Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Slow & Inevitable Death of Cool

I recently posted a picture to Facebook of my car with my newly purchased Yakima Skybox on the roof. A friend from college, who had just had his first child, commented that this was the slow and inevitable death of cool (thanks for an entry title, Brendan). It wasn't a remark on what others think of you, but more what your younger self might think of you or at least that's how I took it. He was right, in that once you have kids there is a certain youth and freedom that is lost, there is simply no escaping it. It got me thinking back to what my life was like before the Mrs and I had kids. Not just the usual stuff, such as never having to diaper anyone, the ins and outs of creating schedules you can live with and your child(ren) can sleep during or finding the right time and place to get frisky with your spouse that can last more than three minutes and without fear for being walked in on. No, I was thinking about some of the other specifics and some of the intangibles.

Tally: 100 cool points.

Before kids, I drove a manual Nissan Xterra. I loved that car. I remember when I was deciding whether to buy that car or to buy a Subaru Outback, a not so sage friend offered me some advice. He said that you're only going to be young once, so why get the glorified mom mobile? We scratched out crotches, chest bumped, grunted and then spit into a spittoon. Not really, but maybe we should have. The Xterra took us on some great adventures. It was even the car we drove our first son, the Little Man, home in. 

It was then that my thoughts on cars started shifting. I started to think that maybe an SUV wasn't the safest vehicle for kids. Then we got into an accident (with the Little Man in the car) and totaled the Xterra. We were all fine. She held up well in the accident and kept us safe. Suddenly, I needed a new car. Ironically (or maybe not so much), I bought a Subaru Outback...the glorified mom mobile...automatic...with two car seats...and the above mentioned Skybox. It's like I never even saw it coming. 

- 5 points for the car, - 4 points for the Skybox and - 1 point for the kids toys and books mess that is my backseat. 
Current tally: 90 cool points. 

In my BC life (before children), I used to go out, and not just on the weekends. Wednesday was just as good as Friday. Weekends were almost entirely spent at my friend's house on the boardwalk of South Mission Beach, San Diego: people watching, enjoying cheap beer, partaking in the ganja (marijuana, to you non-initiated), throwing horseshoes and jumping into the ocean just to bring my core temperature back down to comfortable. I rode my bike most of the time and carried some cash and my ID, that's it. Fundays weren't just for Sundays back then and they started at 10/11 AM and ended around 2/3 AM the next day, but not before a breakfast burrito was gobbled up before passing out falling asleep. If it was a weekday and you showed up to work with a little hangover, chances were that you weren't the only one, and if you were, you could just close your door. 

Now I get out for runs by 6:30/7 AM most mornings and I'm in bed by 10 PM. I stopped going to the beach, just too many issues: parking, drunks, nap times and now we live hours from any beach at all. If I was to smoke pot today, I'd probably just fall asleep, eat all the kid's Fig Newtons or have an anxiety attack...and perhaps all three. I haven't been to a party without kids, or not for kids, in almost three years (the Mrs and I went to one wedding and good times were had by all, but we paid for it dearly the next day). And my wallet is chock full of crap like kids shoes store/haircutters/frozen yogurt frequent buyer cards, all of our insurance cards and kids museum memberships. I look like I am carrying a brick in my front pocket. 

- 10 points for early mornings, + 5 points for healthier living, - 5 points for an overstuffed wallet.        
Current tally: 75 cool points.

I used to watch a lot of sports and the usual mix of major network sitcoms and dramas. I didn't watch a ton of TV though, mainly because I was usually out of the house. Now I am just as happy to watch House Hunters, Property Brothers, Ellen, This Old House or Chopped as I am to watch The Daily Show, Modern Family or Happy Endings all usually while folding laundry or cleaning up the living room. I might watch one game a week, but I usually have to DVR it, avoid Facebook for spoilers and watch it after the kids go to bed. Either that or I am reading a book, updating the blog or spending far too much time admiring friends on Facebook who are traveling abroad or just having a delicious meal in a not-so-kid-friendly establishment. I now find it weird not to see a crayon in pictures of dinner tables. Yep. I'm there.

TV is kind of a big thing these days. I know that TV is this big taboo in the parenting world. Some parents wear the merit badge of not owning a TV, some own TVs but don't allow their kids to watch any of it, some folks use the TV as a babysitter all the time and then there are those like me who let their kids watch some TV but not too much. I know every episode of Curious George, I know the secret words to open the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and I am starting to memorize lines from Wreck-It-Ralph. This past week at bed time, the Little Man exclaimed that he didn't like sleeping in his room anymore and that he didn't like his bed. So I stuck him in our guest room and shut the door. He wasn't happier with this situation either (the desired effect), and proceeded to try to sneak back to his room on several occasions. I warned him not to leave the room again, of course he did and so TV was banned for a week. It was awful for all of us. 

