from Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.
This weekend my son joined me to run errands and do some holiday shopping. In the car he picked the music on satellite to listen to, and we discussed current trends at school. It was handy having him with me… I was searching for WWF action figures for a holiday donation gift, and he clued me in as to what to buy “Mom, you gotta include a Cena.”
At the book store, I had him help me pick out some books for my baby and toddler nephews. We both started down memory lane, saying “ooh, remember this one? You made us read this a million times.” At one point, he said “mom, you’ve GOT to include a couple of these, they are the best.” I have to admit I was only half-listening because I was immersed in the shelves of books. After a moment, I looked up, and there was my 13 year old, his own book tucked under his arm, reading a Bernstein Bears book. I guess I’m not the only one who wants to stay young at heart.
Can I survive in life not being aware of things like Dub Step, Avicci, Nike Kobe 8’s, Doge Memes, Rainbow Looms, Steam Cards, Multi-player functionality, YouTubers and rage comics? Of course. Without any of those, I can go on living a functional life, listening to my Classic Rock, considering which shade of hair-color-in-a-box to buy, and using my iPhone to only half of its potential. But I guess I’d rather try to keep at least one finger on the pulse of the youth. It will help me feel a bit more hip. And maybe some day, instead of Kool-Aid, I could be the Gatorade mom.