One mom's letter to her teenage son attempts to convince him of what's really cool in life—spoiler alert, it's not using body spray in place of a shower—why kindness is good, and much more.

By Katie Bingham-Smith
Photo by Dirk Anschutz/Getty Images

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As your mother, it's my job to tell you what's "cool." And by that I really mean what makes a decent human. —Mom to her teenage son


Dear Son,

When you came into this world, you were precious and sweet and ran around without caring what anyone thought of you, your hairstyle, or what kind of backpack you had.

As you've grown I've seen you become increasingly aware of what others think. You want to blend in; you want to be cool; you want to be accepted. These desires are a normal part of growing up and discovering who we are.

If I’m being honest, this self-discovery never really ends. It’s a journey to find your best self, and while you might not care about that sentiment this second, I’m going to share with you what I’ve learned so far.

I know you might not want to hear this, but I need to tell you: Your definition of cool right now won't sustain you in life. As your mother, it's my job to tell you what's "cool." And by that I really mean what makes a decent human.

I know the things I'm about to say might be dismissed. I can practically hear your eyes rolling, but nonetheless, I'm going to tell you and hope it's not all lost on you.

Remember yesterday morning when you came downstairs, and I mentioned you needed a shower, and you proceeded to spray your entire body with body spray instead? And the kitchen became a cloud of teenage hormones mixed with a musky scent? Yeah, that was not cool. Good personal hygiene is always cool; washing with actual soap and water is really cool; taking a shower more than once a week is super cool. Also, why is your cologne kept in the kitchen drawer? That's definitely not cool.

I also notice showing your boxers seems to be some sort of a trend these days. I've seen all your friends’ underwear when I come pick you up from school, or when they come over. I don't understand this at all. Would you think I was cool if I let my pants hang that low? No, you say? I didn't think so. Pull up the pants, son. No one wants to see that. If you have a job as an underwear model and are instructed to let your pants sag, that’s one thing, but clearly that’s not the case here.

And after your parent-teacher conference your teachers let me in on a few tidbits about you and your work habits. It seems you like to be the funny one in class, the one who gets everyone else riled up. While you might not think it's “in” to listen to your teacher and keep yourself buttoned up so you can actually learn, listen up: There's nothing cooler than a kind, well-mannered young man who knows when to reel it in and when it's time to be silly. Keep in mind you and your peers are there to learn, and your teacher is there to teach you. You and your friends acting up in class makes that really hard.

What seems to be the thing to do today, will probably embarrass you later in life when you look back at some of the things you did or said. We've all had our moments, it's part of living and learning, but I'm giving your fair warning and letting you know being cool means nothing if you are going to act like a jerk.

So please, remember to be kind, hold the door open for people, shower on the regular, respect your teachers, and treat the people around you with respect.

I know it’s not cool to listen to your mom’s advice, but I’ve seen more than you, I know more than you… and I pay your cell phone bill so it’s probably in your best interest to start practicing my definition of cool.

Because the definition of cool as you know it is fleeting. Trust me on this. When you are 20, if you are still using body spray as a shower, letting your pants hang so low you can see your unmentionables, and disrespecting those who are trying to enrich your life, no one will think you are cool.

Know when to lock it up and listen. And thinking for yourself and knowing what’s best for you without following the crowd will take you so many more places than if you just do what everyone else is doing. Also, take a moment to recognize that everyone you come in contact with, whether you know them or not, is dealing with something hard; behave accordingly.

But most of all, remember your mother always has your best interest in mind, so when you are faced with a decision and you are thinking about doing something you know I wouldn't approve of, think again and adjust your decision.