- 5 points for expansive knowledge of children's programming, -10 points for my love affair with HGTV/The Cooking Channel/The Food Network/Travel Channel, -3 points for watching DVR'd sports, -10 points for having to ban TV, + 10 points for limiting my kids TV time.
Current Tally: 62 points.

Travel used to be fun too. When we went to New Zealand in 2008, we took a sleeping pill and eight hours of the flight were gone *poof* just like that. A few cocktails, a light snack and the fourteen hour flight was over. When we planned travel it was where we really wanted to go. There was no thought of noise level, how large the rental car would be, was the furniture in the rental house white because we'll stain it, or had we checked out the list of "things to do with your kids in ______". You picked a place and you went. Voila! Even if you were a little under the weather, you took some cold meds, sucked it up, downed a drink and you had fun; rallying (i.e. if you're down, get your ass back up) was a term I took seriously and a skill I had honed over the years. You made a few playlists, read a book, did a crossword puzzle and maybe watched a movie on your computer to get through the flight. The things you didn't have were a lack of appreciation for the size of the bathroom on the plane (I never even noticed that there changing tables in the bathrooms, and now that I do, they are nearly useless as you can do the same thing on your lap) or a care for how clean or filthy the rest stop bathroom was just outside Anytown, USA on your way to Joeschmovington, USA.

Travel these days is a hassle. We have to schlep two car seats, up to four bags of luggage, a stroller, a  diaper bag, a pak'n'play, two blankies, a stuffed animal, snacks for the drive/flight, both iPads, a camera, bag of childrens medicines, Little Mans light up alarm clock and a random selection of small toys and books. Before we travel, the first thing I do is to load the iPad up with new content and usually a few full length films. If you haven't traveled with kids, the key is keeping them distracted. Obviously, the longer the better. And if something goes wrong with the iPad, then your iPhone better be the back up or some really great coloring books, toys, or snacks. Even then you are not guaranteed a peaceful adventure. 

When I flew back east in August with the boys by myself, the Little Man was taken care of as long as I could feed him and the iPad battery lasted on the flight. However, the Taz would not be so easily appeased. I was that guy on that flight. You know the one. I had the kid who would not stop screaming or crying except for occasional moments when he would take a bottle, eat a snack or if I let him crawl around on the floor (though having to be watchful as he kept trying to eat old food droppings). Otherwise it was pure hell. Of course it couldn't have been a nonstop flight, nope. We had to layover in Atlanta, thanks for nothing Delta, before getting on our final leg. Thankfully the people around me had a collective heart and literally gave me a round of applause when we reached the gate. And the kids aren't to blame. They're kids. I hate being confined to my seat, but at least I fully understand why and I can also order alcohol to get me through it. I dread travel these days. It's a love/hate relationship, but more to the latter than the prior, because even when you reach your destination, there is no sanctuary. Sure, the Mrs and I are planning a trip by ourselves, but that's for our 10 year wedding anniversary which is in three years. For now it's playgrounds, day trips, kids museums, high chairs and making sure we pencil in some nap time...that's how we travel these days.

- 15 points for the shear amount of luggage needed to travel, -10 points for our first sans kids adventure to be set almost six and a half year out from our last trip, +10 points for our tantrum diversionary pre planning, -5 points for getting applause for making it through a flight.

I'll be 35 this year. It's not old by any means, but it's old enough. I like to daydream sometimes that I would be out and about doing this and that if we didn't have kids, but the reality is that's just crazy talk. I'd be working full time, probably hating my job, saving for the day I would eventually have kids and probably getting caught up in the minutia. At this point in my life, I just wish that the bubble pod technology seen in the Jetsons was available today or that all cars came with an optional limo screen. I wouldn't use them that much. But alas, no technology or standard car option like that does exist. The slow and inevitable death of cool is upon me and so it goes. I listen to a lot of Paul Simon, particularly the older stuff. There is a great chorus in "That Was Your Mother" from the 1986 album, Graceland that sums it all up nicely:

"Well, that was your mother
And that was your father
Before you were born, dude,
When life was great.
You are the burden of my generation,
I sure do love you,
Let's get that straight"

Final Tally...who cares? I was never that cool anyways.

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