I gave up being cool to be a dad

I used to have a real issue with wanting to look cool. Wait, scratch that. I still have a real issue with wanting to look cool. I just spend more energy trying to suppress that urge now, rather than spending the energy following it. Some days I’m even at peace with not being cool.

Being a dad has really helped me with that.

When I was in grade school I was that awkward kid who tried really, really hard to be good at all the sports, but was never quite able to make my gangly limbs cooperate. Then I got into high school, and nothing really changed except that I started wearing glasses (and in high school that’s pretty much a step down), I stopped trying with the sports and joined the drama, choir, and creative writing (more steps down), and thought that maybe the key to being cool was to be over the top weird.

A little like this, only less well-groomed in the beard department.

It didn’t work. Not only was I not cool, but I felt even less cool, and I still wanted to be cool.

Somewhere in my college years I managed to come to grips with who and what I am and recast my perceptions of what cool is to fit my personality. Then I was called to minister to teens, and suddenly a new fear gripped me: Will they think I’m cool?

Alright, I know intellectually that it’s not about whether or not they think I’m cool. What matters is if I can love them, relate to them, and bring God’s Word to them. I do love them. I try to relate to them (but seriously, who can keep up?! I barely know what a Belieber is!). I’m always looking for ways to bring God’s Word to them. But I still worry about being cool.

Today, I was able to experience the unbridled joy of simply not worrying in the least bit about being cool. I took my family to a really amazingly huge playground in Bloomington. This playground:

Seriously. Look at the size of that park bench relative to the rest of the place. That was huge!

The big toy there is constructed sort of part hamster tube system, part sci-fi obstacle course, part pirate ship. With slides. It is crazy hard to navigate. But navigate it I did!

I know for a fact that I looked completely ridiculous doing so. There is no elegant – or cool, if you will – way for a 31 year old, 6’5″, 225 lb. man to clamber through that thing.

And it totally didn’t matter. I was following my boys around, letting them show me all the paths they had discovered, the nooks and crannies they wanted to explore. They just wanted me to be a part of that with them.

I think there have been a lot of times since becoming a father where being with them and doing what they want to do has been so much more important to me than how I look doing it. The thing is, when it’s happening I don’t think about it. I just do it. Most of the time. Sometimes I short circuit and actually hold back from doing things they want me to do with them, because I’m afraid I won’t look cool doing it. I always regret it afterwards.

I guess the conclusion I’ve come to is so no-brainer it almost doesn’t need to be said. But since I’ve now written almost 600 words about it, I should probably just say it – Being a good dad is way more important than being cool! 

The problem is, you can’t wait until you are a dad to get that through your head. Not unless you want to deal with that regret that comes when you don’t engage with your kids. But I see people trying to be cool, be they teenagers, college guys, or even young dads. And I always think, “Gee, is that how I look when I try to be cool? What is the point of that?” Sometimes I want to just grab them by the shoulders and say, “Dude! Learn how to not care about being cool! Your kids will thank you for it!”

I don’t, because that might just creep them out. It certainly wouldn’t be cool of me. But I guess that doesn’t matter. I just want to go play with my kids.


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