Parents of teens know that your kids say you're cool about as often as they wake up at 7:30 a.m. on a Saturday and offer to do your grocery shopping for you. Therefore, we need to be constantly on the lookout for more subtle signs of approval. By "subtle," I mean so deeply and successfully hidden, you need an emotional jackhammer to get to them.
You may find it sad — pathetic, even — that I read between the lines so deeply just to delude myself into thinking my kids think I'm cool. You may be surprised I suffer from such low self-esteem as a parent that I must not only do this, but write about it. Well, I have only one answer to that. You're right on all counts. Keep reading, anyway.
Here are a few ways I know the 17-year-old thinks I'm cool:
1. I know how to blow glass. When faced with the choice of using a store/factory-made glass for her drink, or a glass that I made, she chooses a glass that I made. It's possible she chooses it because it doesn't go in the dishwasher, and that's one less thing she has to put in the dishwasher. But I think deep down, WE ALL KNOW it's her way of saying I'm cool.
2. She may even go so far, if she has a friend over, to say casually, "Hey, my mom made that. It doesn't go in the dishwasher." This prompts her friend to say, "Wow, she MADE that? That's so COOL!" You see how clever she is? She manipulates her friends to imply I'm cool, so that she wouldn't have to say it herself. Or it's her way of telling her friends they don't need to put the glass in the dishwasher, either.
3. She has, on occasion, borrowed my shoes.
4. She has, on occasion, stalked me on Twitter.
5. She did not freak out when she was at a party that was busted up by the cops.
That last one might require slight elaboration. Allow me, please.
She called me one night from a friend's house where a party was being busted up by the cops. She assured me she was okay, but said they wouldn't let her leave until I came to get her and talked to them. When I arrived, I was stopped outside by an officer who asked me which kid was mine. I peeked inside and saw the chaos of kids and their unhappy/angry parents and cops sorting out the situation. The officer outside apprised me of the situation.
I described my daughter to him, and he asked me if I'd like to head inside or wait in my car.
I asked, "Is she OK? Does it seem like she's upset or needs me in there?"
He answered, "Yes, she's fine. Actually, she's the calmest kid in the place."
I said, "OK, in that case, I'll wait in the car. I'll be there if you or she needs me for anything."
Five minutes later she got into the car, and I just stared at her, waiting for the explanation. She said, "I blew zeros on the breathalyzer, so they let me go." She proceeded to detail the timeline for me and her part in it. She had had one beer, and told the officers that when they asked. She told me other kids were acting belligerent towards the cops, which she said was stupid, because the cops were just doing their jobs and the kids were going to make their situations worse by being like that.
I agreed, of course, and while emphasizing how lucky she was things didn't get dangerous or out of control for her, I was proud she was calm and honest with the cops. "Never, NEVER piss off the cops," I said. "Always, ALWAYS cooperate."
Then I told her what the officer outside said about how she was acting. She laughed, and said, "Yeah, everyone was freaking out that their parents were gonna kill them. I was the only one who wasn't afraid of their parents' reaction. I knew you guys weren't gonna be like that."
How did she know that? Because we've done our damnedest to drill it into her head, no matter what messed-up situation she was in, we'd always be prouder that she called us for help than we would be pissed she was in the messed-up situation to begin with.
With that one sentence — "I knew you guys weren't gonna be like that," she told us we were cool.