How to be a "Cool Parent"

This weekend we had Girlzilla’s famous Halloween party in our house, which has not fully recovered from the twenty some-odd party teens and the five girls who stayed the night. Looks like we’ll be doing it again next year.

So in the process of pulling this thing off, I had time to meditate on the phenomenon of the mythical “Cool Parent” that every parent of teens in their heart of hearts wants to be. I have some rules I think will help those who wish to pursue this rewarding but foolhardy goal:

Rule 1 — You are not cool. Remember that.

Seems a little counterintuitive, but it’s true. You are old. There is no way you will be cool. Cool is something you can only attain if you do not seek it. You may only be able to fake it for a few hours at a time. In fact I suspect that authentically cool people only fake it for a few hours at a time themselves.

Rule 2 — Enforce the rules.

Kids expect you as a parent to set boundaries and enforce them. If you let them get away with stuff because you want them to like you, that’s very lame.

Rule 3 — Remember what you were like when you were that age.

And plan activities accordingly. Accuracy is very important here. A few years off in either direction can be a disaster.

Rule 4 — Talk to the kids with respect.

Most teens, like most adults, like to talk about themselves. If you can get them on their subject and not try to lecture, teach, or pretend you know what they’re talking about, you too can have a one on one respectful adult conversation with a teen.

Rule 5 — Relish your old fogey status.

To a lot of teens, adults can be kind of one-dimensional. Don’t be afraid to be three dimensional. Be your goofy, nerdy, quirky selves. Go ahead, play the oboe, show off your spoon collection, wear dress socks with tennis shoes. If you are comfortable in your own persona it gives them hope that someday they can be so too.

Rule 6 — Short time span

This is key. It is much easier to be cool with someone else’s children because they’re short term. They will go home soon and you have no responsibility to raise them to be responsible healthy citizens. If they want to take the bowl of Halloween candy upstairs and gorge themselves in bed, hey, it’s just for one night. You can return to being the nutrition Nazi that your kids know and love tomorrow.

Rule 7 — Get Away

Find time away from children of all ages. Go be with people your own age. Teens all know the restorative powers of being away from the likes of you adults. Take a clue from them and find some much needed adult perspective.

So there you go. Sort of works for us. Of course having a brother who’s a Cool Uncle and a DJ helps a lot too.

Poem: You

Uninvited, the thought of you stayed too late in my head,
so I went to bed, dreaming you hard, hard, woke with your name,
like tears, soft, salt, on my lips, the sound of its bright syllables
like a charm, like a spell.

Falling in love is glamorous hell; the crouched, parched heart
like a tiger ready to kill; a flame’s fierce licks under the skin.
Into my life, larger than life, beautiful, you strolled in.
I hid in my ordinary days, in the long grass of routine,
in my camouflage rooms. You sprawled in my gaze,
staring back from anyone’s face, from the shape of a cloud,
from the pining, earth-struck moon which gapes at me
and I open the bedroom door. The curtains stir. There you are
on the bed, like a gift, like a touchable dream.

— Carol Ann Duffy

Second Life

One of the below mentioned salons takes place monthly in Second Life, this 3-D virtual world which, as I understand, is now free to join. There’s a teen version too, I see.

I don’t dare even go in. The same reason why I don’t try to learn the latest video games. I find that once I climb the learning curve on one of those things, it’s a slippery slope to obsession city. But you might be able to handle it.

I don’t need a second life. I need more hours in the day for my current life.

Futures Salon Needs Leader

My former professor and senior colleague is trying to start up a Houston chapter of this Future Salon organization. He’s looking for two people to lead the effort. The idea sounds great to me. I have an interest in futures and love the salon concept. But if I take on another project, my wife will (rightly) have me strung up.

A long time ago, when I was a student with only one child, I led a futures salon for other futures studies students and alumni. But that was many children ago. We have our own conversational salon, Second Thought, going along pretty well now. We have no room for more salons.

But if you live in the Houston area and the idea sounds inspiring to you, please step up. I want to attend one of these things, just not lead it.

Chucky Cheese, take me away!

Life is full. Lots of opportunities to serve and reap the attendant rewards.

Heidi and I are two sessions into teaching another marriage class to about eight couples. Two more to go. The last session includes original material on couple planning I am developing — the kernal for a book I want to write. Or at least a whole separate class I want to develop. Our experience in teaching this kind of class is only confirming that this is something we want to do together long term. It’s a key part of our couple vision.

Heidi and I, well, more like Heidi with my help, have taken over the youth ministry position at our parish. It’s a temporary thing, but at a full time staff level of effort. Paid, praise God. The volunteer base has been neglected to the point that we’re down to a dedicated but haggard few souls. There’s a lot of restorative work to do to get things humming again. Apparently, we’re the cavalry supposed to come in and save the homesteaders who have their wagons circled and white flags waving. I pray we’re up to the task.

Meanwhile we can certainly use the money. I need to come up with a plan so that we use the extra money in a way that we won’t be hit too hard when the temporary assignment ends.

