• Mohana Prabhakar

Should parents even try to be cool?

Years ago, I remember being at this new place in town that had opened up at the Crowne Plaza – Zouk. It was opening night, the place was filled with people ranging in age from 21 to 65, and we were all having a great time.

At one point, the host introduced me to this young man and as we shook hands and exchanged names, he suddenly choked in the middle of the automatic, ‘Hello Mohana’. What came out in one long sentence was, “Oh my God. Aunty? You’re Junior’s mom, right? Remember me? I am X. I studied with him – we came over for his 18th birthday party at your place.”

Then I met another of Junior’s friends and another, and before we reached home, I had a message from him. “Why are you both hanging out at places where my friends go? Please don’t.” He was on another continent at the time.

As parents, Senior and I have never really tried to be cool, which Junior agrees with, so embarrassing him was not something we did regularly. We learned quite early on that greetings like ‘What’s up Mom/ or Dad should never be greeted with any attempt to be nonchalantly cool in return. In fact, answering appropriately itself was a challenge. If you say, “Just chillin’”, you’ll get a look. If you say “The sky”, you get an exaggerated eye roll (deservedly, I must admit). It took Senior years of training to stop responding to “What’s up?” with “Good, good.”

It’s usually in your teens when your dad’s jokes go from being hilarious to lame, when mom’s taste in music goes from sweet to cringeworthy. One fine day parents wake up and find that they are no longer the centre of their children’s universe and adjectives like amazing, cool and fun have disappeared from the house as far as they are concerned.

And parents can be quite impossible. We’ve all faced it and sworn we’d never subject our children to the same. But tell me, as a parent, haven’t you delighted in digging out old pictures of your little one and showing them around much after he or she was not little at all? As my teen niece put it, when someone posted photos of her younger self on our family WhatsApp group and I said ‘how cute’: “You are spelling cringe wrong, again.”

As a child, it used to bother me no end that my father was always in great demand at all extended family gatherings by the younger ‘cool’ lot whom I wanted to hang out with, but was too shy to. In my grumpy head, I just couldn’t figure out why anyone would think someone so old could be fun. To a teen, 40 falls into the mummified-remains territory.

He didn’t embarrass me by his actions but by just being part of the coveted gang.

Many years later when he was in his sixties and me in my forties, we were again at a family wedding and relatives had come in from all corners of the globe. And Baba was still the one that the younger cousins, nephews and nieces wanted to join them for their separate ‘away from the oldies’ parties on the rooftop; the one whom everyone welcomed with all the enthusiasm of a peer.

But now I could see why. He was fun, his sense of humour unparalleled in its subtlety and wit, and he treated everyone as his equal. Just like that, Baba was not just cool again, but I realised he was way cooler than I would ever be.

It gives me hope that if we bump into Junior at Privé or Turbines & Taps or wherever it is people his age hang out at now, he’s not going to feel the need to hide from us. I asked him about this. His response? “Please don’t.” And then he stopped, seemed to reconsider and I thought yes! He wants us there. And then he said, “You should go there. But just leave by 11!”

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