I’ve heard a lot about the Sweet Spot in parenting lately, and most of it is true. You know what I’m talking about – those few magical years after they learn how to swim but before they learn how to drive when things in your life begin to feel – dare I say – easy. I feel like I’ve finally looked up from years of immersion in a world of diapers, outlet plugs, safety latches and Puddle Jumpers to find not only a couple of big kids with their own personalities, interests and abilities, but to find myself again.
I don’t feel much different than I did a decade ago when I became a parent, or even two decades ago when I was in college. By that I mean I feel (on the inside) like a relatively fun and with-it person. If anything, I feel better. It does not take long, however, when you have school-age children, to be reminded of your complete and utter lack of coolness. I mean, even Niki Taylor is modeling for Talbots these days so it is undeniable that it is happening to all of us. Let’s start with a few of the Nopes that might just creep into your Sweet Spot and give you the impression that you are being…wait for it…Mom-Shamed.
1. Nope to the Nae Nae. Your children will think they look really cool doing the Nae Nae or whatever other kind of dance move is happening at the current moment. They will not think you look cool doing it. My kids were initially kind of excited when I told them I knew how to do the Running Man, but then they busted out laughing when I broke out some early 90s Hammer-esque manuvers. I honestly had no idea. How can it even be allowed to completely reinvent the Running Man and call it the same thing? Attempt this move and they will be laughing so hard that you will just want to Juju on That Beat right out of the room and turn on Pioneer Woman.
2. Nope to the Gainor. It is totally not fair that dads can still get away with going off the diving board. They are celebrated, rewarded, and even dubbed “cool” for reliving their glory days in the deep end. The bigger the splash, the bigger the applause. Somehow it is not as cool when mom steps up to the platform. Even if we are dutifully wrapped in hundreds of dollars worth of performance-enhancing swimwear, we are somehow not allowed to embarass our children in this way.
3. Nope to the Side Braid. I did this in my hair randomly one night when I washed my face – just for fun. My girls wear their hair like this all the time and it’s kind of cute. But I did not look like Elsa or the Swiss Miss. I just looked like a 39-year-old woman in a side braid, which prompted one of my kids to ask me “What are you doing with that weird tiny braid in your hair.” Okay, okay. Back to the messy ponytail – in the back.
4. Nope to Foregoing Undereye Concealer. The other night one of my girls asked me why I put eyeshadow under my eyes instead of “on top.” I did not have on any eye shadow at that moment, and she was referenceing the dark circles that surface after a few days that stretch into nights that stretch back into days again. I did not have the heart to tell her that they are just bags that come with the territory of being a mom (So appealing! So fun!) so I told her I started a new trend. Not one she will be following anytime soon, might I add.
5. Nope to Singing Anything Ever. I wonder if Faith Hill has this problem. And Pink? What about Beyonce? Do celebrities’ kids roll their eyes and make screwed-up faces when their moms belt one out to the radio? I BET THEY DO. There is no correlation between vocal ability and the likelihood of being Mom-Shamed when singing along with the radio.
6. Nope to Cheering Wildly at Sporting Events. As a golf mom, this is kind of a Nope anyway, but it is haaard. We have to walk a fine line being there (a definite yes) and not being a Superfan. Sometimes I can’t tell whether that discrete thumbs up I am signaling is welcome or embarrassing. Thank goodness that cheering wildly at sporting events that do not involve your children still seems to fall into the realm of acceptable. Whew- you may continue to participate in Sandstorm.
7. Nope to Letting On That You Acually Do Understand: I will never forget the first time I heard it. I wanted to run screaming out of the room saying “Too soon! It’s too soon!” But like a dagger to the heart, there it was. “But Mo-om you just don’t get it. You just don’t understand.” But yes I do! I feel only minutes removed from my tweenage self and totally, wholeheartedly and undeniably understand what it’s like to feel left out and ugly and sad for no reason and overwhelmed and uncertain. But nope. That is not going to help. Her struggles are hers to build up and break down and figure out. I’m just there to say, “I know I don’t totally understand, but I’m here.”
I suppose it is a normal part of growing up to think your parents are uncool. And I suppose it is better to be the uncool parent than the cool one, in the long run. I continue to be thankful for the glimpses of things that remind me that they are still little. Like how they still want me to write notes – even jokes – and put them in their lunch boxes. And how they want me to tuck them in at night. And how they will randomly reach for my hand in the Target parking lot. And then there are the other moments – the glimpses of how it will be when they are older. Like when they say (in surprised voice) “That outfit is really cute!” if I have on something trendy like camo or ankle boots. I like going on walks with my oldest and having her right beside me, making conversation like a grown-up. These are the things to come. But for right now I’ll take the Sweet Spot – even if gets a little stanky every now and then.
Kelly Barbrey does not let the Mom-Shaming deter her from having a good time and she certainly does not worry about embarassing her children. She might even show up to carpool next week with a side braid rocking to some Despacito just to keep them grounded. 🤦🏼♀️