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Why the cool mom loses

Abbi Perets lives in Houston, TX, with her husband and five children.






Losing your cool

It's tempting to be jealous of the cool mom -- the one the teens love, the one who speaks their language and hangs out with them. The one who seems to be their friend. But "friend" isn't in the job description, which means your jealousy may be misguided.

Cool Mom
You've seen Cool Mom. She's the one with the blinged-out cellphone and the clothes she borrowed from her daughter's closet. She tells you things your children told her and acts surprised when you don't know what she's talking about.

When the teens are in trouble, Cool Mom brushes it off. "We weren't doing anything wrong," she says, and you question her choice of pronoun. Well of course "we," -- she's the one who drove them there or tagged along or put the idea in their heads in the first place.

"They trust me," she tells you. "I'm one of them. It's better that way, because they tell me everything."

You watch Cool Mom with the kids, and she really does believe she's one of them. And a small part of you can't help but wonder if maybe she's onto something. Don't you want to be your daughter's best friend and closest confidante?

Just be mean

What Cool Mom doesn't know is -- well, actually, there's quite a bit that Cool Mom hasn't figured out. Let's start with the basics. It's almost a guarantee that the teens don't really think she's all that cool. Maybe her presence is tacit approval, so they let her come along. Maybe they even tell her daughter, "You're so lucky your mom is cool." But they don't mean Cool. They mean, "cool with the fact that we're skipping school and going to parties with college boys."

And if you hung out with Cool Mom's daughter, she'd roll her eyes and say, "Yeah, she's great." That's teenspeak for "not great," by the way. Cool Mom's daughter already has friends. She needs a mother, and on some level she knows it.

Your kids have all the friends they need. Your job is to be Mom. Not Cool Mom, not Mean Mom, just Mom. They count on you to set limits -- and to enforce them. They need you to have rules and say no. They need you to be Mom.

Your kid is smarter than you think

You have no idea how smart your kids are. When they're out and about, and someone suggests something stupid: "Hey, let's get really drunk and see who can drive the straightest line," your kids have an out. And they use it. "I have to be home in 15 minutes, or my mom will kill me."

When Cool Mom's daughter doesn't want to go along with the crowd, what's her excuse? What can she possibly tell her friends that will let her maintain her standing and preserve her sense of self? There's nothing she can say, so she goes along with the craziness. Or she suggests the craziness -- because somewhere along the way, her identity morphed into something she doesn't recognize, and she's trying to find some way to force her mother back into the role of Mom.

Don't be jealous

If you feel anything for Cool Mom, it should be pity, with maybe just a tinge of disgust. Harsh? Well, yes, maybe a little, but this parenting thing is not a game. Real lives are at stake every minute of the day, and Cool Mom is slacking off on the job.

So, can you do anything about it? You probably can't change Cool Mom. But that doesn't mean you're stuck doing nothing. When you see Cool Mom's daughter making dumb decisions, take her aside and speak sternly to her. Don't yell at her, and definitely don't try to be her friend. Just be Mom.

"I'm disappointed that you decided to cut class yesterday. You're smarter than that, and I expect better from you." Keep it short and sweet, and don't get into an argument. Just say your piece and get out. You might make a difference; you might not. But maybe she'll realize she has an out in you.

And if you can be the mean mom who saves Cool Mom's kid, you're pretty darn Cool.

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