We live in a really cool city. Live music! Killer Food! That hip, chill, weird vibe that makes it ok to wear cowboy boots to any and every function! Austin is just really cool.
But let’s be honest. Raising kids does not allow for much “coolness” in your life. Bedtimes, crankiness, short attention span, those things don’t exactly mix well with what makes Austin a cool and unique city. It is much more likely on any given night to find our family eating macaroni and cheese (from a box!) and watching Daniel Tiger than it is to be checking out the latest band that you have never heard of or waiting in line at the food truck everyone is talking about. Parenting is amazing, but it isn’t always “cool.”
Last year, we decided that just for a day, we wanted to be one of those “cool” Austinites. Despite my broken foot in a boot, my 20 week pregnant belly, and the constant fear of that potential heat wave that rolls through every October around this time of the year, we left Caroline in the kind care of some friends and spent the day at the Austin City Limits Festival (ACL fest.) Totally. Worth it. We heard so many phenomenal bands perform, some we recognized, but most we didn’t (because have I mentioned we have been spending our time parenting?) The weather was AMAZING for Texas in October. Overcast and 70s most of the day. The sun only peeked out for a bit as Fitz and the Tantrums started in on their hit The Walker and we, yes me and my big belly and clunky boot, danced and sang and shouted along with all the other cool people experiencing that vibe everybody talks about in Austin. I cannot say I have much experience with music festivals. They intimidate me mostly. But ACL made me a fan. The food was amazing, not fest food but all of the best food trucks. Yes it got crowded, yes it was filthy. But you know that feeling when you have been waiting to hear your favorite band at a concert and you go and then faster than you can blink it’s over and you are bummed? Well, at a festival, that let down is only for a second because you get to just turn around to the stage next to you and hear the next band, all day long, repeat. And although I love the experiences that come with being a parent and finding what makes my children happy, it felt amazing to do something for a whole day just for me, that made ME happy. I was going back next year, I reported, and every year after that.
Spoiler alert. I had my baby. And I did not go back to ACL this year. I think we all saw that coming. For most of the day while my friends hit up the fest again this year, I wiped faces after meals, read books before nap, built the “TALLEST TOWER IN THE WORLD!”, or something along those lines, as it was just another ordinary day in our house. But earlier that morning, before any of the Cool fest goers had finished their first cup of coffee, before they had picked out the perfect fest outfit, the one that allow them to stay cool enough because this year it was going to be HOT, before any of that, I took my kids to our own little ACL fest. KUTX, one of my favorite public music radio stations here in Austin, put together a concert on the lawn of the Four Seasons Hotel overlooking Lady Bird Lake featuring four different artists performing at ACL that weekend. For only $10 I fangirled over Shakey Graves, boogied to a few new artists, shared breakfast tacos with the kids and drank a few too many cups of coffee. In between sets, I chased Caroline up and down a giant hill and clapped for her when she learned to climb her first tree. I bounced with Elliott in the carrier, letting him take two naps, those great rare naps snuggled up right under my chin I don’t get often enough. For a morning I got to parent, watch my kids be happy, all while being happy myself. It was amazing.
When people hear some of the things we do with the kids, places we take them, adventures we do, they often act impressed. I am not trying to demonstrate here how “impressive” we are. We have just as many parenting fails as the rest of you. We have meltdowns that ruin dinner where we can’t get out fast enough after one dumped her milk into a beer and the other left a wake of partially chewed food covering nearly every surface. We have spent more time shushing a whiny kid at a museum than we did taking in any information. Or else, we have just stayed home because let’s face it, no one stares at you when your kid screams and makes a mess in your own kitchen. We often choose to do those things that will make our children happy because happy kids mean happy parents.
But I also feel it is important for my children to see what makes me happy as well. I want them to know I have interests and my part in this family is just as important. I want them participating in my activities too because I think it allows them to appreciate the parts of life that are a little different than their day to day. So sometimes, when we have gathered enough courage, have packed plenty of snacks, and feel everyone is rested enough, we try out the “cool” things. Austin has plenty of those opportunities if we just look hard enough. And I bet your “cool” city does too.
What are you doing with your kids to be “cool?”