Just in case, just as a precaution, I had to stop you from turning into a kid I know in junior high school named Tony. Tony had acted as if he had seen it all and done it all and nothing much mattered to him anymore.
You seemed at risk of becoming likewise indifferent. If you stopped caring, nothing would touch you, dulling your impulses for sympathy, compassion, love. If you acted like this at age seven – you seldom missed an opportunity, especially with an audience handy, to jut out your little jaw and tell me to cut you some slack – how might you then act at age 17?
So over the following weeks I tried to redefine cool for you. Now, cool, by overwhelming consensus, is based on your look, your image. But it seemed to me that your concept of cool should extend beyond mere aesthetics. So I took every opportunity to share my personal code for cool – to cooperate, to care and, better still, to be kind.
Well, something must have clicked. One day you went to school minus bandana and earrings. That afternoon you sat next to your sister on the living-room floor and, unbidden, read nursery rhymes to her.
The following weekend, when two boys traded punches in the schoolyard around the corner, you yelled so loud and for so long for the fight to stop that the kids felt too embarrassed to keep duking it out.
Then you went yourself one better. You watched a TV news segment showing how political upheaval somewhere, maybe Sarajevo, had left thousands of children orphaned and hungry. You turned to me to suggest we send some money.
Now that’s cool, I thought.
P.S. – Question of the day: how do you define cool?