By Kristin van Ogtrop
Updated January 26, 2015
Joe Ciardiello

Last week I made the terrible mistake of telling Middle as we walked to school that his outfit that day was “super cool.” Now, in my own defense, I don’t think I’ve ever used the phrase “super cool” before and hopefully I will never do it again. It does not help that I said it as one word: supercool. There is nothing less “super cool” than a mother who uses words like supercool, and Middle let me know that, and I mean immediately.

As it turns out, I am:

1. not qualified to rate whether an outfit is cool or not
2. not encouraged to say things like supercool without fear of extreme embarrassment
3. better off if I say very little, even if my son is the only one within earshot

After this exchange I began to wonder if it’s ever possible to be cool in the eyes of your children, and simultaneously to be a good parent. As the mother of three boys, including one who is a teenager and one who just acts like one, I sometimes struggle with how to behave. Which is ridiculous! But, for example, if eight 13-year-old boys are in my kitchen eating pizza that I have ordered, do I hang around and ask anybody if they want a drink, or do I leave the room as quickly as possible? Maybe it’s because I never had any brothers, but I swear when I am around a pack of teenage boys I revert to my incredibly awkward 13-year-old self, and I don’t quite know how to behave. Which, I fear, will eventually undermine my authority as a parent.

I don’t want to be the giant dork, not-supercool mom because I do not want to embarrass my children. But I also do not want to be the mom that a 13-year-old might actually consider cool, because that would probably mean offering them beer with the pizza. Which is not only not legal but also not cool, no matter how you look at it.

So, my question: can you actually be cool and also be a good parent? Or is it better if nobody thinks you are cool (including yourself), because that means you are doing a good job?