September 5, 2014

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

A note to parents: Don’t be shy sharing God is the eternal cool

Patti Lamb“Stop the cart!” my daughter Margaret shrieked as we passed by some fluorescent socks at the department store.

“Those are the coolest socks ever!” she exclaimed, followed with a sugar-coated request to purchase them at once.

“Then I’ll be ‘twinsies’ with Drew at school,” she said.

Margaret started first grade last month, and with her promotion to first grade came a sudden-onset fascination with what’s “cool.”

I suppose I should have caught on when she wouldn’t wear a plaid uniform jumper on the first day of school. (Apparently, the unwritten cool rule is that after fifth grade, girls wear plaid uniform skirts, not jumpers.) Margaret considers herself an upperclassman now, since she is three grade levels above the youngest students at school. Recently, a teacher told me that she saw Margaret point to a line of preschoolers awaiting a turn for the drinking fountain and said, “Those little kids are so cute.”

Margaret’s older brother, Henry, now in fourth grade, has also been bitten by the cool bug, but his symptoms fall outside of the fashion category.

Last week, when I picked Henry up after school, I surprised him with the news that we’d get a slushie as a treat on the way home. He lit up and opened his arms to hug me. Then he quickly pulled away and whispered, “Thanks, mom, but I’ll owe you that hug when we get home.” He motioned to some of his peers standing nearby in the parking lot.

My mind turns back to my own adolescence, when I had quite the preoccupation with what—and who—was cool.

A few weeks ago, I saw an old photo of myself from junior high wearing bright blue eye shadow and what appeared to be orange blush. I chuckled at how my definition of “cool” has changed. Fashion is fleeting, and what’s hip today turns into very “yesterday” come tomorrow.

But we’re human, and we all want to fit in. I’m nearing 40, and I still struggle with wanting to be accepted. (I’m not going to tell you how many outfits I tried on last week before finally settling on one to wear to an upcoming reunion.)

Why can’t I just take the advice I give to my own children? I should recognize that striving to meet this world’s standards will never serve me well. I should be most concerned about pleasing God. Yet so often, I fall into the “cool” trap.

Instead, I should reflect on what makes God smile, all the while knowing that, if I’m considered uncool, then I’m in good company. Jesus knows all about being unhip. He knows how it feels to be mocked and rejected when standing up for what you believe.

What I want my children to learn is that God is the eternal cool. His love, mercy and grace never go out of style. Love is everlasting, not trendy. Living by the golden rule is always fashionable, and kindness is ever-hip. I don’t want it to take a tragedy or a near-miss for them to realize that giving hugs and expressing love are always cool, even if their peers don’t think so.

And I hope they realize, sooner rather than later, that God loves the real “Margaret” and the real “Henry,” not the Margaret who wears fluorescent socks or the Henry who would never be caught in public giving his mother a hug.

I pray that they forgo what’s popular, and be their own best selves, recognizing that pleasing God is eternally cool.

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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