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Committed to Keeping My Kids Uncool

Photo Credit: Creative Commons - Nathan Wade Center

Photo Credit: Creative Commons – Nathan Wade Center

In elementary school, I had a pair of hand-me-down pants from one of my older sisters that I hated wearing.

To be clear, this school-age cross-dressing was imposed by my parents as a cost saving measure since they had five kids to clothe and feed.

Being that I had two older sisters, 50 percent of my “gender neutral” closet (i.e. pants, pull over sweaters, zipper hoodies…etc) was technically girls’ clothes.

Hand-Me-Downs From My Sisters

I’m not proud of that fact, but it was an economic reality of my childhood.

But there was one pair of slacks that was particularly problematic.

They were girls’ white-purple-pinstriped bell-bottoms from Sears that happened to be part of the Winnie the Pooh clothing collection at the mass retailer.

The master-branding of Pooh bear was emblazoned across the over-sized, backside pockets of the pants in excruciatingly bright embroidery spanning from my tailbone to mid-thigh – because the pants were two sizes too large.

In hindsight, a third-grade girl might have been able to manage wearing those cursedly cute pants and not get harassed – not so if you were a boy.

Victim of Fashion Faux Pas

On three separate occasions, my mother made me wear those pants to school because they were the only pants I had clean.

Regrettably, it seemed that none of the tried and true camouflage tactics worked.

No amount of “t-shirt tugging” or “sweatshirt-tying-around-my-waist” would cover the massive geography of the adorably-damning needlework on my keister.

Needless to say, I was beaten up each time I wore those pants to school and each time I came home sobbing about the abuse my mother would try to comfort me by saying,

“Honey, all those other kids are just jealous of your pants.”

Even though I was not a junior member of Mensa or an aspiring Fulbright Scholarship applicant – my 8-year old brain knew my mom was full of it.

I mean, say ALL the facts of the situation out loud:

“Honey those 10 year old boys who beat you up are all jealous of the same purple-pin-striped Winnie the Pooh bell bottoms that your 10 year old sister used to wear to their shared classes.”

Bigger Lies I Would Have Believed

I would have been more apt to believe in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the legitimacy of unauthorized Obama Administration wiretaps on journalists before I believed my mother’s whooper of misdirection.

The simple fact was that those pants were not cool and a lighting rod for juvenile ridicule.

To avoid any further schoolyard pummelings, I started doing my own laundry to ensure I always had clean pants. Since I was also responsible for taking out the trash for the household, I discretely disposed of the perditionesque Pooh pants

Being Cool is the Rule of Law for Kids

Anyway, the point is that ever since then I was painfully aware of the need to be accepted in school and the importance of being perceived as cool by peers.

To help our daughters avoid the same peer-induced pain I endured, my wife and I have allowed our daughters (ages 9 and 11) to pick out their own clothes and footwear ever since they expressed clothing preferences.

We want them to feel accepted and to limit at least one potential area of school-based cruelty by helping them dress on trend.

However, it seems that the clothing calculus has changed since I was a kid – and what you wear is only part of the equation.

It seems the real driver of coolness among “the preteen set” is owning a smart phone.

This became evident over a dinner conversation a few weeks ago when our oldest asked if she could have a cell phone because it would help her “be cool.”

Balancing Coolness

My wife and I have discussed this issue many times regarding the pros and cons of allowing our 11 year old to have a cell phone. While she’s certainly mature enough to handle the responsibility – I’m reluctant.

It’s not that I don’t trust her, I simply don’t trust all the other individuals who have access to technology that could interface with her.

The Price of Cool???

While most of her friends already have uber-cool cell phones, email accounts and FB pages – parents of  those same friends are dealing with a crop of new issues and problems (i.e. hacked accounts, spamming, false posts, cyber-bulling…etc.), which I don’t want my kids to endure yet.

In other words, despite my own personal experience as an uncool kid – I’m committed to keeping my kids as uncool as I can for as long as I can.

Question: Do you think you were cool or uncool as a kid growing up? Why?


  • Matthew

    I was the fat kid going to an elementary school where my mother also worked. Yeah…I’d go with ‘uncool’ as my description

    • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

      Welcome to the club!

  • http://www.kenzimmermanjr.com/ Ken Zimmerman Jr.

