My son Luc is the kind of kid who was too cool for school at birth. Now, at 7 years old, he has amazing hair and washboard abs – despite a once-a-week shower and a diet of mac-n-cheese and hotdogs. He has a risk-taker personality to boot. I know he’s my son, but damn! He’s cool.
Luc also likes to do things that he thinks are cool: get a specific haircut, try skateboarding, attempt to break dance . . . “because it’s cool, mom.” I try to teach him that mommy only cares about how he treats people and being kind to others is cool. Secretly, I love that he’s cool; but I want to make sure I’m not raising an asshole at the same time! Unchecked cool is like farting during sex–it’s definitely not cool, AND it’s embarrassing.
Luc went to his first skateboarding camp this week and at the end of the session, the teacher asked for a volunteer to demonstrate a new trick they had learned. A few (even) cool(er) kids stepped up. They were impressive. The tatted-up instructor summed up the lesson by encouraging them to never leave after a day of skating without trying the one trick that freaked them out.
I remember sitting there all mommed up in mom clothes (read: not cool) and definitely feeling lame around those little rebels. When was the last time I tried something that made me nervous? I reflected on a popular sentiment from my childhood – that kids are to be seen and not heard. In other words: behave, stay in your lane, do what you are told, don’t make waves. This skateboard instructor was telling those kids the opposite and they were listening intently. It dawned on me that coolness is a mindset and an attitude. Behave, yes. But be willing to try something and possibly fail. Success – and confidence – will come with practice.
His words were so simple but yet I kept thinking how profound it was that at 7 years old, my kid is hearing that he should try something that frightens him, to step onto the damn skateboard and live without regrets. Maybe I was PMSing that day, but it was really moving.*
A lot of times, I’ll go to a home and I see that people are afraid of trying something new in their home for fear of falling flat on their face. Gray walls, Pottery Barn sofas, and my favorite target coffee table circa 2003. Blah. Plain. SAFE.
Okay, so maybe you’re not automatically cool when it comes to decorating your home or designing your space. That’s OK! Neither was Napoleon Dynamite but we still all bought our “Vote for Pedro” t-shirts. Being cool has little to do with with what society (or design magazines) tells us is cool. Being cool is about putting yourself out there – with confidence. Authenticity and taking risks are cool.
I wish some of my clients would be open to trying new things. Like paint a wall fuschia instead of gray. Try something that scares you, like wallpaper (dear god people—wallpaper isn’t scary). Move that Pottery Barn sofa to the other end of the room and throw some mismatched animal print and plaid pillows on it and see what happens next. Ponder how your grandfather’s ukulele collection mounted on the wall could add interest and history to your home as you watch that IKEA coffee table burn in your fireplace.
When visitors come to my home and comment on the cheetah runner leaping up my front staircase (you can’t miss it) I feel no shame for trying something new and different and slightly risky. I almost didn’t go with such a bold choice but reasoned that I didn’t want to design my house with regret for not trying something new. I didn’t do it to be cool; I did it because it was me: a classic motif with a loud delivery.
Does your house need a little Luc injected into it? Are you afraid to try something “cool” in your house but fear you’ll miss the mark? Maybe you fail. Oh well. No one expects you to get on a skateboard and not fall on your ass a few times. Eventually, you’ll find the right balance. And it will be SO cool when you do.
*My best trick: When I dropped Luc off at camp that day, I saw him shy away from giving me a goodbye kiss for fear of not looking cool around his peers. My heart fell out of my chest. But, he wasn’t getting away from me that fast. I told him I had to tell him a secret. When he came in close, I whispered in his ear that I knew he didn’t want to kiss me in front of his friends but it’s always cool to kiss your mom. And I planted one right on his cheek. Maybe I’m not cool in Luc’s eyes, but he knows his mom loves him.