Dear kids, I used to be cool.
When I was 20, I surfed down the sand dunes on the North Island of New Zealand.
But you don’t know that.
Honestly, you probably wouldn’t care even if I told you. The gravity of that level of swagger would be quickly lost on you. Because all you see when you look at me is Mom. And definitely not Cool Mom. All you see is the mom who makes you use your manners and finish your chores before you play. You hear the mom who raises her voice when you don’t listen...the first 3 times I ask. I’m the mom who makes you pick up Legos and clean the toilets. I’m the mom who cooks bland meals with a side of peas and worries about things like that weird rash on your belly or if your toenails have been clipped lately. I make you brush your teeth every night because, no, the dentist isn’t on vacation. I limit your screen time and, much to your chagrin, I make you kiss me goodbye in the carpool line.
But I wasn’t always as awful as you seem to think I am. Believe it or not, I used to be cool.
So cool that I once spent a week on a houseboat in Abel Tasman guided only by the light of the southern night sky. Perhaps some psychedelic substances, as well.
In college, I moved to a country where I didn’t know a single soul. It was both thrilling and terrifying and I loved every second of it.
But, these days, I’ve become so entrenched in potty training and meal planning that even I have nearly forgotten how cool I used to be.
When you refuse to eat the “gross” dinner I threw together in 15 minutes after a long day of work, I want to tell you that I used to be cooler than this. I’ve eaten fresh-caught lobstah in Maine and clam chowdah in Boston. I’ve appreciated authentic pasta in Italy, a far cry from this overcooked mush I’m feeding you now. I’ve sipped Fiji water on the white sand beaches of Fiji and dined on fondue in the Swiss Alps. I know good food despite what my current culinary skills tell you.
When you throw a tantrum because I ask you to shower—to shower—I’m tempted to remind you that I’ve danced on tables at Oktoberfest in Munich. I’ve roamed the ancient ruins in Rome. I’ve built clay houses on mission trips in Mexico. I even froze my ass off watching the ball drop in Times Square on New Year's Eve while reveling in a shower of confetti that celebrated the optimism of a new year.
When you roll your eyes at me in annoyance because I remind you to look before you cross the road and wear your helmet when you ride your bike, I don’t tell you about the time I backpacked through Australia, New Zealand, and once through Western Europe. I've slept in hostels for weeks on end. I jumped off a 500-foot cliff and free fell for nearly 10 seconds. The longest, most exhilarating 10 seconds of my life.
But hands down, the coolest thing I’ve ever done was having you.
I traveled the world, I experienced life at its best, and yet I always dreamed of you—creating you, raising you, loving you.
You completed all my hopes and dreams in ways that living life on the edge never could. You taught me the meaning of life because you allowed me to create life. You grew inside me, kicked inside of me, heard my heartbeat inside me.
You made time screech to a halt when I heard your heartbeat for the first time, and yet you defy time by growing from an infant to a toddler to a reckless adolescent in the blink of an eye. You make me wish time will both fast forward through the dark nights and yet stop for those uncontrollable giggles that make even the hardest days brighter. The dichotomy of motherhood is both the bane and reason for my existence.
You challenge the truths I hold, the values I believe, the goals I desired to achieve. Your mere existence makes me a stronger person, a better friend, a kinder human, and—I pray to God—a good mother. You push me to think beyond myself and the world in which I exist and to selflessly work toward a better tomorrow for you, your children, and all those who come after.
You love unconditionally in a way that reminds me of the goodness of people. Our world so often feels full of hatred and violence. We’re divided by politics, religion, and racial identity, and yet you see beyond that. You love friends despite the color of their skin. You love family despite their political party. You love me despite the mistakes I’ve made along the way.
Believe it or not, kid, raising you is really freaking cool. Raising you is more terrifying than any bungee jump. More thrilling than any South Pacific adventure. More beautiful than any European landscape. More than I ever expected and better than I ever hoped for.
So, sweet, naïve child of mine, we might not see eye to eye on what is cool these days. I don’t play fortnight and I prefer to be in bed by 9:00 PM. Packing lunches is my kryptonite. I live for quiet nights in and following rules is kind of my jam. But, regardless of our definitions of “cool,” I hope you remember that I’ve been there, I’ve done that, and I will always be cooler than your dad. Oh, and honey, don’t forget to flush.