I’ve worked hard for my title as “cool mom” from the neighbor kids over the past five years.
It’s been a hugely competitive event with all the neighbor moms vying for the trophy.
(Seriously, not really)
Now that I’ve won the title of “coolest mom on the block” I’d like to let you in on my secret.
(Um, there isn’t a trophy or anything, but I’d like to think the other kids on the block envy my sons because they have such an cool and amazing mom.)
Cool mom defined
I should point out that my kids do NOT think I’m a cool mom (and that I’m cool with that.) I don’t want my kids to think of me as a giant friend or playmate. I’m their mom.
I am NOT advocating being “that” kind of cool mom.
I’m suggesting that having all the neighbor kids prefer to hang out in your front yard instead of lurking behind someone else’s garage is a pretty good thing.
(I don’t know about you, but I have vivid recollections of smoking grapevine behind the garage.)
(No. That’s not a euphemism. We’re talking about actual vine from a plant. It’s nasty.)
How to be the cool mom
1. Hand out treats. In the summer, I hand out frozen popsicles every chance I get. The rest of the year, it can be pretty random. I just make sure the kids have parental permission and that no one has food restrictions.
(Confession: I normally use this as a chance to clean out my pantry of the healthy snacks my kids refuse to eat. Or the excess candy from parties. I’ve been known balance things out by offering water and the occasional cookie.)
2. Leave the bug spray on the porch. When mosquito season hits, I try to leave the bug spray on the front porch. Sometimes it’s the cheap stuff, sometimes it’s made with essential oils in my kitchen. I’d rather the neighbor kids “borrow” it than get chewed up with mosquitos.
(The kids in question are old enough to be outside unsupervised so I’ve always assumed they knew how to use bug spray and if they needed parental permission.)
3. Call the kids by name. I know the names of the kids who play on our street. It’s not that hard. At one point, there were 17 elementary aged kids on our block (plus two toddlers and a half dozen kids who wandered over from nearby). I know their moms and dads too.
(No, I’m not nosy. It’s just one of those streets. When there are a dozen elementary boys on the same block, it gets crazy.)
4. Quit worrying about the grass. The biggest scandal on our block in years was when one older couple threatened to call the police if a small child kept straying into their front yard. Their biggest complaint was that she had walked on some flowers. During that same period, I had a huge bald spot in my front yard from where all the kids rode their bikes across “the hill.”
(Reality check. I live in Houston where it is VERY flat. The hill is where the high spot in my yard meets up with the neighbor’s driveway. It’s about a foot change in elevation. It’s the most exciting geologic feature for blocks around.)
5. Invest in a good pair of lawn chairs. Two of them at the very least. One for you and one for any other adult who drops by. When the kids start gravitating to your yard and things get a little crazy, you’ll want to go sit outside. Not to parent anyone else’s children but just to be a visible adult. That’s normally all it takes.
(While I normally start out updating Facebook and checking Pinterest, I often find myself talking to neighbors. Offering them an adult beverage goes a long way to getting to know your neighbors.)
Cool Mom Refined.
Your block is different than mine, so you may need to tweak things a bit. Be intentional. Make it a goal to have the yard everyone wants to hang out in.
- Give them an excuse to approach you. Juice pops are bait.
- Meet their needs. They needed bug spray.
- Build relationships. Knowing their names is just the start.
- Value people over things. That holds true even when the people are under the age of ten.
- Be approachable and be present.
The small investment in ice pops and bug spray is worth it. No one ever smoked grapevine in the front yard.
(The photo? This is what happens when I ask to make a “duck faced selfie” with my son while we are eating Pringles.)