The cool kids

March 05,2008
Skaddadle
Todd Lieman( )

Turning 40 and reminiscing about everything take 135… In my review of the last 40 years, I’ve gotten back in touch with quite a few people – most of whom I worked with as counselors at a summer camp in the not-so-roughing it confines of the Malibu hills. I haven’t spoken with many of these people for 20 years, so, understandably, it’s been quite the trip down memory lane. In the course of this massive reconnection, the idea of a reunion was proposed. “You know…we could do it at Camp. Our families can come. How cool would it be for our kids not only to see Camp, but also for all of us to meet each other’s kids?” While the idea hasn’t exactly taken off like wildfire, we’ve got enough momentum that I think it’ll actually happen. (Provided I plan it!) What has been most interesting, however, has been a common reaction, “Thanks for including me with the cool kids.” Here we are, 40 years old (or almost 40 in most cases) and we’re still aware of when we’re included, or considered among the “cool kids." I’ve never really though of myself as being among the cool kids clique. In high school especially (when such things become most prevalent), I wasn’t among the “elite.” I sort of sat in the middle of everyone, I think. I knew and could talk to the drama folks, the total jocks, the A-listers, the outcasts and the brains. I was comfortable in most any setting. And, while I was perhaps equal parts of every group (except for the brains), I was Switzerland. I’m still sensitive to situations where I feel purposely excluded. Instead of being bothered by it, however, I kind of just laugh. Is it really so important to exclude people from situations? Is it really crucial to make sure that only the “cool kids” are invited to anything? Which brings me back to the reunion. It’s not just for the cool kids. One thing I discovered at my high school reunion – I truly missed out on friendships with some interesting people. I met people at my high school reunion for the very first time. That’s kind of sad. So, when it comes time to invite people to the big Malibu extravaganza – I hope everyone comes. Cool (back then) or otherwise. Enough time has gone by. I want to know what everyone is up to these days. I love to watch K-Man interact at school or on playgrounds. He’s a fairly social kid who likes to play with lots of different friends and classmates. Sometimes, though, like his dad, he seems to have a spell of introspection. He just wants to be alone. It makes me wonder if this will keep him from being included. It kills me to think about my little dude being excluded from anything. Last weekend at the zoo, K-Man was excitedly running around telling people that he was going to go see the alligators. He told a five or six-year old about this intent. That kid turned to his mom, “Did you see that little kid? He’s babbling something about alligators. Lame.” I couldn’t believe the reaction I had. I wanted to throttle that kid. How dare he call my two-and-a-half year-old lame? Who the hell did he think he was? He was no prize catch, and…I caught myself. G heard the kid, too. “Kids can be so cruel – even when they don’t mean to be.” We remember this stuff too. Twenty, thirty or even more years later, we’re still worried about being included with the “cool kids.” I know it’s all part of growing up, but really…of all the parenting issues that I know I’m going to have to encounter in the coming years and decades – the “cool kid” conundrum is not one I’m particularly thrilled about. Sometimes, I think it’s really too bad we almost always only gain clarity with years.