    Definitely in the uncool category. I was extremely small and skinny, the last person picked to play sports and a major bookworm. I discovered weights at 15 and built myself into a good athlete in adulthood but I was out of school by then.
    I share your feelings as a parent. I tried to keep my kids from experiencing the down side of the “cool” stuff.

  • http://anitadavissullivan.com/ Anita Sullivan

    So not cool until 9th grade when I was a cheerleader and the cool kids befriended me. Those cool kids were truly nice, not the mean cool kids that were also around- still love many of them to this day so many years later. They helped me believe I was cool, and not because of what I wore or didn’t wear.

    • http://anitadavissullivan.com/ Anita Sullivan

      Oh, and I quit cheer after a year I started- learned it wasn’t about doing the ‘cool’ things.

  • http://JonDHarrison.com/ Jonathan Harrison

    I think I was cool for about 9 minutes and 45 seconds. It was overrated. The moment I thought I was cool, my parents would show up and dash any hopes I had. I look forward for doing the same for my son in another 8 years or so.

    As an adult, I thought I had arrived – then I volunteered for the Jr. High youth group. Ouch. Now I’m “uncool” and “old.”

  • http://deuceology.wordpress.com Larry Carter

    I definitely thought I was uncool. People at my 25th reunion said I was sweet and quiet, but I’m sure those were code words for uncool.

  • http://www.adjuvancy.com/wordpress Roy A. Ackerman, Ph.D., E.A.

    FWIW, my youngest had to deal with clothes from his cousins who were way closer in age to him than his siblings. But, he did have a cell phone- for our convenience, not his…
    I never had to worry about cool- when you go to yeshiva, the closest you got to cool was normal glasses (and not those ugly ones with which we all started).

  • http://simplystatedbusiness.com Cathy Miller

    It sounds like to me, Tor, that you Mom was very smart. She got you doing your own laundry, didn’t she? ;-) And don’t get me started on kids & smartphones. I can find no reason kids need smartphones. A cell phone – maybe – in this both parents working world, but not a smartphone.

    Okay, off my high horse & back to your question. My answer would be – at times. I was cool when I was playing on All-Stars sports team. I was definitely uncool in the clothes department (middle child of 7 so I feel your pain, Tor). Although, that’s one good thing to say about the old time Catholic education – everyone wore uniforms. :-)

  • http://LifeontheLighterSide.com/ Bonnie Anderson

    You poor thing. I feel your pain. I was uncool as a child, which is why I love my iPhone so much. Finally I’m cool. It took a while, but it feels great!

  • http://www.jonstallings.com/ Jon Stallings

    I have to admit my main goal in school was flow far below the radar. Middle ground was for. There was one element that caused me to stand out in the uncool crowd. Book backpacks are pretty much a necessity in school today but that has not always been the case. Starting in kindergarten my dad would take me to the Army surplus store to find a nice canvas backpack to last the school year. Even after my dad passed when I was in the 6th grade I would still buy a new back pack (though not army surplus) each year. So I soon acquired the nickname of “Camel” I eventually embraced it and carried on.

    And looking back I have discovered I was really trendsetter and pioneer. Now every kid wants a backpack to carry their school books in.

  • http://tithehacker.com/ Mike Holmes

    I was DEFINITELY not cool. Cool wasn’t even on my block…and if he was he didn’t stay at my house! I was fat, shy, and tried desperately to fit in. But the cool thing about that is that God used that to mold me into someone who wasnt THAT concerned about what people thought and more on what HE thought. I mean, let’s face it, people can be kind of fickle…but God…never that!

    But I’m with you: I am COMMITTED to keeping my kids as uncool as possible

  • hipmamamedia.com

    I loved this post! Brought back memories of my family shopping in thrift stores because we had to, not because the hipsters had made it cool. So definitely uncool in my Salvation Army frump threads, but cool in that I was a cheerleader, played sports, was the high school newspaper editor. However, I went to a tiny, tiny school so it helped promote opportunities (if you didn’t field nine girls you didn’t have a softball team, so everyone made the team) so maybe not a good measurement of coolness. On the smart phone thing I definitely do not think an 11 year old needs a smart phone and maybe not even a phone at all. Our policy at home was the kids got cell phones in high school when they actually needed them once they were driving or involved in tons of sports and activities and we needed a way to communicate. Keep your kids an uncool as long as possible and let them enjoy childhood.