I knew things were bound to change once my kids became teenagers. It's only natural that there would be a little more attention paid to clothes, music, and attitudes in general. It comes with the territory, I guess. Except I always expected that I would be paying close attention to them. Not the other way around.
But ever since they turned 13, my twin daughter and son have been my uninvited arbiters of taste. She tells me what to wear - or rather, what not to wear. He reminds me not to sing in the car and not to dance unless I'm alone - and preferably not even then.
They both reprimand me when I stick my tongue out at them, even when it's just in jest. They are so strict, these kids of mine. They don't let me get away with anything.
I keep trying to remind them that it's my job to tell them what to do. It is, in fact, one of the better perks in this volunteer job called motherhood. But still they try to micromanage me. What can I say? I wish them luck. Others have tried and failed.
But then it hit me the other day that part of the problem is that my kids are now cooler than I am. Somewhere over the past year or so I took a detour onto the dorky highway. Meanwhile, they outgrew their awkward stage and became, well, rather cute.
Plus, the way they dress and talk, the music they like, the things they find funny - we used to have all this in common. We don't anymore. They have their stuff. I have mine. And rarely the twain do meet.
This is a new and weird feeling. Not only do I no longer always understand them or agree with their tastes - I'm just not hip anymore. I can feel pop culture passing me by.
I'm no longer in the middle of what's happening, and I haven't been for a long time. I'm in the car, waiting to drive my teenagers home. Soon, I won't even be in the car. They'll be driving, and I'll just be home eating madeleines and writing the story of my life ("The Remembrance of Things Cool").
My kids, who are basically kind despite their major-domo ways, still think I'm a little bit cool. But I know better. I can remember a time when I was slightly hip, marginally groovy, occasionally happening. Not anymore. Now I'm a mother. There is nothing hip about being a mother. There are only hips.
"What is hip?" I remember a song from my youth once asking. Hip is all about being young, I guess. All about being new. Nothing that I consider to be hip is the least bit new. Jeans, for example. Or jazz. Quiches, kisses. Très passé.
The newest thing I like is Prince, and his music is 20 years old. Bob Dylan is still cool to me. But he's from the '60s. So to my kids, he's not exactly cool. He's more like history.
Maybe we're not meant to stay forever hip. Maybe we're supposed to pass the torch of what's hot to the younger generation, for them to decide.
I remember thinking that my parents' music was their variety of hip (or, in their case, "hep"). But not mine. That must be how my kids think of me and my taste.
Yet in my heart, I'm still the kid. I guess my parents must have felt that they were the kids, too, even when, to the dullest eye, they weren't. They were - gulp - grownups.
And even to the dullest eye I, frankly, am not 14 and funky anymore. I am feisty perhaps, full of unfinished business. But it's time I gave up on the myth of cool. I'm just not cool.
But hey, it's cool.
The problem is that I don't feel my age - and I don't act it, either. My kids sure wish I did, but I have to continue disappointing them. I'm just a rebel without applause.
The other day my daughter and I were in the kitchen and she was chiding me for something I was saying or doing or singing or dancing. I put my arms around her and said, "It's hard having a teenage daughter."
She nodded and, as she put her arms around me, said, "It's hard having a teenage mother."
And you know, I think that's the nicest thing she's ever said to me.