Our monthly conversational salon is going well. Last Saturday’s was a conversation about “Stuff” with a “Hurrican Rita” chaser. We need to decide next month’s topic. Since Advent and Christmas is coming up I was thinking about “Incarnation” as a good spiritual topic.

We’re busy planning Girlzilla’s Halloween Party. Last year’s was such a hit that her friends have been asking about this year’s version since last month. So we have a lot to live up to. We’re having a “Night of the Living Dead” theme, albeit loosely. Uncle Dave the DJ has agreed to come fill the night with funky grooves once we run out of silly games to play.

And my Futurist stuff is still hanging on. Projects keep trickling in. If I made any less money as a Futurist, I’d have to call it just a hobby. But it seems I have one current client and one looming prospect, so it stays on my radar screen.

And then the mechanics of running a household have to be replanned. We haven’t fully emptied the garage from hurricane Rita. We need to get a plumber in to fix no less than five annoying plumbing niggles. And I’m running out of clean underwear.

All the above goes by way of explanation as to why I am actually looking forward to taking Mr. Freshpants to Chucky Cheese for a birthday party tonight.


I hope not too many of today’s Catholics find this story to be surprising. That the bible is not to be used as a historical or scientific record has been taught to me since day one in my Church.

Though I find the headline to be a bit misleading:

Catholic Church no longer swears by truth of the Bible

It’s not like we’ve tossed it out the window altogether or anything. In fact, in terms of history, most Lay Catholics are just now discovering the Bible, especially compared to our Protestant brethren.

This is another example of the disintermediation of our faith. Priests and ministers have to get used to not being the sole providers of religious information and instead act as guides as individual believers navigate their own paths through the marketplace of ideas that is often mistaken for spirituality.

Boredom is a Paradise

“Boredom is paradise … it is the blessed absence of what the world offers as ‘interesting’, i.e., the lures of fashion, media and other people, which, you may recall, Sartre considered Hell.”
— Billy Collins

I love this article on the merits of boredom (found via the Lifehack Community Blog). I am a big believer in the instructive power of Boredom, especially for kids. In that space created when there is nothing on TV, they’ve played all the video games, nobody’s available online to chat or in meatspace to come over and play; in that space when the list of usual suspects fail to entertain; in that space is the springboard to creativity, learning, and invention. It is “part of a dialectic between activity and inactivity” from which new things come.

But going deeper is a benefit I hadn’t considered: spiritual depth. Rather than frantically attempting to escape boredom, the contemplative person sits with the the “unquiet mind,” facing the lack of understanding and ultimate fear of death which drives the mind so frantic in the quietude of inactivity.

“Excruciating as it may be, boredom offers an elevated awareness of time’s conquering, expansive enormity … It’s an intimation of death, a glimpse into the nothingness that lurks behind and threatens each person, each project, each moment.”

Fear of the abyss leads us to run from boredom. Facing boredom allows us to face that fear. Or at least find a new and innovative way to alleviate it.

I’ll need to remember this the next time I can’t find anything to watch on TV. It’s like a call to prayer.

"Giving Space"

Chris Corrigan’s brilliant recent post has broadened my view of the spiritual side of driving a car.

Mind you, I’ve been a long time practitioner of centering prayer while driving. That’s not as dangerous as it sounds. Instead of “Just Sit,” I “Just Drive.” In fact I pay more attention on the road when I do Driving Meditation because I have put away all distractions such as the radio and I am constantly returning from my mind’s many mental distractions to the task of driving. Works just like prayer at home.

But Chris takes it one further. By yielding one’s agenda and driving with others in mind, he “gives space” to the other drivers on the road. He thereby spreads loving kindness and actively creates a safer, more nurturing environment on the road. Cool.

I’ve got to try it on the way home today.

Don't mess with my Texas AC

Dear skinny lady at the table behind us,

You are very slender indeed. You look great. I can totally understand your desire to call attention to that fact by wearing that strappy sleeveless thing some might generously call a shirt. In fact, those of us who dress in order to cover up as much of their vast expanses of flesh as they can (A public service. No thanks necessary.) are probably a little envious, which I guess only adds to your fashion experience.

Hey, you’re free to wear as little clothing as your modesty or city ordinances will allow. No problemo por moi. Until you mess with my AC.

In Texas, air conditioning is a deadly serious thing. It’s a Houstonian’s birthright. Thermostat wars in Houston have been known to end in murder. And ask anyone who knows me — I am chock full of the Milk of Human Kindness until you mess with my AC.

So if your dainty bare shoulders get cold in the beautiful, glorious, life-giving AC provided in public places like restaraunts, too damn bad. You don’t get to cheat other diners out of their birthright because you chose to go sleeveless today. No, we will not adjust the thermostat to accommodate your fashion sense. Not without a fight to the death.

Room temperature is 72 degrees, so plan accordingly. Bring a wrap or one of those poncho-ey things. Sit by the window. Sit outside. Stay home. Whatever you need to do.

Just don’t mess with my AC.


The sweating guy at the table behind you